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Republicans: Let Private Schools Compete

Joyce Russell/IPR
Banner announcing lobbying day for private schools at the Capitol

School choice advocates flooded the Iowa statehouse Tuesday.

They lobbied for a bill to divert public school funds to private schools.  The bill would take the per-pupil cost for public school, which this year is more than 6,000 dollars, and put it in a fund to help families pay for private school tuition instead.

Chuck Hurley with the Family Leader Foundation says right now some families can afford private school, and others can’t.

 “I think this begins at a minimal level to level the playing field,” Hurley says.  

But public school supporters sharply oppose the bill.   Representative Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City) says families have the right to send their children to private schools, but not at the expense of public education.   

 “I don't begrudge anyone having that choice to go to a private school,” Steckman says.   “But I just came from a conference committee where we were told there is no money for public education.”

The bill in time would cost the state treasury as much as 200 million dollars.   Representative Greg Forristal (R-Macedonia) says public schools need new competition.  But critics say the bill violates the separation of church and state.