Senate Study Bill 1022 is making its way through the Iowa legislature to create “school choice.” It will take state tax dollars away from public schools to be used as vouchers in private schools. This bill is going to pass so this letter isn’t an attempt to stop the process. It is merely an attempt to make sure local citizens are aware of the pending implications.
Our state Representative Jon Dunwell supports this bill. As a member of the majority leadership, he will also push his colleagues to make sure this is passed as written. I am not an expert in school funding, but I do know a thing or two about levies and property taxes. In my opinion, this bill will decimate the budgets of rural public schools.
The bill is written on a three-year sliding scale so the biggest hit to the budget begins at year three. Each new student that leaves public school to attend private school will take $7600 of state aid with them. The state will reimburse $1205 to the district leaving a deficit of $6395 per student that would have been received by the public school. A small district cannot sustain a budget hit like that.
So, it will leave four options for the administration and school board. 1. Slash staff and programs. 2. Drastically raise the property taxes of local property and business owners. 3. A combination of both options one and two. Or, 4. Close the school.
Strong schools are the hub and lifeblood of our small communities. Without them your home loses value, young families leave, and businesses suffer. This bill will benefit a few individuals while financially punishing the majority of the community. State financial aid will continue to be limited to the point of instability. It will pit neighbor vs neighbor as small-town families are forced to choose to stay and save the school they love or take the voucher money and jump to a private school.
But I digress. I’m guessing that when Representative Dunwell reads this letter to the Editor he will declare it as fear mongering. I prefer to call it common sense and basic math. Don’t just take my word for it.
Reach out to your school’s financial administrators. Contact your school board and ask their opinion. And even contact Representative Dunwell if you are inclined to do so. He feels this bill won’t be a problem for you. I believe it will be catastrophic to small rural districts.
In 10 years one of us of will be proven correct. I pray to God it is him but I’m afraid it will be me. I will take no joy in being correct. I will grieve alongside of you as friends and neighbors as the lifeblood of our rural communities disappears. I believe this is a bad bill. I guess time will tell.