Meeting Public Comments
Subcommittee meeting and times are as follows:
A bill for an act establishing a student first scholarship program for certain pupils attending nonpublic schools, establishing a student first scholarship fund, providing an income tax exemption, making appropriations, providing penalties, and including applicability provisions.
Subcommittee members: Wills-CH, Smith, Stone
Date: Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Time: 12:00 PM - 12:30 PM
Location: RM 103, Sup. Ct. Chamber
Names and comments are public records. Remaining information is considered a confidential record.Comments Submitted:
Rev Robert Kem [Concerned citizen]
I write to vote No on HSB 243. Clearly this Bill is introduced to defund public education in Iowa.This bill favors the wealthy with tax breaks who live in metropolitan areas of Iowa.No one has paid any attention or conscience to our rural areas whose students attend public schools.First, it is unconstitutional to take from public tax monies to fund the First Scholarship Program for certain students.Second the wealthier families already have many choices in metropolitan schools both public and private.Third this Bill hurts our rural public schools that will lose public funding with this private program.Rural public schools are central to public education for all Iowans. These schools provide a sense of community pride and support for families living in rural Iowa.Many rural families would have to drive to private schools for some 50 miles or more to receive any benefitfrom this Bill.This might force a rural family to have to move to the cities if public education for their children drop to a lower level due to lack of public funding.Our rural citizens voted to put Republicans into the Iowa legislature to improve education in the public schools not take monies away and provide more tax incentives for the wealthy in metropolitan areas.Please do not betray our rural public schools, their families and their communities. Farmers and their families have suffered too much in the past year with the pandemic.Vote No on this HSB 243Rev Robert KemAnkeny, IA
Dennis Quint 
I support this legislation that empowers parents to make the best choice for their childs education. Parents would not be forced to let their child struggle academically because of geographic or economic restrictions. Lowincome families, single parents, and workingclass families living in struggling school districts who cannot afford private education options or afford to relocate to a different school district would be assisted. Financially, the public school district would no longer bear the cost of educating a child who enrolls at a nonpublic school, which can be significantly higher than the amount of the scholarship. The initial cost of the Educational Savings Accounts is estimated to be less than one tenth of one percent of the funds the state of Iowa spends on K12 education. (Less than 3 million out of 3 billion.)Public funds often are channeled through private institutions to serve the public: health care, social services, construction. Those institutions that do so effectively should be supported.
Barbara and Jim Dale 
Public funds (our taxes) support public schools that educate all children. Where there are deficiencies, usually due to impoverished areas, those public funds must be allocated in such a way as to remediate those difficulties. We believe that allowing those funds to be spent by individual families according to their judgment weakens the whole system and thus risks society's future.
Lou Willis 
Please vote NO on HSB243. Public money needs to go to public schools where ALL students are accepted. Private schools can discriminate on who they accept. I would like to see tax payer money spent on the schools who are not doing well and bringing them up to standards. I have often wondered if this bill passes, what happens to the kids who are left in the "unsuccesful" schools?
Chris McCarville [Xavier High School]
It is estimated approximately 300500 students statewide would take advantage of these provisions should they occur. This would cost approximately $2$3M, which is 1/10 of 1% of all funding for K12 education. This is not a war against public education. Fundamentally, this bill is about a parent's right to choose the best educational path for their child.
Marcel Kielkucki [Beckman Catholic High School]
Members of the house subcommittee, thank you for your service to the citizens of Iowa. HSB243 is a good start at providing additional educational opportunities for students and families in the state of Iowa. ESA's are similar to medical flex spending accounts, allowing parents options and opportunities for the education of their children. Estimates are that this program would cost 2 to 3 million. That equates to 1/10 of 1 percent of the money the state of Iowa allocates to K12 education. Put another way, if all of the spending was equal to $100, this bill would cost ten cents, leaving $99.90 for current programming. I would encourage you to support this legislation.
Cory Johnson 
I am a parent of Iowa public school students and an educator in Iowas public schools. HSB 243 is illadvised and detrimental to Iowas children, families, and communities. They are also a slap in the face to Iowas educators, public employees who work tirelessly and with a high level of dedication, to serve their communities. These actions, if implemented, will most likely widen achievement gaps, increase costs, harm students, and harm communities. ESSA in Iowa is and has been focused on building supportive relationships between the DE and AEAs. The system is built on the understanding that Districts that are experiencing the highest levels of need should be provided with additional supports and resources, not have resources and supports stripped away from them. The focus is on growth and improvement, not punishment and sanctions. This is based on the acknowledgement that the Districts demonstrating the highest levels of need often serve a large population of students who experience various forms of adversity. As one example, 75% of the buildings on the current Comprehensive Schools list are in the 25% of Districts in Iowa with the highest poverty rates. Additionally, a majority of the buildings that are currently on the Comprehensive list have poverty rates, Special Education rates, and racial minority populations that are above the state averages. Put a different way, buildings with more diversity are more likely to be identified as Comprehensive. Does that indicate a bias in the data being used to make the designations? Is it evidence of the link between adversity and educational outcomes? Schools should not be punished for the demographics or experiences of their residents, they should be supported and assisted. The Comprehensive Designations were set based on 2018 data. Iowa's support model for ESSA holds those designations for three years (four years this round because of COVID), regardless of their data in the subsequent years. This was purposeful in Iowa's ESSA Plan to provide ongoing support for sustained growth. I was a part of developing Iowa's ESSA support model, it was never intended for the purpose that the Governor has proposed. Based on data that is available on the Iowa School Performance Profiles, if the designations had been redone based on 2019 data (the most recent), 35% of the Comprehensive buildings would now be Met/Universal, 41% would now be Targeted, and only 24% would still be Comprehensive. 76% of the buildings affected by this Bill actually have achievement data to demonstrate growth and improvement so that they should no longer be identified as Comprehensive. The educators who choose to work in these Districts are also some of the strongest and most wellintentioned professionals, they are heroes and angels. They accept the challenges of teaching students who are experiencing trauma and adversity and work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for their students and families. These Districts provide expansive programs and supports in innovative ways. These schools are places where educators can make the most profound impact on students. Rhetoric about 'failing schools' and schools 'falling behind' could not be further from the truth. Demonizing schools, and worse demonizing educators, for serving underserved populations is beyond misguided and offensive to those educators.
Terese Grant [League of Women Voters of Iowa]
The League of Women Voters of Iowa believes strongly in supporting the quality of pubic education for all students in Iowa. We believe that HSB 243 would take public funds away from schools in Iowa to benefit a select few. This is not acceptable. It is totally unfair for schools to receive less funding to adequately meet the needs of students in Iowa. Public schools have been receiving less money for many years and this bill would further damage the funds that schools would receive.
Alana Jondle 
Taking taxpayer funding away from Iowas public schools and diverting it to essentially promote private school enrollment is not only a horrible, malicious idea that does little more than slap our public school teachers in their faces, its just plain wrong.Imagine the great things Iowa public school teachers and staff could do, and the futures they could help sculpt for their students Iowas children if they actually had the full, unrelenting support of an executive administration and legislature who valued them and their work.The easiest way to ensure quality education is to have adequate funding. Public schools in Iowa haven't been adequately funded for at least a generation now. How about actually addressing why some kids in certain zip codes don't get an adequate education? Maybe it's because we don't fund those schools correctly in the first place. Maybe it's because there are other social ills that we fail to address, like poverty, that impact their ability to learn. This is bill is not the answer.Don't take away what little public schools are getting and hand it over to private schools. Private school choice is a choice.Hope Iowa Legislature puts the proposal aside and instead begins to focus on ways to give Iowas public schools more reinforcement. The payoff is a better future for Iowa.
Marilyn Smith 
We in iowa do not support your voucher program as we have great public schools but your governor keeps cutting budgets so lack of teacher and associates and money when we have a surplus of money. Will not pay taxes for catholic schools.
Sandy Madden 
I vote no
Barbara Fuller 
Please vote no for HSB243. Public funds should only be spent on public education. If parents wish for their children to attend a private school that is their right, but it should be at their expense. Our schools are hurting enough with lack of adequate funding over the years. By taking funds away from our schools you are damaging the education of the vast majority of students in our state.
Jan Evans 
I urge you to vote NO on HSB 243. Nonpublic schools do not have the same requirements, transparency, or accountability as public schools. Allowing public money to be transferred to private entities is not a responsible use of taxpayer money. Our public schools are charged to accept and educate all students without discrimination. Public education will be diminished in many communities by this transfer of public money.
Louise Esveld 
I urge you to vote NO to HSB 243. Public tax dollars should be invested in public schools not to fund the private school choices of a few individuals. This bill will syphon away much needed resources from public schools.
Margaret Buckton [Rural School Advocates of Iowa]
See attached commentsRSAI is opposed to HSB 243Attachment
Randy Richardson 
I wish, just once, that the sponsors of a bill like this would have the courage to call these "scholarships" what they really are...vouchers. I recently read a quote from Representative Costello justifying this bill by saying something had to be done to free students from failing inner city schools. He must not have read the list of the 34 schools because half of them are rural districts. I've seen countless references to failing schools and the need to give students the option to leave those buildings. I wonder if you have read the Every Student Succeeds Act to see just how arbitrary that assignment is. Under the bill each state is required to identify the lowest 5% of Title 1 schools regardless of how well they do. Since Iowa schools rank highly nationwide those bottom 5% of schools may very well rank in the top 50% of schools nationwide. That's hardly failing.Providing vouchers will encourage students from wealthier families to flee public schools leaving the existing schools with an ever dwindling number of white students and creating a defacto segregated school.Please vote no on this bill. Protect our local public schools.
Margaret Buckton [Urban Education Network]
UEN is opposed to HSB 243see attached statementAttachment
Susanna Hines 
As a taxpayer, parent, community member and public school board member, I am opposed to any voucher system. Public money for public schools.
Kate Parks 
I strongly urge you to reject this bill. Vouchers are wrong for Iowa and will hurt our public school system, which has been a source of pride for our state for so long. As a school board member, an educator, and a parent of children in public school, I have a number of concerns about this bill. First, public funds should be prioritized for public education. Our public schools serve all kids, regardless of their achievement, their background, their language proficiency, their behavior, and their needs. Our teachers and staff and administrators are putting kids first every day in their work and what they need is more support and funding, not less. This is even more true at a time when we are facing so many challenges due to COVID19. In addition adapting our educational practices, the school district in our community played a critical role in providing food, internet acess, resources and information for families in need. We know that we have work to do to ensure that all our kids can catch up on what was lost due to the pandemic. Schools need MORE funding to do that, not less.Secondly, as a parent, my choice is for my kindergartner and 2nd grader to attend a public school. I feel that this bill would undermine my choice by diverting funds away from public schools. I want them to learn in a wellresourced and diverse environment. I want to be able to trust that in the future, their public education will continue to be strong. I want that for all the kids in our community. Finally, as an education and a sociologist, I understand that while this bill is framed as providing parents with choice, it really only provides some parents and some students with choice. Private schools and charter schools get to choose who they admit. They can decide which students they want to retain and which they don't. They don't have to serve all kids, which means that for some parents, they won't have a choice if this bill passes. Instead, their tax dollars will go to a private school that doesn't have the same level of public accountability or oversight, while their child will be in a school with less funding. The research is clear that voucher systems increase economic and racial segregation and that many parents and kids are simply left behind. This is a crucial moment for us as a state. I urge you to restore the legacy Iowa has as being a champion for public education. This bill will hurt Iowa schools and more importantly, many Iowa kids. They are the future. We should be investing all we can in them.
Shannon Crouse 
Please vote no. Public money for public schools. Period.