A writer in the Globe Gazette last week ("ESA's give parents school choice," Jan. 24) wrote about an educational savings account, or ESA, in Iowa that would permit public school funds being used to finance a school chosen by the child’s parent. A poll has shown 58 percent of Iowans oppose using public school funds to finance any ESA’s in Iowa while 35 percent are in favor.
Iowa legislators seem determined to undermine Iowa’s communities, businesses, and our strong network of public schools by pushing a plan to use state taxpayer dollars to fund nonpublic schools, private instruction and home schooling by giving every child an education savings account, or ESA, roughly in the amount of $6,500 in the form of a debit card. The families would then “purchase” their own education. How? Information is lacking.
Private schools do not have to accommodate special educational needs — children with autism, English-language learners, low-income children, or children with any sort of learning or behavioral challenge. Your state tax dollars already support nonpublic schools options in the form of tax credits, transportation costs and textbooks of about $39 million every year. Last year’s public education raise was less than inflation, and we cannot afford to send more state dollars away from public schools.
School “choice” already exists in Iowa. Parents may open enroll their children in any other public school in the state — and many do.
The ESA plan needs to recognize that public schools are vital for small communities; without them these communities will have a hard time attracting potential businesses and residents. Children living in poverty will also be disproportionately affected. An ESA may pay for tuition, but it likely will not pay for transportation and other needs. ESAs will take funds away from public schools, the very institutions needed to educate Iowa’s future leaders.
Harold Hopp, Mason City