Dana Goldstein, one of the best education writers, now reports for the New York Times.

In this article, she describes the rush to expand vouchers for religious schools in Iowa.

You don’t have to look far to find funding by Betsy DeVos and the Koch brothers.

“Despite Republican control of the governor’s mansion and both houses of the State Legislature, proposals to significantly expand school choice programs in Iowa are stalled, at least for now. The pushback has come from groups traditionally opposed to the idea — Democrats, school districts, teachers’ unions and parents committed to public schools — but also from some conservatives concerned about the cost to the state.

“Iowa is one of 31 states where legislators have proposed creating or expanding school choice programs this year, without Washington even lifting a finger. Even if just a few of the bills pass, the number of children attending private schools with public money could greatly increase, one reason the proposals are meeting resistance.

“There is a national discussion about this, and obviously Donald Trump has brought it up,” said State Representative Walt Rogers, chairman of the House Education Committee. He said a modest expansion in Iowa remained possible this year. “I tell people, ‘This discussion isn’t going away.’”

“A powerful force in the movement is Mr. Trump’s secretary of education, the philanthropist Betsy DeVos. She has spent decades arguing that public schools have a monopoly on education and fighting for tax dollars to be available for private tuition.

“Mary Kakayo and her daughter Alma, 9, who attends St. Theresa Catholic School in Des Moines. The state covers more than half of Alma’s $3,025 tuition. Credit Kathryn Gamble for The New York Times
The issue is so important to her that she has sought to insert it into almost every statement she has made in her new role — even when it was an awkward fit, such as when she described historically black colleges as being created by school choice, when in reality they were formed because black students had been barred from traditional colleges.

“As education secretary, Ms. DeVos has limited ability to carry out school choice nationwide, at least without action from Congress. But her previous investments as a philanthropist are paying dividends.

“In 2013 and 2014, the most recent years for which financial disclosures are available, several organizations associated with Ms. DeVos invested over $7 million in school choice lobbying efforts in states now considering new bills. Americans for Prosperity, the activist group founded by the Koch brothers, and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council are also pushing private school choice in statehouses across the country.

“The number of American students benefiting from private school choice programs now is relatively small. Estimates by EdChoice, the organization founded by Milton Friedman, the University of Chicago economist who first introduced the idea of vouchers, put the number at 446,000 this year, out of a total school-age population of 56 million. (Three million attend public charter schools, which Ms. DeVos also has championed and which generally do not accept vouchers.)

“Advocates say that expanding private school choice would allow parents to remove children from public schools that are not meeting their needs, and note that surveys show parents in existing programs have high satisfaction rates. Competition from private schools, they say, can help public schools improve.

“A lot of families want to have the choice,” Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa said at a rally in January. “We want to make sure all those choices are available, and are as affordable as possible.”

“Traditional school voucher programs, which exist in 15 states and the District of Columbia, allow the government to pay private schools, many of them religious, directly. Tax credit scholarships, like the one that helps pay tuition for Ms. Kakayo’s daughter, are a newer and growing form of school choice. They allow individuals and corporations to receive credit on their state income taxes for donations to nonprofits that provide tuition aid to students. Iowa’s program, currently used by 11,000 students, has income limits — $73,800 for a family of four — and the average scholarship award is only $1,583.

“Iowa is one of the states where legislators this year proposed education savings accounts, an even more expansive benefit. The accounts give parents state money each year — under one proposal, in the form of a $5,000 debit card — that they can use on private school tuition, home schooling costs, online education or tutoring.

“Ms. Kakayo said she would welcome further tuition support from the state, which would allow her to save money for college for Alma and her younger sister, Anna-Palma, who also attends St. Theresa. Under one proposal, after a student graduates from high school, any money left in the account could be used for tuition at in-state colleges. “It would be very, very helpful,” she said.

“Both sides of the debate over the proposals ran marketing campaigns. A television ad from the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education, a group Ms. DeVos has financially supported, said that “education savings accounts give parents the right to choose a school that meets their child’s needs.” The ad cited smaller class sizes and individual teacher attention, but did not use the term “private school.”

“A competing social media campaign by an online group called Iowans for Public Education satirically compared the accounts to “park savings accounts” that would allow parents to spend tax dollars on country club fees instead of public playgrounds.

“Opponents have called the programs a giveaway to religious institutions. All but five of the 140 schools currently participating in the program are Catholic or Protestant, and the Diocese of Des Moines is among those lobbying for the expansion….

“It is unclear, however, how much public support exists for any expansion. A Des Moines Register poll of 802 Iowans in February found that 58 percent opposed using public funds to pay for private education, while 35 percent supported the idea.

“Both public and private school leaders extol the excellence of public schools in Iowa — it had the nation’s highest high school graduation rate in 2015 — and speak proudly of cooperation between the two sectors.”

So, the billionaires want vouchers to disrupt the nation’s most successful school system.