State lawmakers, Dubuque school leaders discuss priorities ahead of legislative session

State lawmakers met with leaders of Dubuque to talk about each school district's priorities ahead of the next legislative session.
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 7:01 AM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - The new legislative session in Iowa hasn’t started yet, but the fight over school vouchers has already begun.

State lawmakers met with leaders in Dubuque, including both the Dubuque Community School District and Holy Family Catholic Schools.

“It’s kind of like Hamilton’s song, you know, in the room where it happened,” Dubuque Director of Strategic Partnerships Teri Goodmann said. “Everyone is here in the room where it happened.”

Wednesday night, the room where it happened was in the Grand River Center, where everyone from supervisors to superintendents had the chance to mingle with state lawmakers and let them know their priorities.

Chief Administrator of Holy Family Catholic Schools Phillip Borman said the biggest one for him is school choice.

Borman is referring to the potential creation of a statewide Education Savings Account for students. It’s a proposal which would allow families to pull state tax dollars away from public schools to use instead of private school tuition.

Borman said he thought the school voucher system was not incompatible with fully funded public schools.

“We will advocate for also having fully funded public schools,” Borman said. “We don’t believe that offering school choice and an Educational Savings Accounts means that our public schools are going to have to be less than because they need to be fully supported, fully funded.”

But Amy Hawkins, Superintendent of Dubuque Community Schools, said the money calculated on a per-student basis is just part of what it takes to make public education work.

“The money that we received from the state isn’t necessarily all the money that we spend to educate students,” she said.

She added that public schools are held accountable for every dollar they receive.

Wednesday night looked like a dinner party of Dubuque’s decision-makers, and it was.

“Personal relationships make the world go round,” she added.

Those relationships can influence what happens in Dubuque when the next legislative session starts in Des Moines in January.