FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2023
Contact: Christina Dexter, (816)738-5402
Iowa Farmers Union Opposes School Vouchers Legislation
The Iowa Farmers Union and its members from all 99 counties have long advocated for policies that build rural economies and nurture vibrant communities. The Iowa education system was largely built on a network of strong public schools, providing residents with a common bond that helped define both rural and urban communities.
More than ever, strong public schools are essential to growing Iowa’s rural communities. The Iowa Farmers Union urges legislators to oppose legislation to give vouchers to private schools. This will not help build strong rural communities. In fact, it will be a detriment to the bold investments policymakers have made to grow rural Iowa.
The voucher bills now in the Iowa Legislature will siphon away vital state support, further weakening Iowa’s public schools and hamstringing many rural communities. Nearly 75% of Iowa public schools are in rural areas with little to no access to private schools. The vast majority of rural families will not have the resources to participate in a voucher program because private schools don’t exist in their area. Rural communities will ultimately pay the price because the school district is the backbone of these communities. They are often the largest employer, a gathering place for everyone in the community, and a workforce recruitment tool for other local employers.
The vast majority of vouchers would simply serve as hand-outs to those already enrolling their children in private schools. Only about one additional percent of Iowa’s students receive any benefit from a program estimated to cost $341 million when fully implemented.
A voucher program will only fuel the decline of our rural communities and decimate our public education system. This public policy initiative will not work to revitalize Iowa. It will not connect, grow, or invest in rural Iowa. It will not provide a pipeline of leaders and it will not attract or retain residents or workers. It will not create a welcoming community, nor will it build Iowa’s already declining rural communities.
Iowa’s rural communities are facing unprecedented challenges and public education is just one of those. With declining school enrollments, challenging labor shortages, deteriorating housing, and a neglected health system, rural communities are struggling. Iowa’s limited education resources should go to support public school students in all 99 counties with oversight from local elected citizens who represent the community’s voice.