When he asks Iowa lawmakers to undertake education reform in 2013, Gov. Terry Branstad wants more financial help for private education to be included.
At a Catholic School Foundation event Tuesday at Stoney Creek Inn in Sioux City, Branstad joined speakers in praising financial options the state provides to boost private schools. The event marked the 100th birthday of economist Milton Friedman, who championed private schools as a needed alternative to public schools. Friedman died in 2006.
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice was created to aid families who need help paying tuition at private schools. In western Iowa, the Monsignor Lafferty Tuition Foundation has given $9.2 million to students in 17 Catholic schools since passage of Iowa’s Educational Opportunities Act in 2006. Through that law, Iowans who donate to a state tuition organization can receive an income tax credit equal to 65 percent of the amount donated until the credits are exhausted.
Branstad, a five-term Republican, told the 90 people in attendance that he has been a longtime supporter of Catholic schools. He described voting as a state representative for a 1970s law that allowed private schools to use public-school buses.
He said the state tuition organizations program does more for private schools than the transportation aid available to them, and he wants the 2013 Legislature to consider boosting the total available tax credits from $8.75 million to $10 million. The tax credits are not a budget appropriation, and backers contend they save the state money because private school students don’t use public education funding.
“Hopefully we can go to 10 (million dollars) and make it larger,” Branstad said.
Branstad said after the meeting that legislation increasing the tax credits would fit into a broad package of educational reform he’ll seek in 2013.
Sioux City Diocese Schools Superintendent Dan Ryan said the state tuition organization largesse has helped give parents a choice with high quality private schools.
Branstad said the ongoing London Olympic Games show the value in competition — like athletes, when private and public schools compete with each other, the quality of education is raised overall. He said Friedman, an economist who advocated for free market competition, understood that concept would work in education.
“Milton Friedman was a great visionary,” Branstad said.
Earlier in the day, Branstad met with members of the state Board of Education in advance of this week’s teacher leadership symposium in Des Moines.