Private education & economic crossfire

ANDREW HEPPEARD, Opinion Columnist

A new semester has started at UNI. Our second week of classes wrapped up, and our third is beginning, yet for some it may still feel like the first day back from break. We are all facing a new semester of friendships forming and growing alongside mountains of homework.

We also must face a political future with a somewhat bleak outlook as Donald Trump assumes the office of President. While this is not the best of all possible scenarios, we can come together to take action against the worst of the dark times ahead in order to help each other through them.

This is not the end of the world, and I am not saying “give Donald a chance,” I am saying that focusing on removal from office should – at most – come after fighting to stop any action taken by this cabinet which would set us back from the decades, if not centuries, of progress made on racial, gender and LGBT* issues – among many others.

Part of this fight must focus on education. Everyone at UNI, whether they are only here because to get a good job or because they actually wanted to go to college, is here for education. Students, faculty, staff – our lives depend on education, for however long we are here, and for whatever our reasons are.

One opinion on education is that all schools should be privatized. UNI is not a private institution, like say UChicago or Wartburg, and what this means is that UNI receives State and Federal tax dollars as part of its funding – making the tuition on our U-bills at the beginning of every semester smaller here than at a private institution. This is also why in-state tuition is so much lower than going to school out of state. Your taxes have helped cover the cost.

An argument for privatizing schools would be the lowering or removal of taxation on citizens so that they could pay for tuition out of pocket within their families. This is a common Libertarian argument against education taxes – then the resulting drive of competition between private institutions would push education costs down, resulting in individuals saving even more money in the long run.

Sounds great at first – especially when you ignore historical precedent for education existing solely in the private sector creating economic disparity among the population which led to a debilitated lower class working too-long hours for too-little pay in deplorable conditions while they still had to decide between having food or shelter.

But, suppose we don’t want to learn from history. There are still reasons that this idea will not work. According to, based on this academic year’s tuition alone, the average cost for an Iowan to attend all of K-12 within private schooling would be $72,584 – if tuition was left unchanged – the most expensive years being high school at $10,442 per year on average.

Now for some perspective. The Iowa Data Center puts the median household income at $53,712 in 2014. This means that private schools would cost just over 20 percent of a given household income.

Currently, with 7.92 percent state income tax, and 19.8 percent federal income tax, this average pays roughly $4,254 for state, and $10,634 for federal. We can even add to this $1,717, the average property tax for Black Hawk County, as the majority of Iowa K-12 funding is from this type of tax.

These taxes altogether equal an assumed average of $16,605 in taxes total, but only 16.6 percent and 26.8 percent of Iowa’s budget, after federal aid to the state consisting of 3 percent federally earmarked for education, goes towards K-12 and higher education respectively, according to Ballotopedia. So, in actuality, the average Black Hawk County resident spends $2,756 on K-12 education annually through taxes – $7,878 less than the average private high school.

Now, competition might drive average prices down, but there is no telling how long that will take, and how many children will be caught in the economic crossfire.

Private schools are also not regulated for special education programs, and often do not provide such services. These classes could make them more marketable, though through further limitation of these services parents of such children would be even more at the mercy of such institutions.

At least in the short-term, this is not a viable option – there can be no excuse made for the type of social and economic casualties made by this type of switch.

I was recently at a party where the jazz band played a song I believe was entitled “Waiting Patiently.” The bandleader made a joke about how some of the partygoers would be waiting patiently for four years to pass. The party laughed, taking delight at the prospect of Trump vacating office.

It is important to remember that waiting patiently does not mean waiting quietly. You can speak your outrage, act for change and educate, all while waiting patiently for what you cannot control to pass.