Educational Misdirection

The School Choice Questions We Should Be Asking

The education establishment has done an amazing job of creating the perfect “Emperor’s New Clothes” scenario when arguing against school choice. In the story, the emperor is fond of clothes and two “weavers” enter his capital, telling him they will create a magnificent suit for him that would be invisible to all except for the most enlightened. The weavers have the emperor and all of his subjects convinced that there is a wonderful new suit. It takes a child to shatter everyone’s delusion by shouting, “the emperor is not wearing anything at all!”

This is what is happening within almost every discussion of the school choice debate. Opponents have yelled so loudly about state aid and per pupil amounts that our focus has shifted from letting families decide what type of education is best for their students, to how we can protect the educational establishment.  As we’ve asked before, is the state’s goal to fund the education of students or just fund the education system?

We should be asking real questions like:

  • Why are my kids being asked for their political affiliations and their pronouns at school? 
  • What can we do when schools are rewriting American history?
  • Are there any options when what’s being taught at school is at odds with what’s being taught at home?
  • Why can’t I have a say about how my tax dollars are used to educate my child? 
  • Why can we use state funds for private colleges but not private high schools?

Alas, the educational establishment will keep shouting down the questions we all should be asking, while trying to convince us to cheer for the emperor’s new clothes. Learn who is not can see through the emperor’s new clothing (pun intended) and what they are doing about it.

The Fight to Perserve Iowas’s Voice

It appears the Republican Party will maintain Iowa’s first in the nation status for its 2024 presidential caucus, but uncertainty remains whether Democrats will continue to have Iowa leadoff their party’s nominating process. Iowa’s first in the nation presidential caucuses have become a tradition and are an integral part of the state’s political culture.  

The caucuses are important and both political parties in our state should continue to fight to hold onto their pole position. More importantly, though, Iowa’s legislature needs to make a stand to defend the Electoral College. 

The Electoral College is perhaps the most misunderstood component of our Constitution. Increasingly, the Electoral College is under attack with calls for its elimination, usually from progressives and liberals, because it is claimed to be anti-democratic. The National Popular Vote (NPV) movement is an effort to get state legislatures to pass legislation to join an interstate compact that would commit their electors to support the winner of the national popular vote.

One way to defend the Electoral College would be for Iowa’s legislature to pass a resolution committing Iowa to preserve the Electoral College. This resolution could also clearly state the benefits of the Electoral College and the danger of NPV. Additionally, Iowa could consider a constitutional amendment that would not only commit to the Electoral College, but also prevent the state’s electoral votes from being manipulated by possible outside sources such as the NPV if enough states had signed on to the compact.

Iowa should fight to defend our first in the nation status, but more importantly, policymakers should take a stand in defending constitutional government by working to preserve the Electoral College. If the Electoral College falls, then much more will be at stake than the status of the Iowa caucuses. 

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Who’s Getting the Biggest Slice of Property Tax Pie?

Iowa has a long history with property taxes and it is one of the most debated issues, even dating back to before statehood. The very first Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Iowa met in 1838 in Burlington and one of their primary goals was to develop a revenue system. A few short months later the Iowa Territory created a property tax for residents, levied and collected by the counties – a function which the county still performs to this day. 

Since that time, property taxes have increased considerably to fund the various levels of local government. A look at a bit more recent history shows us that when comparing 1977 figures to today, the total amount of property tax dollars collected from citizens in Iowa has increased more than 550% over the last 45 years.

Granted, these are actual dollars that have not been adjusted for inflation, but even when adjusted for inflation the growth is still noticeable. The cumulative rate of inflation over the same time was 374%, meaning total property tax collections are $1.8 billion more today than they would have been if property taxes had only increased in line with inflation. 

It’s no secret that K-12 schools take the most property tax dollars across the state, but what is surprising is the local government guilty of the steepest growth over the last half-century are cities, with nearly an 870% increase. 

Many Iowans haven’t paused to consider where their tax dollars go after they (or their bank) cut the property tax checks twice a year. Historical trends can help us understand what areas of government are growing, and how quickly. If you’re interested in learning what makes up the property tax burden in your community, and where those dollars are being spent, go to for more information.

Drive A Tesla, Get Free Property Taxes

Many states, including Iowa, have a housing shortage. Housing advocacy groups have identified a particular shortage of affordable homes, especially for lower-income Iowa families. In fact, it is such a pressing need that the State of Iowa has designated $330 million over a five-year period to help aid in the issue.

So imagine our surprise when we found out the city of Des Moines is offering nine years of property tax abatements for luxury townhomes priced at $1.3 million each. To make this even more of a shock, these specific townhomes will receive that ninth year of tax reductions because they include charging stations for high-priced electric vehicles.

Welcome to Des Moines.  Drive a Tesla, get free property taxes!

$1.3 million townhomes are not within reach for families with incomes below $75,000. These are more government handouts to a select few while the rest of Des Moines’ residents get slapped with even higher property tax bills. 

What’s even worse, though, is it does not just impact residents of Des Moines. Iowa law requires the State to backfill abated education dollars, so all Iowa taxpayers will have to chip in to refill any lost school funding. 

Ultimately, the tax abatement is a band-aid to a much bigger problem. Local leaders should utilize the other tools they have at their disposal to address the affordable housing problem instead of costly handouts that distort the market.

How Does Your Property Tax Compare?

How’s your property tax bill? If you tell us it’s too high, we won’t argue with you.  In fact, we keep proposing solutions to deliver stronger taxpayer protections. But property taxes exist to fund our K-12 education system and city and county governments, as well as other services we all have access to; they are never going away. So maybe the better question is, “How does your bill measure up to everyone else’s?”

Compare your property tax bill with others using our interactive map that shows the estimated property taxes based on the consolidated property tax rates for the 150 largest cities in Iowa.

Maybe you live in the Quad Cities and want to compare Davenport and Bettendorf’s property tax burdens (Davenport resident pays 26% more). Perhaps you want to compare communities in the Des Moines metro (People in Des Moines have to pay 17% more). Or maybe you just want to see how Carroll compares to Denison (Denison costs over 50% more).

Whatever conclusions you may draw from this interactive map, ITR Local provides additional information about your community and its property taxes. We even make it easy for you to contact your local officials so you can start a conversation with the people who are spending your property tax dollars.

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