Iowa legislator opening his own private school, to be funded by vouchers he voted for

Iowa Rep. Dean Fisher and the logo for Tama-Toledo Christian School, a new private school Fisher co-founded.

By Ty Rushing

April 29, 2024

Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) is set to open a new private school in his district in 2025 and its future financial backing will depend on taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers he helped vote into law.

Fisher serves as the board president for the upcoming Tama-Toledo Christian School, which is in the midst of renovating the former St. Patrick Catholic Church in Tama to serve as its school building.

Fisher and the rest of the six-person board of directors—which includes his wife—are fundraising to cover the school’s start-up expenses, but the six-term state representative told the Tama Toledo News he expects vouchers to cover future expenses.

“Once we start classes, the ESA funding will pay the bulk of our operating expenses, and we will also continue to fundraise from the community to enhance our funding,” Fisher told the paper.

ESA is short for Education Savings Account, the formal name for Gov. Kim Reynolds’ private school tuition voucher program. The Iowa House passed the controversial measure in a 55-45 vote in January 2023, and Fisher was a “yes” vote. Reynolds endorsed him before the election due to his support of her voucher plan.

The articles of incorporation for the Tama-Toledo Christian School were filed on May 17, 2023, a little less than two weeks after the 2023 legislative session came to a close.

Iowa legislator opening his own private school, to be funded by vouchers he voted for

The voucher program is wrapping up its first year in which 16,757 certified participants were given $7,635 in taxpayer funds (about $128 million) for private school tuition.

The Iowa Legislature allocated nearly $180 million toward the program for the 2024-25 school year, meaning the state expects at least 22,897 students to receive a voucher based on the $7,826 in taxpayer funds each will receive that school year.

The program’s first two years have financial guardrails that slightly limit access to it—still, two-thirds of initial recipients already went to private school—and by the 2025-26 school year, when Fisher’s school is expected to open, there will be no financial restrictions.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement filed an ethics complaint against Fisher in February citing a conflict of interest under the Iowa House Code of Ethics. However, lawmakers dismissed the complaints in a 6-0 vote.

Should it open, the Tama-Toledo Christian School would be the only private school in Tama County.

  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.



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