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Iowa ACLU rails against school vouchers, warns of new legislation

Hampton-Dumont School District students at the Statehouse

DES MOINES – Democrats are not the only ones frightened about the direction Republicans are taking in the Iowa statehouse on school funding, with the ACLU the latest to warn against cuts to public education.

The Iowa ACLU says school vouchers “are not the cure-all for our educational system that their supporters would have you think.”  The liberal agency says “there is no conclusive research showing that vouchers improve educational outcomes … and they drain resources from public schools.”

The ACLU points to two Iowa bills that are being considered in the Iowa Legislature supporting school vouchers (SF 29 and HF 9).

The crux of the ACLU’s fears seems to stem from the possibility of more Iowa kids attending private schools – many of which are religious schools – and funds going to vouchers instead of straight to the bank accounts of local school districts.

Will alleged Republican funding shortfalls to public schools put classrooms in this condition when it’s all said and done?

“The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Iowa’s 182 private schools, which would receive the voucher money, are religious schools,” the ACLU explained.  “That undermines our state and federal constitutional safeguard against government funding or endorsement of private religious activity. Millions in taxpayer money would be fed into religious teachings — and not just in theology classes but also in math and science.”

The ACLU points out that “unlike public schools, in some cases private schools are not under the same requirements to treat all students fairly, and as a result, schools taking school vouchers may freely discriminate against LGBTQ and other students whose values or religions they do not respect.

“The principles of religious liberty undoubtedly mean that parents may choose to send their children to private religious schools. They should not, however, allow for religious education to be provided at taxpayers’ expense.”

Democrats, backed by the teachers’ union, are railing against changes to collective bargaining proposed by Republicans that seem destined to be signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad.  Democrats are also furious that the GOP only gave the public school system an extra $41 million this year than they got last year.

Republicans now face this attack from the ACLU on their school voucher plan.  The ACLU urged citizens to contact their state legislators “and tell them that taxpayer funds should not be used for schools that might discriminate.”

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