For the second time this legislative session, the Waukee Chamber of Commerce hosted a Saturday coffee, where Waukee’s representatives in the State government were available to answer questions. Saturday, March 11, Sen. Charles Schneider and Rep. Rob Taylor visited Waukee City Hall and updated their constituents on what was going on at the State Capitol this year.
Much of the conversation was about the support of Education Savings Accounts, which would allow Iowa residents to use tax dollars towards the funding of private education.
One resident wanted to know where Schneider and Taylor stood on the issue of ESAs and expressed that she didn’t want public tax dollars going towards the funding of private schools.
Schneider said that there is no money in the budget for ESAs this time around, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come up in future years. He also said, to a lot of disagreement from those in attendance, that he is in favor of ESAs.
“Generally, I’ve been in favor,” Schneider said as those in attendance held up red “disagree” signs to show their opinions. “I think competition is good for public schools. I think that competition makes people better.”
Taylor, who stated that he, his wife, and his children are products of public schools. Taylor, himself, is a graduate of Des Moines Lincoln High School, his oldest daughter graduated from Valley, West Des Moines, his youngest daughter graduated from Waukee High School, and his two younger sons attend Waukee High School and South Middle School in Waukee.
He said that while he is an advocate of public schools, he also supports private schools.
“If there is a funding model that makes sense and we can fund without putting public school funding at risk, I’m for it,” Taylor said. “But I don’t think that we’re going to get there, at least while I’m an elected official.”
One citizen followed up on their comments about promoting competition in education, saying that it sounds like they are hoping for one side to win and one side to lose.
Schneider assured the 21-year-old resident that he does not want it to be a “zero-sum game” with a set number of winners and losers if competition were to be created by the use of ESAs.
“I think competition can be healthy and that it forces people to get better at what they do,” Schneider said. “In other districts where they have competition, that has helped schools get better and make improvements.”
Taylor said there is not necessarily a quality problem in the Waukee area, including Adel, Van Meter and other districts in the area, since they already compete with each other since there is open enrollment, allowing students in one district to enroll at another school in another district if they feel the need.
Taylor drew attention to the Clarke County Community School District in Osceola, where Taylor says that the literacy rate is only 68 percent.
“That is a situation where, if I were a parent in Clarke County School District right now, I would probably be looking for opportunities that I could send my kids to get a better education,” Taylor said. “Not because they necessarily have bad teachers, I don’t know the situation down there, but I do know the statistic and it’s sobering.”
There were also questions and discussions about stand your ground laws, illegal immigrants being targeted by law enforcement, the legislators’ involvement in the organization known as ALEC, and more.
Video of the event can be found through the Waukee Chamber website at https://www.waukeechamber.com/index.cfm/72670/42634/march_coffee_welcomes_community_residents.