September 28, 2021

Celebrating choices in education

Susan Scrivner and her daughters, Rebecca and Hattie Scrivner, attended the School Choice Week rally Wednesday, Jan. 25, in Des Moines. The family is one of thousands in Iowa benefitting from alternatives to traditional public school, but it’s not as different as some might think.

“It’s public school,” said Scrivner of the Iowa Connections Academy, an online program with tests, teachers and video sessions involving classmates. “It’s kind of like a regular class. They just do it through the internet.”

The Scrivners began the online school program when their daughter ran into bullying problems the school couldn’t solve. However, now they have new reasons to continue. A job change for her husband meant moving her children to Illnois.

“You don’t realize how good it is in Iowa until you look into somewhere else,” said Scrivner. “It has made me truly appreciate education choices.”

For Iowans, that included traditional and online public schools, parochial, charter and homeschooling, said Scrivner.

Open enrollment in online public school

Iowa Connections Academy is somewhat different from other school choices. While most options aren’t publicly funded, the academy is available to public school students free-of-charge.

The academy is only available through the CAM Community School District, meaning students who want to participate must open enroll. The process isn’t length, but deadlines do apply.

“For the next school year, they need to have their applications in by March 1, unless they’re in Kindergarten, which is September 1,” said district business manager Linda Edwards.

There are a few exceptional circumstances that overrule those requirements, however. Changing district residence, participation in a foreign exchange program, if a school loses its accreditation mid-year or fails to provide whole-grade sharing as previously agreed or due to health or harassment problems.

Governor’s office supports Iowa school choice

Wednesday, Gov. Brandstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds showed support for a Republican proposal to establish an Education Savings Account in Iowa, which would allow parents to take money that typically goes to districts to pay for education and use it for alternative programs.

However, parents and educators on both sides of party lines expressed concerns over bleeding money from an already financially stressed public school system.