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What Happens When Public Education Funding Doesn’t Go to Public Schools?


The amount of public money spent to support non-public education options including private schools and homeschool programs has increased by 53 percent over the last ten years according to a recent report from The Des Moines Register.

On this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer explores what it means to spend public education dollars on non-public education options. He talks with Des Moines Register reporter Mackenzie Ryan, who recently published an article breaking down just how many public dollars ended up supporting non-public education options. 

According to her research, at least $37 million public dollars went to supporting private and homeschooling options in 2018.

She breaks down the numbers as follows in her July 17 article:

  • $12 million for tax credits that incentivize donations for scholarships
  • $10.6 million to fund voluntary home-school programs
  • $8.2 million in private-school transportation support
  • $4 million in special education and other services
  • $1.6 million for part-time public schooling
  • $650,000 in textbook purchases for private school

Also joining the show is Kim Rueben, Senior Fellow and Project Director of the State and Local Finance Initiative at the Urban Institute in Washington D.C.
“The conversations that are going on in Iowa reflect the conversations going on in the rest of the country,” Rueben says, noting the impact of school choice legislation across the country during the last legislative session.

In the second half of the program, Ben Kieffer and Kim Rueben are joined by three parent advocates with very different takes on the role of the state in supporting non-public education options.

Bill Gustoff and his wife homeschooled all four of their children. Gustoff is the Legislative Liaison and Corporate Counsel for the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, also known as NICHE.

Rose Green is a self-proclaimed “proud public school parent” and the founder of Parents for Great Iowa Schools, a grassroots public school parent advocacy organization.

And Jeff Courter, former president of the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education, is the parent of two private school graduates in Des Moines.

Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River