Private school bill has to come with accountability

The House of Representatives has a big chore coming up.

Those legislators are facing some pressure from the governor to pass Senate File 2369. The bill was sent to the House on a 31-18 vote from the Senate on Wednesday. It provides for 10,000 private school scholarships funded out of the state’s per-pupil Supplemental State Aid formula.

The senate bill went right down party lines with one Republican senator joining the Democrats in their belief the bill will harm public schools.

It will.

The bill takes 70% of per pupil student aid and the other 30% goes to shared administrative costs, a move that seems aimed at consolidation of smaller rural schools in the state.

If families utilize all 10,000, which they will, that will cost that state’s public schools close to $74 million, $55 million in direct taxpayer dollars to private schools.

Let’s be very clear, public schools can do better but they are up against a mountain due to other Republican legislation, including taking away bargaining rights. Public school teachers can no longer bargain for anything except wages. That move pushed good teachers out of our borders.

Now we’re going to take more money from the system, put it into private schools, oh…and tell public schools to have more transparency when it comes to curriculum and libraries. It seems juxtaposed to require more transparency of public systems, and then take their money and provide it to institutions that don’t have the same mandates.

It just seems this party that believes in less government, only believes in that when it comes to business and contributions. And it’s really getting more and more apparent.

This has nothing to do with choice. Nothing.

This is politics at its worse. This is a fist fight with a Des Moines Public School system. A fight that spilled into a gathered crowd – the state’s public school system. This is gameplay just short of ‘hold my beer’.

Let’s break it down a bit. A legislature that said the state couldn’t afford anything more than 2.5% growth, now is going to take $74 million out of the formula and divert it to private programming. Seems odd.

And State Sen. Jeff Reichman pointed to the fact that it will help Iowa’s poorest and minorities as he also pointed to the exodus of 775 students who dropped out of public schools in Des Moines.

But this bill provides a limited number of scholarships for those whose family’s income is under 400% of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, that’s $106,000 a year. I think a lot of area families fit that demographic.

No one is going to convince us that our public schools don’t have work to do and don’t have challenges. And in the same breath, no one can convince me that the staff at Holy Trinity Catholic isn’t on par with public school educators. We see the results of that.

So say what you want about choice and quality of education, and you can say a lot about both, but our biggest gripe is accountability.

If the private system had the same accountability, we’d know now what happened with Michael Sheerin. Why one of the most beloved men in local education abruptly walked away. We made several inquiries about the leave, but no one, including Sheerin would comment on the situation. If he left in lieu of termination, according to Iowa code, his record would become public and we’d know what happened.

There are things the public can do to gain access to information in the public school systems in an effort to hold everyone accountable. Public schools have to post salaries, private schools do not. Public schools have to educate everyone, private schools do not. Public schools have to open board meetings to the public, private schools do not. And as some do, they are not required to do so.

Any type of voucher system could have merit. Some families just can’t afford to take their child out of the public system. This may give them that chance. Competition is inherently good. It makes one be better than the other, which gives people choices. It’s no different than picking one restaurant over the other because it’s quicker, or cleaner, or friendlier.

But until the playing field is level, as Central Lee Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier pointed out, you’re being disingenuous to the public system and hitting them in the wallet at the same time. It seems clearly to be an effort to further an agenda propped up on the philosophy that the market forces improvement.

Putting our educational system into “the market” could ultimately entrench our education system on someone’s profit margin. And then what?….automation? enhanced digital curricula?, reduced square footage? – maybe no square footage for educational purposes, but for athletic purposes…dual revenue streams and all. We could convert the schools into community centers with athletic facilities and just charge admission.

If social media has shown us anything, isolation is soooo good for our kids.

If we keep going down this road, students will learn at home in front of a computer because a 40,000 square foot facility where collaboration and socialization are an integral part of our learning system, doesn’t fit the business model.

This isn’t about minorities, or the working poor, it’s about politics and the sell.

You want to level the playing field – that’s great and it builds that competitive nature, but then everyone has to accept special education students and students with disabilities. School board meetings must be open to the public, agendas and minutes must be posted, expenditures posted, salaries posted.

If the taxpayers have a bigger role in the funding structure, they should have a bigger responsibility in how it all works.

I’m headed to New York City for a few days to reconnect with our oldest daughter. I’m sure there will be some sight-seeing involved and some tall buildings, but by God there will a street hot dog We spent four days out there a couple years ago and I got a slice, but didn’t get a dog. That’s gonna happen, but that’s Beside the Point.

2 thoughts on “Private school bill has to come with accountability

  1. Public schools are a disaster.our country is waaaay behind alot of other countries in reading ,math,science because our public schools are more concerned with teaching kids about sex,gender and being victims.the public schools are under attack by Democrats and has been for decades.democrats dumb all the kids down.they make boys afraid to become men because men are eveil,scum deadbeat dads,ect.
    A liberal anti American Democrat is the last person anyone wants or needs to hear an opinion from on public schools.you all need be shamed of yourselves for the sick child abuse that is happening and been happening.pushing for pervert teachers to talk sex to 7 year olds,twisting factual science into delusional theories,dividing by genders and races to make victims and guiltyss,taught to hate this country t,suicide rate thru theroof,ect. all because of the Democratic policies that have been the decstruction of our country.
    And what’s even sicker is you all will continue to vote for the evil anti American Democrats who are abusing our kids and destroying our country.

  2. It’s interesting that there seems to be a constant wait list of applicants to private and charter schools. And there are parents we’ve heard from over the years whose kids transitioned from private schools to public. They were astonished at how far behind the public schools were academically. I have to suspect that, given the financial wherewithal, many parents would choose the private school option. And I believe that is in part what this latest legislation is trying to address. And it’s very possible it may also help resolve some of this academic disparity.

    I agree 100% with the editor that there needs to be full transparency in results, curriculum and disciplinary environment so that parents can make an informed choice. But the important key here is the word “choice”. And that choice should include private, as well as public, options. Allow parents to review these elements, then let them take their tax dollars to the school they choose. I still fail to understand why competition is so anathema to the public education establishment. Like any other undertaking, introducing competition means they all have to raise their game – which ultimately benefits the students. That’s what is really important.

    I think it’s a bit of a stretch to predict that students, as a result of this legislation, will be sitting at home with VR headsets because there’s no money left for buildings. I do, however, think this may result in a scaling back of the more grandiose plans for these mega-buildings to something more practical. The money, instead, could be used to focus on academics – which is, after all, why schools exist in the first place.

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