Tom Meyer

By TOM MEYER

Superintendent Bellevue School District

Public school funding is seemingly under attack by some in our state who wish to utilize public funds for non-public entities. I advocate for public school funding and student learning period.

This advocacy is for public schools, and not against any specific entity. It is for all public schools and student learning. Schools of various kinds offer outstanding opportunities for students, including both systems in Bellevue. Whether this is in Bellevue or any other school district in the state, the core foundations and key contexts of education are in public schools.

In addition to the recent debate about school funding, an article in the December 10 edition of the Bellevue Herald Leader,“STO Tax Credit Expansion Offers Opportunity for Catholic School Students In Uncertain Times,” called for contributions to Iowa’s School Tuition Organization (STO) Tax Credit program to provide scholarships for parochial school students.

Additionally, the “authorless” article from private school advocates inaccurately states that each student enrolled in a non-public school saves Iowa taxpayers approximately $7,000. This is deceptive, and uses figures and studies that do not match facts and are based on a study in the state of Georgia in regard to their tax credit scholarship program.

Many do not realize that Iowa’s taxpayers are already unnecessarily on the hook for $60-$70 million annually in supporting private school options for students. This is expected to grow even further in the future. In addition, other recent tax benefits such as allowing 529 Savings Plans to pay for PK-12 private school tuition, state appropriations for transportation and textbook vouchers for private schools, and much more are already in place to support non-public schools.

This is also occurring as the state threatens significant budget reductions for 2021-2022 as a result of the impact of the pandemic in many areas, including schools.

Asking for more funds for private organizations is unacceptable when public school alternatives already exist across the entire state and nation.

I would encourage the Legislature and our Governor to invest in the public schools who educate 92% of Iowa students no matter who they are and what their family income is. Public schools, like the Bellevue Community School District, provide an education to each and every student regardless of their privilege or abilities. Wherever students live, they can attend a public school and not be reliant on “tax breaks” and donations to fund their education.

Public schools across the state and nation work endlessly to educate all students, and public schools in Iowa are required to follow a state-mandated and state-controlled system with a regulated funding system to provide an equal education across the state while not giving special privileges to specific types of schools or districts.

I would encourage you to recognize the fact that the Bellevue Community School District is striving to meet the educational needs (academically, socially-emotionally, and beyond) of students on a daily basis.