Dear Speaker Upmeyer,
I want to say up front that I don’t know a lot about health care legislation. It’s not my expertise and I know that. But, I couldn’t help notice that 425,000 Iowans are losing their current health care provider through our privatized Medicaid system (https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2019/03/29/medicaid-health-care-unitedhealthcare-privatized-iowa-medicaid-system-kim-reynolds-insurance-health/3315390002/). That seems bad, but I’m certainly no expert. I have friends and family who utilize Iowa’s privatized Medicaid system and they, like those in this article, tell me that there have been cuts to services, long waits for needed medical care, as well as a lot of new red tape. It doesn’t sound like it’s going that well, but I’ll leave that up to the experts.
I do know a little bit more about Iowa’s schools. You made an interesting statement in the Des Moines Register article about the negotiations with UnitedHealthcare. You were quoted as saying, “It is unfortunate that UnitedHealthcare wanted more money for less oversight and accountability, which is unacceptable. I want to thank Gov. Reynolds for standing strong in her negotiations.” So, if I’m reading this right, you believe it is important that oversight and accountability are important when it comes to how we spend taxpayer dollars.
See, here’s the thing. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was just in town holding a closed door meeting with lobbyists advocating that public dollars be sent to private schools and homeschooling parents (https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2019/03/15/betsy-devos-school-choice-tax-credit-homeschool-private-school-scholarships-voucher-iowa-reynolds/3175307002/). Private schools and homeschoolers have much less oversight and accountability than public schools, and yet your party is supporting legislation to promote vouchers (I know you don’t like to call them vouchers, but show me a bill that doesn’t look like a voucher and I’ll call it whatever you want) which would funnel taxpayer dollars to those schools.
I’m just curious, is your party in favor of strong oversight and high accountability or not? A Cedar Rapids Gazette article in 2015 found that more than 10,000 students were receiving tax credits to attend private schools in Iowa, but that the state wasn’t doing anything to verify that the students receiving the credits meet the criteria to receive them (https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/education/k-12-education/little-state-accountability-for-private-school-tax-credits-20150816). Iowa taxpayers are supporting private schools to the tune of over $37 million (https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/2018/07/17/iowa-public-money-private-school-home-schooling-2008-2018-education-school-choice-millions-funding/715596002/) with little to no oversight and little to no accountability, and yet Ms. DeVos, the Koch Brothers (through their minion Drew Klein), and willing Iowa legislators are eager to put more of our money into the pockets of private schools and homeschool parents with no plan for more oversight to protect taxpayer dollars.
I’m learning more about health care legislation so that I can say with authority what is already being said by a lot of smart people, which is that the privatization of Medicaid in Iowa has been a disaster. For the moment, I’ll leave that up to the experts. As for Iowa’s schools, the Iowa legislature continues to underfund the needs of Iowa’s public schools. Iowa’s inability to provide funding that keeps up with the costs of educating Iowa’s young people is causing cuts throughout the state of Iowa (https://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/education/2019/03/25/iowa-city-school-board-vote-final-tight-budget-next-year/3245067002/) leading to fewer teachers, as well as reductions in services and resources. In this environment, Iowa’s governor welcomed Betsy DeVos to a closed-door meeting to divert resources away from public schools.
Either you are a believer in holding those who receive taxpayer dollars accountable or you don’t. If you believe in accountability you will stop supporting legislation that would funnel our state resources to non-public schools who don’t have near the accountability of our public schools. If you are really for school “choice”, you will support funding public schools so that they don’t have to continue to offer fewer choices for the 93% of Iowa students who attend them. If you really believe in oversight, you will insist that the Department of Revenue makes sure that the millions of dollars in tax credits going to private schools are currently going to those who they are intended for.
You see Madame Speaker, it’s not that Iowans aren’t willing to have an honest conversation about what is best for Iowa’s schools (or health care, or our environment, or taxes, etc.) it is that we want an honest conversation. Let’s let the Koch Brothers, big insurance interests, and those who want to profit off of our tax dollars among others take a seat on the sidelines while we discuss what is best for Iowa. Let’s be for accountability and oversight for ALL of Iowa’s tax dollars, not just some of them.