Most Republicans in the Iowa legislature have voted for Governor Kim Reynolds’ top 2023 priority — a bill that will provide state-funded accounts for the parents of private school students. Reynolds plans to sign it into law today (Tuesday). Republican Representative, John Wills of Spirit Lake, opened yesterday’s (Monday’s) House debate by saying the bill is about freedom.
Democrats like Representative Sue Cahill (KAY-hill) of Marshalltown say the choice is up to private school administrators since nothing requires private schools to accept all students.
After five and a half hours of debate, the bill cleared the House on a 55 to 45 vote. Senators debated in earnest for about three hours, passing the bill just before 12:30 a.m. early this (Tuesday) morning on a 31-to-18 vote. Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, says state funds will now follow a child to the school that best fits their needs.
Representative Thomas Moore of Griswold opposed the governor’s previous two less expansive “school choice” proposals and he is one of nine House Republicans who voted against this year’s proposal.
District 11 Representative Brian Best also voted no on the legislation. Before the session started, he indicated he was unlikely to support the governor’s plan due to its impact on small, rural schools. In the first year, low-income parents who enroll a child in a private school could apply for nearly 76-hundred dollars in state funding to cover tuition, computers, textbooks and tutoring. In 2026, all private school parents could apply for state money. Representative Austin Baeth (BAYTH), a Democrat from Des Moines, says an estimated 79 percent of the money will be spent on kids already enrolled in private schools.
Wills says if Iowans didn’t want school choice, they wouldn’t have expanded the Republican majorities in the legislature — and would not have reelected Governor Reynolds by a 19-point margin.