To the editor:
Rural Iowans value public education. We know that regardless of race, religion or zip code, all Iowa children deserve access to a quality education. We write because the current Iowa education policies — diverting public dollars to private, often faith-based schools while underfunding public schools — are hurting rural Iowans.
The school is the heartbeat of a rural community, and we have all seen what happens to small communities when the school closes. Over a period of years, the towns become shadows of themselves and may eventually disappear.
Rather than passing legislation to preserve our rural communities, to give them “Freedom to Flourish,” Gov. Reynolds and the majority of the state’s Republic legislators are making no attempts to revitalize rural Iowa.
They are, in fact, hastening the demise of small, rural towns.
Iowa communities of any size dry up without healthy public schools. Local schools already feel the negative impact of Reynolds’ School Choice law. Public schools are the only schools in 43 of Iowa’s 99 counties. The state tax dollars that residents of those counties pay are being shifted to counties where there are private (usually faith-based) schools.
Instead of helping students in our rural public schools and sustaining our rural communities, our tax dollars are being sent to more populated areas.
Private schools have no public oversight via elected school boards. Since their records are not subject to open records scrutiny and their governance is not subject to open meetings laws, the taxpayer-citizens now helping to fund them have no way to verify the education quality or school operations.
Private schools, if they don’t use the state of Iowa for accreditation, don’t even need to hire licensed teachers. An ongoing concern impacting rural Iowa is a shortage of teachers. Private schools are able to hire teachers away from smaller rural schools, since their pay scales may be better than in those smaller public schools. That will make it more difficult for rural schools to hire the teachers they need to obtain state accreditation, moving the school one step closer to consolidation.
A value of Iowa and a free country is access to public education, comparable across geographic and demographic lines. Gov. Reynolds’ School Choice law hurts rural Iowa. It is a hindrance to the flourishing of small towns.
We believe rural Iowans share these concerns. Contact your legislators, and tell them to support public education not just with words but with finances.
I am writing on behalf of Progressive Rural Optimists, PRO Iowa 24 – a group of concerned rural Iowans with progressive values from Greene, Guthrie, Boone, Story and Dallas counties