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Iowa students and parents deserve school choice
Expanding parents’ control over school tax dollars will produce education paths more tailored to students’ needs
All over America, parents are taking back their power at school board meetings.
Some parents have been removed for violating meeting rules or kicked out for passionate speeches opposing the sexually explicit books and lesson plans on sexual identity and race theory. Although there haven’t been any reports of the now infamous “nonbinary unicorn” being used to explain sexual and emotional attraction in Iowa schools, Iowa parents are able to see what’s happening to public schools in other states and they’re looking for new laws to prevent similar lesson plans from being implemented.
One of those proactive lawmakers is Republican Senate President Jake Chapman, who said in a chamber floor speech this month that “The attack on our children is no longer hidden, those who wish to normalize sexually deviant behavior against our children, including pedophilia and incest are pushing this movement more than ever before.”
Last session, Chapman said that some books given to students violate part of the Iowa Code concerning “obscenity.” The books that were available in Waukee schools — such as "Gender Queer," "Lawn Boy" and "All Boys Aren't Blue” — have been removed from the libraries since the initial uproar, but the concern for protecting Iowa students from a “sinister” social agenda clearly remains front of mind for many Iowa lawmakers.
One solution is school choice, a public education policy that is structured differently in every state but broadly means that students can enroll in any school, public or private, and a set dollar amount from the state can be applied. School choice has existed in my home district of Waterloo under the title of “open enrollment" for some time, meaning parents can apply to send their student to a school outside of their district.
A school voucher would essentially be a set amount of money that parents of any income level could use to hire music teachers or private tutors or to attend private school.
Chapman’s reaction to a few library books seems pretty dramatic considering that any kid with internet access could find much more nefarious content in a few thumb taps, but his aggressive language is a good representation of the fear many public school parents have.
In a response to Chapman published in the Des Moines Register, Marieta Irwin, an Iowa teacher points out that parents already have the right to know what students are reading and often alternative books are optioned for assignments. She also points out that suggesting that teachers are predators is an unfair allegation to levy and “The deliberate undermining of the public education and those that serve it is frightening. Being a teacher in the state of Iowa is going to get much harder.”
With the Republican majority in both chambers and the governors office, Irwin has a real point that the road ahead for Iowa public schools will be much more rocky than before, but is that a bad thing for teachers?
Competition is the best way for employees to leverage job offers for higher wages or specialize in a passion area. Low-income parents with a special-needs child can hire a private teacher to best meet their family needs. Religious parents who have a problem with the public school curriculum could leave and form a micro-school in their neighborhood.
Expanding parents’ control over school tax dollars will produce education paths more tailored to students’ needs and job options for teachers will expand with those specializations.
Patricia Patnode is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
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