Sioux Center, Iowa — School officials in Sioux Center are a little concerned about the extra attention they are receiving.
Sioux Center School Board President Tim Gesink says that Jake Highfill, a State Representative from District 39 in Polk County, has sponsored House Bill #2284, which would ultimately create a “voucher” system for education. The bill calls them “education savings grants.” The Sioux Center Community School District, and the Waterloo School District, are named in the bill to be “pilot” districts. The bill calls for up to 70 vouchers to be issued to qualifying students in the Sioux Center district. But Highfill says that at least during the proposed pilot program, the school would not lose any funding as the state would “double pay” for these students. That is to say that along with the voucher money going to the private school, the public school would still receive the student’s per-pupil funding.
Local legislators, Representative John Kooiker and Senator Randy Feenstra say there is little chance the bill will pass; however it did pass out of a subcommittee and will move on to the full committee.
Sioux Center School Board President Gesink says the public school district board is concerned about having fewer students if the bill passes, and that private schools don’t want to be legislated by the state to follow the same rules and regulations as public schools. He says if they take public funds, in all fairness, they may be required to follow the same rules as public schools.
But while these things are true, he and Sioux Center Christian School Board President Jeff Nibbelink issued a statement saying that they value the strong partnership that exists between the two schools. They say their priority is to continue to strengthen that partnership, one that they feel is second to none in the State of Iowa and across the country.
Sioux Center school board members say they are concerned that this issue could drive a wedge between the public and Christian schools and could undo decades of hard work and cooperation. But they say they’re not going to let that happen.
The joint statement says the public and Christian schools will continue to work together for the benefit of all children in Sioux Center. It says they believe their community’s families and students are best served when there is a variety of high quality educational options. It says they will each continue to advocate for issues that pertain to the specific schools, and do so in a spirit of respect for each other.
The statement also says that the two schools need each other and encourage each other to meet the high standards that are expected in the community. They say they encourage all residents of the Sioux Center community to first educate themselves regarding this issue and others that may arise and then advocate for their position in a respectful manner.