Catholic Education

//Catholic Education

“Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2223.

The Church has a long history of supporting parents as the first and foremost educators of their children. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports public policies that assist parents in exercising that right.

One of the primary missions of the Catholic Church in Iowa is the education of children. In 1836, ten years before Iowa achieved statehood, the first Catholic school in Iowa was started at St. Raphael Cathedral in Dubuque. Today there are nearly 30,000 students in Catholic schools across the state.

Our schools provide an environment that produces some of the finest graduates in the state and nation. These schools are an important stabilizing force in communities and make a unique contribution to the common good. We believe Catholic schools are among the best anti-poverty programs, offering first-rate education with higher achievement levels, moral truth, and discipline that speak to the development of the whole person.

Among the specific policies that the ICC is working on at the state legislature:

  • Broadening financial assistance to families through education savings accounts, tax credits or other means to allow their children to attend the school of their choice.
  • Expanding tax credits for individuals, businesses, or financial institutions who contribute to a “school tuition organization” that provides scholarships to low- and middle-income children who want to attend a nonpublic school.
  • Equitable participation of nonpublic school children in federal- and state-funded programs.
  • Full funding of public schools for the transportation of nonpublic school students.
  • Continuation of assistance for students enrolled in accredited nonpublic schools through technology and textbook appropriations.
  • Full funding of the Area Education Agencies.
  • On-site special education assistance through the AEAs.


“These first two values of our Catholic schools — academics and atmosphere — produce tremendous benefits for our community. Social scientists tell us that alumni of Catholic schools overwhelmingly go on to college, land better jobs, enter enduring marriages with united families, and take leadership roles in society. Not bad! It seems that if you want to reduce unemployment, poverty, broken families, violence, drugs, and crime, you support Catholic schools!”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, New York

2307, 2018

Can 529 plans help you?

Federal and state “529” college savings plans have been expanded to provide a benefit to parents paying tuition at K-12 Catholic schools in Iowa. Our partners at Iowa ACE have put together an information sheet you [...]

304, 2017

Enhancing futures, transforming lives through Catholic education

A recent article in the Des Moines Register tells the story of a family that escaped the civil war of South Sudan before finding a home in Iowa and enrolling their children in Holy Family [...]

1901, 2017

Education Savings Accounts for Iowa

“Consequently, the public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a [...]

806, 2016

Ombudsman position can be another step in supporting options for Iowa students

Iowa public and non-public schools, along with Iowa parents, are partners in offering an education system for all of our state’s children. President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, into law last [...]

2409, 2015

Why do we work for access to Catholic education in underserved communities?

We believe parents have the primary role in the education of their children and access to Catholic education is primary to our mission as Catholics. It is how we serve the needs of children and [...]

2104, 2015

No Child Left Behind

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, was passed in 1965 as the education component of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” It was designed to address the achievement gap between children from low-income families [...]

2201, 2015

Education Savings Accounts – 2015

January 2015 Parents are the ones primarily responsible for the education of their children. We believe Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are a tool that would empower parents across our state to choose the best and [...]

608, 2014

Why do we work to protect Catholic education?

We believe parents have the primary role in the education of their children and that access to Catholic education is primary to our mission as Catholics. Catholic education is a public service and a contributor [...]

1407, 2014

Update from Midwest Catholic Education Advocates Conference

Lucas Swanepoel, associate director for governmental relations at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Katherine Knight, associate director of public policy in the Secretariat of Education at the USCCB.       [...]

907, 2014

Midwest Catholic Education Advocates conference starts today

Catholic Conference staff and others interested in education are traveling to Iowa today for the Midwest Catholic Education Advocates Conference. We're looking forward to hearing from representatives of the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education, [...]