The Dubuque Community School District is speaking out against proposed legislation that would create a school voucher program known as the “Student First Scholarships.” The District argues that if the bill is passed, dollars would be taken away from the state’s already underfunded public schools and would instead be used to create a system that would make for an un-level playing field between private and public educational institutions. In addition, The Dubuque Community School District strongly opposes this legislation, with the School Board voting in April to pass a resolution opposing the creation of vouchers in the state.

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The Iowa Senate passed bill SF2369 that allows public tax dollars (approximately $55 million) to private schools for up to 10,000 children. According to Educate Iowa, the bill “establishes a student first scholarship program and a student first enrollment supplement fund, requiring the boards of directors of school districts to publish certain specified information, modifying provisions related to required social studies instruction, open enrollment, teacher librarian endorsements, competent private instruction, and special education, making appropriations, providing penalties, and including effective date, applicability, and retroactive applicability provisions.”

Families earning less than 400-percent of the poverty line will be eligible for the vouchers. That means a family of five would be eligible, so long as they make less than about $130,000 annually. Law makers have stated this is an initiative to provide families with high-quality education and allowing parents a larger role in how their children are educated, and in school choice.

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The President of the Iowa State Education Association, Mike Beranek, released a statement in March in regard to the bill that stated, “Public dollars need to go to public education. Spending public taxpayer dollars on private school vouchers is unfair. Our public schools need more resources to address the needs of the nearly 500,000 students who attend them. Private school vouchers take a large slice out of that funding. Supporting Iowa’s public schools supports the neighborhoods and communities that make our state great. We stand with Iowa’s public schools, students, and employees.”

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