Monday night, the Waukee School Board discussed and approved a resolution opposing the Iowa Legislature’s attempt to pass school vouchers. The resolution passed 6-1.
Iowa Republicans are proposing the vouchers—now called education savings accounts—that would provide financial assistance from public tax dollars to any family who wants to enroll their child(ren) in private schools.
The Waukee resolution declares, “the Board, in consultation with its community, has determined that the Iowa legislature should not enact voucher programs, regardless of branding, and should continue to promote and fully invest in Iowa’s public schools.”
The resolution lists the pandemic, funding-related struggles of public schools and the standards for accountability and serving every student as reasons to oppose the proposed vouchers.
During the public comment section of the meeting, multiple adults spoke against the resolution, saying it was based on personal opinion and working against what parents want.
“I’ve lived in Waukee my entire life and it pains me to say this but it’s become extremely obvious that we no longer have shared values as a community,” said Josh Briggs, who has daughters in the school.
Briggs and a few other parents cited books with sexual content in them being available to students and asserted that private schools are more transparent and accommodating to parents’ wishes.
The general argument was that more money going to private schools would make public schools work harder to provide quality education and opportunities. Some argued that state money being used this way wouldn’t harm public schools.
The Waukee school board members, when it was time to discuss the resolution, pushed back against many of those arguments.
“I think we all need to be really cautious with our sources of information at all times,” said Jaime Secory, who was elected last year. “I’m really offended by the use of ‘competition’ over and over and over again. I think a lot of people have a very rudimentary understanding of how economics truly works in society and when it comes to public goods. I also think the attempt to frame this resolution as opposition to parental choice is one of the most intellectually dishonest things I’ve ever heard.”
“We’re a nonpartisan public school board. I mean, that’s the bottom line,” said Vice President Wendy Marsh. “I don’t need an empirical study to tell me that if you give vouchers and take money away and give it to private schools that that hurts a public school. I was elected to a public school board. When I’m a member of this public school board I have a code of ethics I have to follow.”
Marsh said she took those ethics responsibilities seriously, then read sections from their code where it mandates they advocate for and try to secure appropriate funding for their school district.
“I don’t know any portion of the voucher bill that is consistent with those statements that I just read,” she said. “It’s very obvious to me that I’m against vouchers and I’m in favor of this resolution because it’s consistent with our mission of public schools in our district, it’s consistent with our legislative priorities approved by the previous board, and it’s consistent with the ethical code of this board of directors.”
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