School voucher supporters plan another legislative push this year

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG TV9)- Supporters of diverting some public education dollars to help students in private, parochial or home schools are vowing to make another push in the state legislature this year. But Iowa lawmakers warn an expected tight budget may make such changes difficult.

Students in the 11th-12th grade at the Cedar Valley Christian School. Private school supporters are gearing up for another push for school vouchers in Iowa this session.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have some sort of voucher system—allowing parents to divert a portion of school tax dollars to pay for their choice of non-public schooling.

Jeff Pospisil, principal at Cedar Valley Christian School, says that’s something on the legislative wish list for private schools practically every year.

“We keep trying every year. I don’t think it’s an issue where we don’t have the money as a government. It’s where do we want to spend it,” Pospisil said.

Cedar Valley is part of the Iowa Association of Christian Education. And Pospisil says the group plans to call for Education Savings Accounts (ESA) once again.

The idea behind an ESA is to set aside the same per pupil aid amounts given to public schools, approximately $6,000 per student, for private or home school families. Those dollars, supervised by the state, could be used to help pay private school tuition.

A proposal for ESA’s last session came in at about $240-million dollars. That proposal did not go far.

Rep. Art Staed, a Cedar Rapids Democrat, says even if school voucher supporters come in with a cheaper plan this time, the state’s budget crunch would making selling such a change unlikely.

“There is no reason, particularly in light of the budget concerns we have, to take money out of our education funding to give to vouchers,” Staed said.

Lawmakers expect voucher supporters to put on a show of support as they have in the past. One statehouse rally last April drew about 900 private and home school students and parents.

But whether that translates into legislation that could pass is another question.