Dengler Domain: Education

I did not plan to write another Iowa education article, but with the opening of the Iowa legislative session last week, the changes to the recent bill are worth noting. If the bill passes, it will fundamentally change how education will work in Iowa.

According to the Iowa Capital Dispatch, the biggest change from previous versions of this bill is the income limits. In previous versions, there were income limits. While there are in this bill for the first two years, starting with the third year, there are no income limits. All K-12 public school students would qualify for scholarships of up to $7,598 to use towards private schools. In the first year, a family income is set at 300% or below the federal poverty line, which is $83,250 according to the governor’s staff and the Iowa Starting Line of which I am also a writer. In year two, the 300% changes to 400% which is $111,000 for a family of four. In year three, the vouchers are open to anyone. Meaning wealthier families who were already paying for private schools get subsidized by the government.

The argument for school choice has a variety of reasons such as giving lower income families a chance to give their children a chance at private school. According to Iowa Public Radio, other supporters of the bill liked it because it would give them an opportunity to send their child to a school that can provide religious education. Using taxpayer dollars to help a private entity does not sound right, especially when those at the top of the private education chain may not reside in Iowa. When it comes to education, Iowa’s public school system has been doing a wonderful job until the recent lack of appropriate funding to levels that public schools need.

Another part of the bill to sweeten the pot is providing public school districts with roughly $1,200 in categorical funds for every private school student who lives in the district area according to the Dispatch. The Iowa State Education Association argues calculating these student totals would be difficult and make it harder for public schools to run smoothly.

I implore you to read more about this education bill by doing a simple internet search. However it falls, it will have a significant impact on rural Iowa. There are many counties in the state with none or only one private school nearby. For most of rural Iowa, these private schools are far away. As much as those who want to say this bill will not affect public schools, it is hard to believe it. The government only has so much money to go around so either they must raise taxes to fund this or take from somewhere else in the government, potentially public schools. Less public school funding means more consolidation and less rural Iowa.

Sean Dengler is a writer, comedian, farmer, and host of the Pandaring Talk podcast who grew up on a farm between Traer and Dysart. You can reach him at sean.h.dengler@gmail.com.