State Auditor: Iowa school funding bill ‘fundamentally irresponsible’

Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 5:21 PM CST
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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG) - State Auditor Rob Sand voiced his opposition to a school funding bill that would create tax-payer-funded education savings accounts for each student to pay for tuition, tutoring, and other costs of attending a private school.

The plan would give any Iowa student, regardless of income, $7,598 a year in an Education Savings Account if they switch from public to private school. Some income restrictions apply for students already attending private school, but the limits would expire two years after the plan is passed.

Gov. Reynolds has touted the bill as offering parents a choice in how and where their children receive an education while critics have decried less oversight on public funding going to private schools instead of public ones.

You can read Sand’s full statement below:

Whether you call them ESAs or vouchers, as Iowa’s taxpayer watchdog I am alarmed by the intentional lack of transparency and accountability under the proposed legislation.

This bill gives private schools your tax dollars, and gives you no right to know what they are doing with them.

Existing law requires public schools to have open meetings, maintain and produce public records, and have elected citizen oversight. They must follow budgeting laws. They must have an annual audit. We learn of waste, fraud, and abuse of tax dollars in part because of these obligations. None of these obligations apply to private schools the same way. This bill won’t change that.

Also, this bill provides no rules for how private school use these funds. After a private school gets public dollars as tuition, they could buy a teacher or teachers brand new Ford Mustang convertibles in the name of incentive pay. The public may not find out at all, and if they did, there may be no recourse for taxpayers. That is flatly, fundamentally irresponsible.

With no transparency obligations, no required public audits, no public records, and no public meetings, uncovering waste, fraud, and abuse of your tax dollars will be much harder.

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