School choice hot topic at legislative forum Eggs and Issues | News, Sports, Jobs

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ school voucher bill was the subject of much discussion at a forum with local legislative officials on Saturday morning.

State Senators Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge and Jesse Green, R-Boone, along with State Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, answered questions from voters about the bill and d other legislative issues at the Eggs and Issues forum hosted by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and Iowa Central Community College. Forty people participated in the forum.

Lawmakers told the audience that the legislature is in a “reason for waiting”, with the passage of the state budget in the House and Senate, as well as movement on Reynolds’ Student First Act, which would allocate taxpayer funds to 10,000 Iowa students to participate in a pilot program of a “education savings account” transfer to private and parochial schools.

Judge Brown, a retired Fort Dodge educator and former school and multicultural integration consultant for the Iowa Department of Education, kicked off the forum by asking for more answers on the school choice bill. school.

“Why is the governor determined to give more money to private schools?” He asked.

Meyer explained that the bill will provide 10,000 scholarships, half of which will go to students with special needs and individual education plans and the other half to low-income students.

“Why do we think this is so important?” she says. “Because there are kids who don’t do well in the public school setting.”

She said it would be a “real pilot program”, and there are plans to test the students involved in three to five years to see if they have actually benefited from the program.

Meyer also said the details of the bill are still being negotiated — for example, as written, the maximum income level for participating families is 400% of the federal poverty level ($106,000 for a family of four). She said the House would like to see that change to 250% of the federal poverty level.

Green said he is “fully” behind the program and believes it will be expanded in the future.

“At the end of the day, there are so many environments that provide a rock-solid education… We want lots of opportunities for kids to come in and get a good quality education and in some cases that doesn’t is not a public school environment, and we want to ensure that every child has the ability to find that environment that meets their needs.

He also noted that he thinks lawmakers have made education their No. 1 priority, increasing funding. He said that per child, about $19,000 in public dollars is spent, both by the federal government and the state.

“We are committed to public education” said Green.

At one point during the forum, Kraayenbrink told those in attendance that this bill would be easy to pass because of what is happening in schools in Iowa, such as the Linn-Mar Community School District in Iowa. Eastern Iowa, which recently passed a policy allowing transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity. He also claimed that there are schools in his Senate district that have installed cat litter boxes in bathrooms for students who identify as “hairy” or cats to use.

“Not in the Fort Dodge district, but in my Senate district, they require these schools to put kitty litter boxes in the bathroom,” he said. “The thing is, these things happen on a regular basis in Iowa and nobody knows about it, because the media doesn’t cover these things… It’s very easy to give parents and children more options if they feel like their child has not been educated properly, or the way they want that child.

Several news outlets and independent fact-checkers across the country, including Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact, have debunked the kitty litter scenario as a hoax multiple times since it first surfaced earlier this year. It’s a hoax that spread in late December and early January after a central Michigan parent made an unsubstantiated claim at a school board meeting that it was happening in schools across the country. district. Ever since the video of that school board meeting went viral, the hoax has spread across the map. In March, a Nebraska state senator issued an apology after citing the hoax as fact during a televised debate.

When asked by The Messenger if Kraayenbrink could identify the specific schools where this is happening, he replied: “I’ll check with the school and get back to you.”

On Sunday, in a text message, he told the Messenger, “Following up on your question, I had a conversation with a parent in the school district I was referring to several months ago which I considered confidential. I have not verified this conversation with officials. of the school. That being said, I wouldn’t feel comfortable identifying the district.

Kraayenbrink represents Iowa Senate District 5, which includes all of Humboldt, Pocahontas, and Calhoun counties, as well as the northwest two-thirds of Webster County.

Meyer discussed funding for the program — which is expected to cost more than $50 million. Only the state part of the “per student” the funding that public school districts receive will follow students transferring to private schools. That number is $5,300, with the remainder remaining with the district.

“So in fact the public school system will still receive funding for a child that they don’t educate, so the idea that they’re going to lose money if those kids are educated somewhere else is wrong,” she says.

Joe Jackson of Fort Dodge spoke to lawmakers about his concerns about the school choice bill that uses public funds to fund religious private schools.

“What happened to the separation of church and state? He asked. “How can you justify taxpayers’ money making students pray? »

Green defended the bill, saying it doesn’t establish religion in schools, but encourages families to choose what they want their students to learn.

“It is not up to us to determine which system is the best”, said Green. “I think parents know which system is best for their children and we want to give them that flexibility.”

Kraayenbrink said he spoke about this bill to superintendents in his senatorial district.

“It won’t affect Fort Dodge, basically it will affect a lot of people in the metro area,” he said.

Eminent Domain

Webster County resident Al Hayek asked lawmakers what they think of the bill that imposes a moratorium on the Iowa Public Utilities Board from making any decisions on the use of the domain prominent for proposed carbon pipeline projects in the state.

Hayek, who owns land in rural areas of the county, is a vocal opponent of pipelines and the use of eminent domain to force landowners to let pipeline companies use their land.

“I am against a private company using eminent domain for private gain”, he said. “I think the majority of people are.”

He said he plans to introduce a bill next year that would make all easement fees paid to landowners — through a voluntary easement or eminent domain — completely exempt from tax. tax.

Green also said he believes eminent domain should not be used for private, for-profit companies.

State Sen. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City, was not at the forum because he is a farmer and was working in the field Saturday.

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Jessica C. Bell