Editorial | DI Editorial Board on School Choice

Public education creates equitable and accessible education. The Students Act will leave a negative impact on public schools.


Jerod Ringwald

Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers a speech during the 2023 Condition of the State at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. At the end of Reynolds’ speech, she thanked supporters. “Thank you for the honor to serve as your governor,” Reynolds said. “God bless you, and God bless the great state of Iowa.”

DI Editorial Board

Every child and teenager deserves a quality education. 

On Jan. 24, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the Students First Act into law. Once fully implemented, K-12 students will be eligible to receive $7,600 in state tax dollars for private education, no matter their income level. This will cost an estimated $345 million annually. 

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board recognizes systemic issues in our state’s public education system. Nevertheless, we believe public education systems create equitable and accessible education for all. 

Iowa has become the nationwide leader in school choice legislation. 

This school choice legislation is part of a nationwide conservative push away from public education systems. Proponents of school choice believe parents should have a role in what their child learns in the classroom.

“For the first time, we will fund students instead of a system — a decisive step in ensuring that every child in Iowa can receive the best education possible,” Reynolds said in the news release. “With this bill, Iowa has affirmed that educational freedom belongs to all, not just those who can afford it.”

The DI Editorial Board recognizes that public education is not of equal quality across the state. In low-income areas, public education may not have adequate funding to best serve students.

There are systemic issues in public schools across Iowa that should be addressed. But investing in private education is not a solution to improving education throughout Iowa.

State tax dollars will aid families of children attending or transferring to private institutions, but public feedback indicates Iowa does not approve of this use of tax dollars.

According to Iowa News Now, in a survey of more than 1,600 Iowans, 73 percent were against the Students First Act. 

One reason Iowans are against this act is the statewide inaccessibility to private education. There are 99 counties in Iowa, only 42 of which contain private schools, according to the Iowa Department of Education.

Stephen Murley, a University of Iowa education policy researcher and instructor, reports 54 percent of Iowa’s private schools reside in the nine most populous counties. Even without the cost of tuition, private education is not accessible to most Iowans.

Unlike public schools, private schools have the option to turn away students. This often has a negative impact on students with disabilities or mental illnesses, as well as children of color.

While there is abundance of room for improvement in Iowa’s public education systems, funding private institutions is not the solution to making education equitable and accessible across the state.

The DI Editorial Board recognizes school choice proponents have concerns with modern day classrooms. These are concerns that exist and are heard. But public education is not for one; it is for all. Sending children and teens to private schools may be the solution for some families, but it is not a solution for all of Iowa.

Tax dollars should serve to educate Iowans, and public schools are the most accessible option for most Iowans. Investing in public schools, not private institutions, is the best path to making education equitable across the states.

The modern-day classroom has changed, and with that, many parents have concerns. These conversations should happen in school board meetings and proper conversations with educators. Diverting funding from public schools will not make these issues go away.

The DI Editorial Board wants the best education for our state’s children and teens. We believe this happens by properly funding public education.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.