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Bill would let Arsenal families go to Iowa schools

94 children living on island now in classes in Moline

Rep. Gary Mohr

R-Bettendorf
Rep. Gary Mohr R-Bettendorf

DES MOINES — The children of military families living on the Rock Island Arsenal would be considered residents of Iowa for the purposes of enrolling in Scott County school districts under a bill introduced in the Iowa Legislature last week.

State Rep. Gary Mohr, R-Bettendorf, the bill’s author, said the measure would not only allow those students to attend Scott County schools but let them be counted in the state’s funding formula.

“I think we ought to give military families a choice,” Mohr said, adding he introduced the legislation after being approached by Army Col. Kenneth Tauke, the commander of the Rock Island Arsenal Garrison.

Currently, the children of military families living on the island go to schools in the Moline-Coal Valley school district.

The district said last week that 94 children from the Arsenal go to its schools. That’s a small part of the district’s student population of about 7,300, but the number of students living on the military base is expected to grow a bit because of expanded housing being built on the island.

Currently, Iowa law requires that non-residents pay tuition if they go to schools in the state.

Mohr’s bill changes the resident definition to include the children of active duty military who live on bases contiguous to Iowa counties with a population of more than 150,000. The bill would make families responsible for transportation.

It’s not entirely clear how it came to be that students living on the Arsenal are sent to Moline schools.

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But Mark Kane, a spokesman for the garrison, said he believes the decision was made “long ago” and that it was based on where most of the Arsenal housing on the island was at the time.

As for Mohr’s bill, he said the garrison does not comment on pending legislation.

Mohr, whose legislative district includes parts of the Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley and Davenport school districts, said he didn’t know where Arsenal students would likely go if they were to enroll in Scott County schools.

However, he said he believes superintendents would be supportive of the idea. He said he’d already spoken with Pleasant Valley officials.

Davenport Superintendent Art Tate said he supports the idea. “We’d love to have the military families,” he said.

The bill, House File 2161, has been assigned to the House Education Committee.

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