I live near a public pool. It’s a big pool with a water slide and some other playground equipment. On hot days it gets really busy. I have noticed that the pool at the country club isn’t nearly as busy. It stuck me recently that it would be really cool if my state legislature would enact some legislation that would allow me to use public tax dollars to pay for my country club membership. I feel like I deserve to have a choice in the pool that I choose to go to and it seems unfair that I don’t have access to the country club pool, so I’m proposing that the state legislature assigns me a PSA (Pool Savings Account) that I can use to pay my membership at the country club.
I am also not sure that my house is safe enough. I know that our police department works very hard, but they are underfunded, understaffed, and may not be able to prevent potential crimes in my neighborhood. It strikes me that if I had private security on my property I would be much safer. I think it would be great if my legislators would enact some legislation that would allow me to use public tax dollars to allow me to hire private security to make my family safer. I am calling on my legislators to create another PSA (Police Savings Account) that I can use to pay a private security company to protect my family and me.
That’s the road we are headed down in Iowa right? Iowa’s Republican legislators are proposing that public tax dollars be used to subsidize private schools. They are proposing that public tax dollars be funneled to schools that are not held to the same standards of our public schools. They are proposing that public tax dollars be spent to support religious schools. They are proposing that public tax dollars be spent on schools that get to pick and choose their student body.
Iowa Republicans are trying to sell the notion that there is an apples to apples comparison of what public schools are expected to do and private schools. The resources given to public schools are used to support all students. The public schools I am proud to serve support students who speak many different languages, have a range of special needs, and come from an incredible range of socio-economic backgrounds. There is no application process by which we determine who gets to attend and who has to go somewhere else. There are great private schools in Iowa, but their mission isn’t the same as their public school counterparts. Koch Brothers lobbyist Drew Klein compares public and private schools to Chik Fil A and McDonalds, as though public schools are playing a game in which they are trying to turn a profit at the expense of another school. That’s where “school choice” proponents have this whole thing wrong. If you make public education about “winning” and “losing” then we are all going to lose. You see, we would then have to decide what constitutes a “win”. I would argue that when we support our special needs students our community wins. I would argue that when we support our students whose first language isn’t English that our community wins. I would argue that when our schools open their doors to students who live in poverty and provide them with the tools necessary to succeed beyond our walls that our community wins. The problem is that that narrative doesn’t always prevail. The narrative that schools can be measured by standardized test scores is an easier sell. Our communities are going to be the losers if we enact policies that further increase the gap between the resources accessible to our students who are already privileged and our students who come to us with challenges that most of us can only imagine.
Vouchers are bad for Iowa. Don’t be fooled by the Koch Brother’s propaganda. Iowans who support public education have lost many battles in recent years, but this is one we can’t afford to lose. If our legislators truly wanted better opportunities for ALL students they would fund our public schools at a level that allowed schools to create more opportunities. What they want is for more money to end up in the pockets of those who are already privileged. That’s not a win for Iowa.