Iowa House Panel Advances ‘Students First’ Scholarship Plan

DES MOINES, IA – An Iowa House subcommittee has endorsed the governor’s plan to provide state-funded accounts for parents, to send up to 10-thousand children to a private school. The panel held a subcommittee hearing as supporters of the bill held a rally in the Capitol rotunda. Samantha Fett of Carlisle told lawmakers greater competition from private schools will make public schools better.

“My daughter is a junior in high school and so I’m almost done and I could easily walk away and look the other way and I can’t because I’m a patriot and I care about the generations to come,” she said, “so please support this bill.” Dave Daughton of Rural School Advocates of Iowa, the retired superintendent of Wayne Community Schools, responded.

“I have coached for years and I’m extremely competitive,” Daughton said. “However, you can’t be competitive if the rules aren’t the same for both teams and so I just want to make sure that everybody understands that.”

Shanda Carstens, a parent from Panora, says the plan gives private schools a competitive advantage.

“Our rural communities know our public schools are our heart and soul,” she said. “Rural community leaders know when they are getting the short end of the stick and they know this bill doesn’t improve education in those small communities.” Pam Molde of Pella, a bill backer, urged legislators to expand the plan and provide funds to parents like her who home school their children.

“One of the largest checks that we write each year is to our public schools in the form of our property taxes. This is not public money. This is our money,” Molde said. “…This is the money of 70% of Iowans who call themselves Christians and want a different choice for their kids.” The bill includes other regulations for public schools. Public school boards would have to publish lesson plans for the entire year before school starts, including the books, articles or films that teachers intend to use during classes. School boards would be given 10 days to respond to parents objecting to books in the school library. The bill also calls for high school students to pass a civics test before they may graduate.