Gov. Kim Reynolds’ staff estimates Iowa taxpayers would spend $341 million annually to pay for students’ private school tuition and related expenses once her voucher plan is fully phased in starting with the 2026-27 school year—and over half of that could be doled out to just ten counties.
The plan would be rolled out over four school years. By the fourth year, any Iowa student who wants to attend a private school would be given $7,598 annually from the state to do so.
One of the criticisms of Reynolds’ voucher proposal—which she says offers true school choice—is that of Iowa’s 99 counties, only 41 counties have private schools and another 23 only have one private school.
So where would most of that money go? Well, it would go to counties with the most private schools which, in most cases, constitute Iowa’s largest counties with the notable exception of some western Iowa counties.
Here are the Iowa counties that would receive the most money from Reynolds’ voucher plan based on it being fully implemented and if every student counted in the Iowa Department of Education’s private school certified enrollment numbers for the 2022-23 school year took advantage of the program.
- Polk County, 22 private schools, $53.8 million: Iowa’s largest county also has the most private schools including Dowling Catholic High School, which by itself would receive a little more than $10 million annually from the state based on its student population of 1,318.
- Dubuque County, 12 private schools, $21.1 million: Resurrection Elementary School in Dubuque would receive about $3 million annually from the state based on its student population of 403.
- Linn County, 13 private schools, $19.9 million: The biggest recipient of private school voucher funds would be Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids, which has 593 students. That institution would receive $4.5 million
- Sioux County, 11 private schools, $18.7 million: Sioux Center Christian School, a K-8 facility that serves 505 students, would be the county’s largest recipient and it would receive $3.8 million.
- Scott County, 8 private schools, $15.8 million: Five private schools in Scott County would receive more than $2 million a year, but St. Paul the Apostle School in Davenport would be tops at $2.7 million (358 students) while All Saints Catholic School (353 students), also in Davenport, would receive $2.68 million.
- Woodbury County, 10 private schools, $12.5 million: Sioux City’s Bishop Heelan High School (399 students) would receive about $3 million, the highest amount in Woodbury County.
- Black Hawk County, 11 private schools, $11.7 million: St. Edward Elementary School (292 students) in Waterloo would receive $2.2 million, which is about $500,000 more than the next highest school, Waterloo’s Columbus Catholic High School (234 students).
- Johnson County, six private schools, $9.5 million: The biggest recipients in Johnson County would be the Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City. The elementary portion of the facility would receive $3.5 million (472 students) while the middle/high school would receive $2.7 million (363 students).
- Carroll County, 2 private schools, $8 million: The Carroll-based Kuemper Catholic School system would receive all $8 million via its high school (280 students) and elementary/middle school (778 students).
- Plymouth County, 5 private schools, $6.4 million: The big winner here would be the Le-Mars-based Gehlen Catholic School system. The elementary school (271 students) would receive $2 million and the middle/high school would receive $1.6 million (217 students.)
Collectively, those 10 counties alone would stand to receive $177.4 million annually in private school voucher funds. That amount is more than the annual budget for most of Iowa’s 328 public school districts including larger districts such as Ames, Johnston, Linn-Mar, Mason City, and Urbandale.
Meanwhile, 41 counties in Iowa have no private school. Those areas of the state would likely receive little to no new funds from Reynolds’ proposal.
by Ty Rushing
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9 Comments on "These 10 Iowa Counties Would Receive The Most In Voucher Money"
Excellent info! Thank you for researching this. I’d like to think I’m not the only Democrat whose Pro School Choice. Feel this will open doors for families who wish to escape substandard public schools. Good public schools should be fine and are always in demand. There will be increased competition for students which is excellent for the consumer.
I would just like to state that I have 4 children in the Holy Family school system in dubuque.
The amount of money this article is claiming simply isn’t true. The Dubuque area is unique in that it borders both Illinois and Wisconsin.
I feel you should at least check with the school system to see what percentage of students are from out of state that will not be eligible for the vouchers. I think you would be surprised. It is pretty significant.
We are from Illinois and choose to send them there, its not easy but we make it work, and I cannot say enough wonderful things about the system. We budget for this because its what my wife and I want for our children.
I only hope that your state does pass this, as the more children who could be lucky enough to feel the way ours do every day is nothing but a great thing.
Is not most of the money currently going to the largest counties, because they are the largest counties?
The GOP majority state Legislature and Reynolds has been attacking public education in Iowa for years. Instead of properly funding public education, they choose to push Reynolds plan that doesn’t help the majority of rural students, lower and middle class students statewide or students with special needs. The private schools in Iowa can pick and choose who they allow to attend. Private school tuition for the private high schools averages over $13,000 a year. The $7600 voucher will not attract most middle class and lower class families who would have to cover the difference. These students will remain in the underfunded public schools which could have benefitted greatly to the $960 million Reynolds was able to find somehow for the private school vouchers. It’s obvious that Reynolds is pandering to the affluent Iowans who can donate and fill her reelection coffer.
The GOP majority state Legislature and Reynolds has been attacking public education in Iowa for years. Instead of properly funding public education, they choose to push Reynolds plan that doesn’t help the majority of rural students, lower and middle class students statewide or students with special needs. The private schools in Iowa can pick and choose who they allow to attend. Private school tuition for the private high schools averages over $13,000 a year. The $7600 voucher will not attract most middle class and lower class families who would have to cover the difference. These students will remain in the underfunded public schools which could have benefitted greatly from the $960 million Reynolds was able to somehow find for the private school vouchers. It’s obvious that Reynolds is pandering to the affluent Iowans who can donate and fill her reelection coffer.
Besides a misallocation of public taxes, there are increased busing issues, lack of accountability for curricular standards or teacher licensing, no programs for special needs students, a lack of school counselors and social workers, and a lack of accessibility in many rural areas. Public schools are already underfunded and this plan would further decrease funds needed to expand educational opportunities for all Iowa students. Far more students would be adversely affected to accommodate personal choices of a smaller number.
Aren’t most of these schools equipped with programs that the kids have to do worship and is part of a dress code and accounts for part of your grade. My grandson attends one since he was 3 over 9 years and my question is what about atheist? Although I am not one those children automatically will get failing grades every year if they are made to adhere to the policy, talk about control. The Governor needs to find something else to do she is setting Iowa up with schools that will make for an increase in crime because of an increase in unemployment due to lack of uneducated citizens unable to satisfy employers; however, this will increase the prison population and keep Iowas jails full but I think she already knows that! I would like to know what is in place for home schooling? I home schooled my daughter and she scored higher than 97% of students in her grade and beyond. So will home schooling still be an option!!
I am definitely not enthused. But having watched the Iowa Legislature for a few decades, I know a juggernaut when I see it. There are other dubious bills in the 2023 pipeline, so the fun won’t be over until the session is. Mencken’s definition of democracy comes to mind.
Pat Kinnick, is that really what we want for our students, “a competition” Pathetic! SMH