Thoughts on the Students First Act
First of all, I am honored to represent Marshalltown and Southeastern Marshall County in the Iowa House of Representatives. The first week is complete, and now the work begins in earnest.
My biggest takeaway from the first week was Gov. Reynolds’ expanded push for student savings accounts, also known as vouchers, as part of her priority on parental choice and public schools.
I am one of five House members on the Education Reform Committee where this bill will be presented. I don’t know how the final bill will look, but I do have initial thoughts on the Study Bill I have seen.
Every student in Iowa deserves a first class education regardless of where they live. Families currently have many choices for the best education of their children.
They can choose their neighborhood public school. They can choose a different attendance center in Marshalltown in the elementary grades. They can choose to open-enroll students to another district. They can choose online learning.
Families can choose to home school their children. They can choose from our excellent private, religious schools in town.
The “Students First Act”, as House Study Bill 1 has been titled, is not about family or parent choice. Choices already exist. It is about the use of public funds. Public funds belong in public schools.
I have always said, “In order to make our schools better for my child, we have to make them better for all children.” Public schools are the great equalizer. Public schools provide a free education for all students. They accept all students and work to provide success for each one.
Schools are the center of many of our rural communities. 75% of Iowa public schools are in rural areas with no access to private schools, so where is their “family or parental choice?”
Our state supports non-public schools with over $100 million in public tax dollars for things such as transportation, textbooks, special needs services, tax deductions and more.
I do not agree with Gov. Reynolds that the state should be providing student savings accounts for any family, no matter what their income level in the next three years. Our wealthiest people in the state would get public tax dollars to send their children to private schools.
This becomes an issue of equity. Those families who can afford to transport their children to private schools, will. Those who don’t have that access will be left behind in a school that will lose funding through the student savings accounts.
This is a very complex issue. But it comes down to providing the best for all students, not just a few.
Sue Cahill, a Democrat from Marshalltown, represents District 52 in the Iowa House.