Northwest Iowa — A few days ago we brought you a story about how the Head of School at Western Christian liked Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ new plan to establish state funding for students in struggling public schools who wish to attend a private school. But predictably, others in northwest Iowa are against the plan.
The governor’s hope is to provide five-thousand-dollar state scholarships to cover private school or homeschooling expenses. The plan would also stop administrators in five school districts with voluntary diversity plans from denying open enrollment transfers out of those districts. She stressed how students’ grades have fallen behind due to the pandemic and having to learn remotely.
Northwest Iowa educators and administrators have been speaking out on social media against the plan, which they call a “voucher” plan.
Brent Jorth, the Superintendent of Central Lyon Schools says the idea is nothing new.
(as said) “I think the school voucher program has been a topic of conversation in the legislature and in across the state of Iowa for about a decade and maybe even longer than that.”
He says if the conversation is about school choice, there’s already a program for that.
(as said) “It already currently exists through an open enrollment process. We have families from West Lyon, Rock Valley, George-Little Rock… that attend Central Lyon Schools. And just like we have students and families that are resident students of the Central Lyon School District that attend those same neighboring schools. And so the argument in the past has always been framed around choice for families and choice for parents and I guess the counter-argument that I have is that choice option currently exists and the Department of Ed and the Legislature have rules that currently exist.”
Jorth says it’s a hot topic right now due to the COVID situation and what schools elsewhere in the state are doing.
(as said) “Kind of central Iowa or metro suburban school districts have chosen to provide primary remote or distance learning education during the course of the first semester, and now after the Christmas holiday, so the governor’s kind of made her push and the legislature’s kind of taken it up here as the sessions got started here in the last couple weeks.”
Jorth says public schools are accountable to the public, so public dollars should go to them instead of private schools that don’t have to be accountable to the general public.
We asked Jorth what he would say if someone said, “So — if this means less money for the district — so what? You’re also having to teach fewer students…” Here is his response:
(as said) “We would have to make those decisions to reduce staff… to lengthen bus routes for kids to be picked up and dropped off at the end of the day. We would be faced with those difficult decisions and ultimately potentially, you know larger class sizes and fewer programs here in the public school. I don’t want to have to turn around and pink slip and reduce staff. For a school district that has historically produced graduates that are able to go off to college or enter the workforce because of the excellent learning opportunities and extracurricular opportunities that we’re able to provide here at Central Lyon.”
The bill is already through the committee process in the legislature.