Iowa School Vouchers Redux

Seems like every place I go these days when I run into fellow Iowan, all they want to talk about is why is Iowa trying to wreck its public schools? Why is Corporate Kim taking money from public schools which have school boards and oversight and laundering it through parents to give it to private, mostly religious schools?

I am sure I do not know. Reynolds is merely a cog in a nationwide Republican machine whose goal is to trash anything that has been put together in this country to promote some part of life for the common good. Often these entities have the word “public” in their name. 

Where Democrats see a common good and a common need, Republicans see something that should be trashed in order for some individual or corporation to make a buck on it. Public housing, public parks, public schools, public pools, public transportation, public highways – you name it and somewhere there is a Republican scheming how to trash it and make a buck off of it.

And so we now have Corporate Kim doing what her bosses – looking to make a buck – want by drawing a bead on Iowa’s once highly regarded public school system so it can be targeted for dismantling. And she covers it with bullshit talk about “choice.” She could care less about choice. She cares about handing your tax dollars to private schools, mostly religious in nature through a laundering strategy known as giving it to parents to spend.

As most things in Iowa, there will be some talk for a while and then the Republicans will move on to another insane idea such as starving cities and counties by cutting property taxes and school vouchers will be forgotten. Iowans are great at forgetting about outrages brought on by Republicans in the legislature.

We have been down this road many times. The one that comes immediately to my mind is the privatization of Medicaid in Iowa. Hundreds of millions of dollars that once went to medical services for the poor in Iowa now go to “management companies.” Administration that once cost about $100 million now costs Iowans a $1 billion. The difference is money that once went to medical services now goes to some corporate bottom line.

But, as Republicans have come up with even more outrageous ideas, old outrages simply fall off the radar. Union busting gave way to Medicaid privatization which gave way to property tax cutting and starving of cities and counties, which gave way to voter suppression. 

As Iowans watch their schools, particularly rural schools shrivel under these new policies Republicans will create a new outrageous diversion and we will forget about the schools drying up. 

Iowa Starting Line had a great analysis of how the vouchers will really work and how that will serve in dismantling Iowa’s public schools:  

Over the last week or so I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the arguments lobbed in support and opposition to the Governor’s proposal for state-funded K-12 ESAs. It wouldn’t be news to Starting Line readers that there is a lot to worry about, particularly the deceptive, overgeneralized, and just plain untrue arguments manufactured by state GOP and uncritically repeated by residents in their social circles and on Nextdoor. (I’m not sure about y’all but my neighborhood network has been blowing up.)

In a profession like mine, it’s hard to know where to start when everything is so egregiously out of line, but when I think about the portion of the argument people seem most confident in repeating, I see a path for school advocates to make some headway.

Reynolds’ argument is simple on its face: the state sends roughly $7,500 per student to public schools; why not increase students’ and families’ choices by allowing them to take $7,500 to whichever school they choose, including private/charter schools? It seems rational, especially in a political/economic climate when people already feel pressed by rising costs and stagnant wages. Reynolds’ proposal offers the promise of greater control over your “own” money (that is collected by the state in the form of taxes).

But here’s the thing: it’s misleading to directly attach that $7,500 figure to the idea of a single student or a single taxpayer. Misleading, because: whether a family has one child, no children, or ten children, their tax contribution doesn’t change much, right? This $7,500 is simply a way to estimate the taxpayer portion of the per-student expenditure at the state level, but no one single taxpayer is contributing this amount; like every other tax-funded service, the cost is shared across multiple revenue streams, local taxpayers being only one such stream.

The analysis goes on and gets much deeper. I have reread this article several times to understand the nuances that Republicans are lying about.

Let me add a couple other thoughts. Private schools do not have oversight by any school board or other public group. They are businesses, even if they are religious schools. They are beholden to a board of directors who are in no way picked by any public process. 

Secondly there is some mythos that private is better. That is not necessarily true. Usually it depends on particular schools being evaluated.

Third and finally remember that private schools can reject students whereas public schools have no such latitude. So private schools can to some degree pick their student body.

This also is a very blatant, yet thanks to SCOTUS, legal way to give tax money to church functions through a laundering strategy using parents as the launderer. 

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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1 Response to Iowa School Vouchers Redux

  1. Jim R says:

    We need to see multiple legal arguments and law suits about inequalities, misappropriation of public monies, and discrimination.


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