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Cedar Rapids School Board member: no voucher bill is ‘good news’ for public schools

Published: May. 23, 2022 at 10:50 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cindy Garlock, a member of the Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) School Board, said the board has been “very consistent” when it comes to opposing a plan for vouchers.

A plan from Governor Kim Reynolds would have moved public dollars to private schools through scholarships. About $5,300 would be deposited into an “education savings account” for a family to spend on private school tuition, homeschooling curricula, or other qualifying educational costs. The money would be provided for up to 10,000 students a year.

Monday, Iowa Speaker of the House Rep. Pat Grassley said the plan will not advance this legislative session. The controversial bill held up the completion of the 2022 legislative session. While the Senate passed it, there were not enough votes for it to pass the House.

Garlock said the bill, as well as the issue of school choice, have become topics of public debate. “I think people are paying a lot more attention than they maybe have in the past, with the voucher issue. That’s the good thing that’s come out of it, people now know what is at risk. They understand the issue. So, if we’re looking for a silver lining, that might be it.”

Garlock said public schools deserve public money because they answer to the community. “We have a very strong feeling as a board that public tax dollars should be used for public schools. We know that public schools are accountable to the community through their duly elected Board of Education. We know that public schools are accountable to the state in terms of testing and rules and policies that we have to align with. And we just feel like public tax dollars should stay in those public schools where there is accountability for those funds.”

She also said money for public education is already scarce, and this plan would exacerbate the problem. “Inflation is driving costs up, it’s really hard for us to find teachers right now. It’s really putting a lot of stress on our public schools. So, I think our opinion as a board is anything that takes those already scarce public dollars and shifts them somewhere else is not in the best interest of our students.”

State Representative Gary M. Mohr (R - District 94) is in favor of school choice. However, he said he was not in favor of how the scholarships would have been funded. “I didn’t like the fact—I live in a metropolitan area. And under the original plan of the Governor’s, some of those dollars were going to be sent out of my district to small districts of less than 500 students.”

Garlock believes the debate around school choice should be something voters think about when they head to the polls. “I think now the public is really very well aware of what this means for public schools, so I think and at least I hope that this helps our voters when they go to the polls in November to make sure that they’re voting for candidates who are very clear in their support for public schools.”

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