Iowa's School Voucher Program: At Least We'll Still have 24 Million Hogs?

Hey all, Mike Draper here, founder and owner of RAYGUN. 

I'm writing this blog post from RAYGUN's headquarters at East 5th and Grand in Des Moines. That's about 6 blocks from the hospital I was born in.

So, geographically, I have not come very far in life.

And: there is a funeral home between here at the hospital. So if I get lucky, I could go, cradle to grave, in one tiny strip on Des Moines' near east side. 

I'm so hyper-central-Iowa that I don't really call Des Moines my "home town." The town I grew up in is Van Meter, a few miles west of Des Moines.

Here is a photo of how happy growing up in Van Meter made me:  

That long preamble is meant to reinforce how rooted I am in this place.

I don't want Iowa to be something different. I want Iowa to be the best Iowa it can be. 

I also don't want to give the impression that I think Iowa's public school system is already decrepit -- far from it. 

All of my kids are in the Des Moines Public School system.  

Des Moines, and Iowa, still have phenomenal schools with phenomenal teachers and students. Our school system is one we should be proud of. 

It took generations to build Iowa's amazing public school system into what it is. It will take a couple decades to fully destroy.

Unfortunately, Iowa's government sure is trying! What's worse, the school system is already over a decade into chronic underfunding.

For years, Iowa has been financially starving what it should be investing in. That lack of resources has been wearing our school system down.

And now, Iowa is doubling down on an underfunding scheme that is pushed as a "solution" -- "vouchers."  

Though our schools are still, they used to be the absolute gold standard. The best in the country. We tested everyone's basic skills!  

Iowa doesn't have mountains, it doesn't have great lakes, it doesn't have much public land to recreate on, and Iowa doesn't have the best weather (sorry if you're hearing that for the first time!).

25 years ago, we put a Grant Wood painting of a public school on our state quarter, but the public school was our primary asset -- the symbol of our state. 

But we're not investing in that asset.  Instead, it's like the Governor and Legislature are stripping the state for parts. Actually, it's worse than that. Stripping for parts would imply someone is paying us for the parts! We're not even doing that, we're just cutting parts without replacing them. 

Eventually, we'll be left with 24 million pigs and a few football teams.   

The beauty of Iowa is not that it is affordable -- it is that there is value. The cost of living is low, but the amenities are supposed to be of high quality. 

You don't have all the geographic perks of a Colorado or Michigan, but there is a quality of community and service that makes up for that.  

Now, I'm also not anti-private school or anti-home-school. I went to a private elementary school for 2 years, my dad home-schooled me in English for 3 years (from 7th to 9th grade). 

I am fine with options and with parents having options. 

But public money is for public schools.

The idea that the money allocated per student is somehow my money is not how public money works. 

That's like saying that I want money allocated for state parks to go to me as a voucher-for-cash that I can then use to rent someone's acreage for my personal use. 

It's like saying I want money allocated for road construction to go to me as a voucher-for-cash so I can build a new driveway

There is a lot of hyperbole in the world, but there is more at stake here than just school funding. 

It's more than just saying strong public schools = strong communities (which we've said!). 

In a place like my hometown of Van Meter, the public school is the community. My identity from age 5-18 was intertwined with the school. And, to this day, I'm still involved with Van Meter school. 

Our public schools have formed the foundation of our civic life. 

As we chip away at public school quality in Iowa, we will be chipping away at community between each other and at opportunity for our youth. 

Nothing good will come from ruining our public school system. No state has improved outcomes with the plan Iowa is proposing. 

Iowa may be about to take a major leap backward. 

If you support public schools, take this opportunity to contact our elected officials and let them know!