DES MOINES, IOWA — Lawmakers in the Iowa Senate passed an education bill through the chamber on Wednesday night.
The bill, SF 2369, contained Governor Kim Reynolds’ language that she had in her education bill earlier in session. The bill includes a parent or guardian bill of rights, student first scholarship program, open enrollment and more.
The focus of the debate was on private school vouchers which is called the Student First Scholarship Program. The voucher program would allocate 10,000 scholarships for those K-12 who want to enroll in a private school for the next school year.
Those scholarships would be distributed to families who make up to 400% of the poverty line decided by the federal government; and families who have students on an individual education program. Republicans said that this would give those who don’t have the opportunity to go to private school the chance to do so.
“This bill if fully utilized there would be a shift of 10,000 students from public to private out of about 500,000 public school students,” said State Senator Jesse Green (R) from Boone. “Imagine the benefits our state will reap in the future from these 10,000 students who are finally placed in the educational environment that they need.”
Democratic state senators agreed with some portions of the bill, including a couple of sections in the parent’s bill of rights division. But all disagreed with the use of public tax dollars to put towards private school education.
“$75 million of your tax dollars will be taken out of our public education system which educates over 92 percent of Iowa children and used to pay for the education of a select few students who would be lucky enough to be admitted into private schools,” said State Senator Zach Wahls (D) from Coralville.
Another common dispute the Democrats had was that this would take away students, teachers and dollars from public schools; saying that in the long run, it would leave public schools secondhand.
In her final closing remarks, the bill’s sponsor State Senator Amy Sinclair said that her child attends a public school and that she would not want that to change. She said she wanted to give families the option if they didn’t have it.
“This is not an attack on teachers and schools,” said State Senator Amy Sinclair (R) from Allerton. “My child is a student at Wayne Community School district and I love him being there and I wouldn’t choose anything different for him. But here is the deal I can choose because I have the means. It is not about undermining the system that is serving our children.”
The bill includes similar language to the House education bill in the section where it talks about education transparency. But not all of it is the same and there are parts where it differs, so that leaves House and Senate Republicans needing to come to a middle ground before one bill can be passed between both chambers.
Gov. Reynolds issued a statement following the Senate’s passage of the bill.
“The Senate made clear tonight that parents matter. Iowans want and deserve school choice and educational freedom for their children and I urge the House to get this across the finish line and send a bill to my desk.
If education truly is the great equalizer, we should create opportunities for more families to provide their children with the education choice that’s best for them. That’s exactly what this legislation does.”Gov. Kim Reynolds