Costello Receives Heavy Criticism For Private School Voucher Vote

State Sen. Mark Costello and State Rep. David Sieck addressed legislation passed and under consideration at the state capitol in 2023 during a public forum Saturday morning at Glenwood City Hall.

Passage of legislation that gives tax dollars to Iowa parents who send their children to private schools dominated the discussion at Saturday’s legislative coffee at Glenwood City Hall.

Republican State Sen. Mark Costello and Republican State Rep. David Sieck took part in the forum.

The controversial legislation that provides parents with nearly $7,600 per child to cover private school expenses was a  priority for Gov. Kim Reynolds. The measure passed in both houses of the legislature in January, just weeks after the start of the 2023 session. Costello voted in favor of the bill while Sieck voted  “No” against the wishes of Reynolds and his party.

Several members of the audience  voiced their displeasure with Costello for his vote on the legislation and other Republican-backed bills they consider to be harmful to public education and children.

Amy Stickrod gave a lengthy address, noting that the private school vouchers will cost Iowa taxpayers $900 million over the next four years and $345 million after that. She reminded Costello that the vast majority of Iowans opposed the legislation according to multiple polls and communication sent to state legislators.

“It would seem to me, Mr. Costello, that you have forgotten who you work for,” she said. “You didn’t vote in the interest of the vast majority of your constituents. You don’t work for Governor Reynolds, Betsy DeVos or Americans For Prosperity (the organization started by the Koch brothers). You work for us.

“You have underfunded public schools for a decade. Then you complain about public schools. You demonize and vilify public school teachers. Then, you push for and legalize vouchers in an area that has few private schools. Who can blame teachers for wanting to leave the state or the profession entirely?”

Costello responded to criticism from Stickrod and others in the audience.

“Ultimately, this is about choice and letting parents choose where they send their children,” he said. “I think parents should have a choice. I think it’s a reasonable bill. I think it was actually well thought out,well written and I was glad to vote for it.”

Costello said the average annual cost to fund a public school student in Iowa is $17,000.

“If every student in the state went to a private school, it would save the whole state over $1 billion,” he said.

Costello did not address concerns expressed in the audience about the lack of transparency and accountability for private schools once the funds are received from parents.

Sieck said he voted against the legislation because he made a promise to constituents to support public schools when first elected.

Some other issues discussed at the forum included levee accreditation,  the lack of options for families of Glenwood Resource Center clients to find a new home for their loved ones and ownership of Iowa farmland by foreign companies.

The Opinion-Tribune

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