Let me start with the relevant bona fides. My wife and I have eight adult children. When our oldest reached school age we signed him up for the local public school and the local Christian school. We spoke with teachers in both schools and in the end we decided that we could do a better job providing what he needed, so we decided to homeschool. Since then, each year we have looked at each child and the different schooling options we had available. Sometimes we chose public school and when we did we were very involved volunteering at the school and getting to know their teachers. Sometimes we chose parochial school and sometimes we chose homeschool. All eight of our kids have been homeschooled and all eight have been in public school.
While I am not anti-public school, I am definitely pro school choice. But, I am opposed to the Students First Scholarship portion of Senate Study Bill 3080. I know that this is not a popular position in the party today and that it puts me at odds with our governor but those who know me know that I have been consistent on this.
The idea of the Students First Scholarship is to provide scholarships (government-funded) for students to attend the school of their choice including private schools. The argument has been that parents who choose private school or homeschool pay taxes to support their local schools and pay again to school their children. They say that the money should follow the student and that competition will increase quality of the public schools as well.
Many of my conservative friends have complained that Students First doesn’t go far enough. The current proposal only applies to students who
are currently attending or will be entering Kindergarten at a school that is identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement based on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
They argue that this option should be available to all Iowa students.
I am opposed to the Students First Scholarship for a couple of reasons:
First, we already have educational choice in Iowa. Iowa has thriving parochial schools in both large and small communities. (Admittedly, we do not have many non-parochial private schools.) Iowa has done an excellent job of freeing up parents to homeschool with little government interference. But wait, not everybody can afford to homeschool! I agree, homeschooling is probably the most expensive schooling option. In order to make this possible I have often worked two or three jobs so my wife could stay home with the kids. It took sacrifice, I have never bought a new car (until last week because of the insane cost of used cars) and in the early days we sometimes wondered how we were going to pay our bills. But it has been worth it. It is this thinking that makes people say … if abortion is a constitutional right (N.B. it is not!!) the government should pay for abortions for poor women. We have school choice in Iowa but it requires work and
Next, the argument is that why should I pay twice? Once for public school (that my kids do not attend) and again for parochial school tuition or homeschooling. Well, my neighbor hasn’t had school age kids in decades, why should he pay for public school? The answer is that we (collectively) have decided that educating children is a priority and we (collectively) fund it. For a couple of years, I paid more in parochial school tuition than I had in my own college tuition!
But my real objection is a fundamental one. I understand that there is no such thing as government money – the government gives nothing that it has not first taken away! But, I think it is naive to believe — that if the government allows tax money to be spent on private, parochial or home school — that there will be no strings attached! In fact, as a taxpayer, whenever the government allocates (our) money, I expect there to be oversight (strings attached)! One of the things that makes private, parochial and home schooling appealing is that the government is not a part if it. Especially in Iowa, parents can currently homeschool their kids with minimal government interference.
Every two years at GOP conventions I give a speech opposing vouchers or tax credits for private, parochial or home schools. I close that speech the same way I will close this post:
Keep the government out of my private school! Keep the government out of my parochial school!Keep the government out of my home school!