Policy Briefs

School Choice 1996

May 14, 1996

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 over 150 Catholic schools in Iowa, teaching more than 40,000 students.

Our schools, all of which are accredited by the state, and are partners with the public schools, provide a curriculum and environment which produces some of the finest graduates in the state and nation. To provide this excellence in education, our schools must charge a tuition. Parents of school age children are finding it more and more difficult to pay school tuition and still make ends meet. Parents who would choose to send their children to nonpublic schools are being denied that choice because of cost.

The Catholic Bishops of Iowa and the Iowa Catholic Conference, with support of hundreds of volunteers, will ask the 1997 Iowa Legislature to provide $26 million dollars in tax relief to parents who pay tuition to accredited nonpublic schools. We intend to do this by giving parents a state tax credit for tuition paid to an accredited nonpublic school.

Iowa already has a limited tuition tax credit up to $100 per child per year. We will ask the Iowa Legislature to expand that amount to $500 per child in grade school and $1,000 per child in high school.

There are some who may ask why taxpayers should pay for private education or religious education?

Already Iowa has provisions for open enrollment for public school parents. This increased choice has been a positive force in education in the state. We believe parents have a right to choose the most appropriate education for their children—public or private–and tax dollars they pay should be available to help them. The money from the proposed legislation does not go to the schools. It is a tax credit to parents who have paid school tuition. In Iowa we already have more direct ways of funding private education, such as the Iowa Tuition Grant Program for students attending private colleges.

We believe parents have a right to choose the most appropriate education for their children and the tax dollars they pay should be made available to assist them. This tax credit proposal will provide real tax relief and allow parents the freedom to make a real choice in education.

May 14, 1996.