Iowa's private schools dash for public cash

School bus with money

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Iowa this month begins accepting the first applications from parents seeking to use the state's nearly $7,600 per-pupil annual funding for private school education.

Why it matters: It marks the beginning of a new era that's already changing Iowa's education system.

Linh Ta
May 4, 2023 - Education

Des Moines Catholic schools raise tuition up to 10% for 2023-24

Illustration of two backpacks; one empty and one stuffed with cash.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Diocese of Des Moines is raising tuition rates between 7-10% for the 2023-24 school year amidst teacher pay increases and an expected enrollment bump.

Why it matters: The increase comes as the state tries to make private schools more affordable through a new scholarship program that provides each Iowa student $7,598 annually to pay for tuition and associated costs.

.Of note: It’s money that would have otherwise gone to public schools.

  • To offset costs, they receive $1,200 for each student in their district that goes to a private school.

By the numbers: The annual average tuition for K-8th grade has been $4,224, while high school has been around $8,652.

  • Costs vary depending on the school and the diocese offers tuition assistance.

Driving the news: Teacher salary increases are the driving factor behind increased rates, Donna Bishop, superintendent of Des Moines Catholic Schools, tells Axios.

What they’re saying: Des Moines Catholic school teachers are typically paid less than public school teachers, Bishop says. The diocese plans on increasing staff pay over the next three to five years to be more comparable with the public school pay scale.

  • They also expect to hire more staff due to increased enrollment from the state's new scholarship program.

The other side: Iowa Democrats warned against the "school choice" program earlier this year, arguing there weren't any provisions to prevent schools from raising tuition once they had an influx of students, the Register reports.

The big picture: Des Moines isn't the only diocese in Iowa raising its tuition.

  • In eastern Iowa, some Dubuque and Cedar Rapids schools are also increasing tuition by up to 40% due to increased state funding, KCRG reports.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to note the Diocese of Des Moines plans on increasing staff pay over the next three to five years to be more comparable with public schools, not by next year.

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