By Dan Ryan, Ed.D.
On Sept. 16, individuals from around Iowa started their day extra early so they could attend the first School Choice Summit in Iowa sponsored by the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education. This event brought parents, school administrators, school choice supporters and legislators together to share their own experiences and to learn from others about this important topic. This new event featured a variety of breakouts on various topics from how to organize school choice events, messaging for parents to share, to involving our growing Latino population in this effort.
As diocesan superintendent, I was incredibly proud to watch representatives from our diocese lead nearly half of the sessions. Lisa Niebuhr, development director at Gehlen Catholic schools shared her innovative strategies for selling tax credits and attracting new donors for the State Tax Credit program which supports scholarships for financially needy students. Patty Lansink, principal at St. Rose of Lima/assistant superintendent and Cindy Edge, principal, St. Mary’s Humboldt, shared strategies they have successfully used to increase the Latino populations at their sites. However, the most insightful comments came from their Latino parent/board representatives. These parent representatives clearly articulated their desire to better their children’s future and how effectively their schools are accomplishing this goal.
Beyond the honor of hosting Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, clearly the most important outcome of the event was the strength of conviction that true education reform in Iowa must start by empowering parents. Our faith and common sense tell us that parents are the essential element in a successful child. Therefore, we will continue our efforts to make every possible avenue available to parents to be the primary educator for their child/ren.
I would encourage you to take two steps in support of school choice in Iowa. First, take time to learn more about these issues. By simply going to edchoice.org, you can watch short videos that explain various aspects of school choice. Second, take time to share your support of school choice with your state senators and representatives. Just raising the issues makes a difference.
Thank you for your ongoing support of our schools and remember your voice is important in these political conversations.
Dan Ryan, Ed.D., is superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Sioux City.