Our second week of session got right to it with many subcommittee meetings, a large “Veterans on the Hill” event in the Capitol rotunda, and movement on the Students First Act.
I am a proud public school graduate, but I also appreciate the other educational environments we have in Iowa. I know multiple families who have children in private school, and my family elected to home school our children during their elementary ages. Some families choose alternatives such as private or home schooling for a variety of reasons, including faith, unusual family or job circumstances, sports, and learning/personality issues.
As an adult, I recognize how important it is for a child to be in the right environment to learn. Most students in Iowa attend public school – and the system is by definition a monopoly. Currently, if parents choose to have their child attend a private school, they are mandated to pay a lifetime of taxes towards public education, then pay again for private schooling. There is much discussion of the fairness of using “public” funds for private school, but it does go both ways.
I believe many of the schools in Iowa are doing a reasonable job given the challenging environment we all find ourselves. All industries are struggling to find qualified, motivated workers and education is no exception. I also do not anticipate a mass exodus from the public schools in my district, as they are not rushing to embrace the most radical initiatives in education, they have more parental involvement than larger Iowa schools and there currently are limited alternatives.
In some cases I see an education system that seems more concerned with the system than the individual children – and I see this bill as a way to make the system more parent and child centric. I also know that many parents need to step up and become more involved and responsible for their children’s education – something that does seem to be occurring in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the growing awareness of what is and is not being taught in our schools.
The last 10 years have seen significant increases in education funding in the state, with more in this budget. Other states have gone down the path of school choice with an average of 2% of students actually shifting to private schools, which I do not believe will be the catastrophe that is anticipated. The previous passage of “open enrollment” was also predicted to be damaging to rural Iowa schools which did not materialize as envisioned.
As a person of faith I believe that the worldview being taught is so very important to our culture and our future. I do not anticipate a large number of students will immediately transition to private schools, but I firmly believe the education they offer is important to many parents, their children, and are a positive to society and our families.
I very much appreciate the tireless efforts of our many educators in my district, and I do not make this decision lightly – I am absolutely committed to the future of the people of District #7 and the state of Iowa.