National Education Week is being recognized across the country, in support of strong public schools. Our public schools are at the foundation of what makes Iowa strong, and we deserve to know when that foundation is being threatened. Iowans deserve to know the truth about vouchers, both nationally and here in Iowa.
President Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has made no secret of her plan to dismantle the American public education system, but her plan may be gaining traction. DeVos and Donald Trump proposed a $1 billion national voucher program which would further cripple already underfunded public schools.
Though more than 90 percent of U.S. students attend public schools, public education is still woefully underfunded. The DeVos voucher scheme would divert hundreds of millions of dollars away from public school students to pay for the private school tuition of very few students.
Sometimes called Education Savings Accounts, Tuition Tax Credits, or Opportunity Scholarships, vouchers allow private institutions to take and spend taxpayer money without many of the requirements expected of public institutions. Under voucher schemes, private schools are allowed to turn away students as they see fit, including special needs students and students with learning disabilities.
Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia already have some kind of voucher program in place. That’s half of the country being forced to fork over taxpayer dollars to elevate a select few students at the expense of the majority in public schools.
In Iowa, the voucher scheme to defund public schools are most commonly referred to as Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs. These are vouchers by another name, and would take much needed financial support away from public schools.
Iowans are proud of the state’s public education system, and with good reason, as Iowa ranks highly in high school graduation rates. We understand the vital role that public schools and educators play in providing a world-class education for every student in Iowa, regardless of their zip code. We know that strong public schools are imperative to sustaining and revitalizing communities across Iowa.
A Des Moines Register poll of Iowans in February of 2017 showed that 58 percent opposed using public funding to finance private instruction, while only 35 percent supported the proposal.
The people of Iowa believe that everyone deserves a fair shake and that equality starts with education. Taking from the many to elevate the few just isn’t the Iowa way.
Iowans must take a stand against the GOP agenda and fight back against voucher schemes.