DES MOINES, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds’ plan to give hundreds of millions of dollars to private school families cleared what might be its final Republican-led committee Thursday. Both the senate appropriations subcommittee and appropriations committee passed the plan with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing.
That means that the proposal has passed what could be all the necessary committees in both the Senate and House, a sign of how quickly legislative Republican leadership has worked to get the plan through the process.
Supporters call the plan “school choice,” and say that it will allow more Iowa families to afford private school. Nearly all the funding, at least in the first two years, will go to families who already have kids in private school. After the first two years, families of all income levels can receive the benefit. The governor’s staff estimates that the cost of the plan will be $918 million over the first four years.
Senator Tim Kraayenbrink, a Fort Dodge Republican who chairs the senate appropriations subcommittee, said, “it’s not about public versus private.”
The governor’s plan — when fully implemented in three years — would give each family with a child in private school $7,598 per year. The public school in that child’s district of residence would also get $1,200 in new funding.
Kraayenbrink said, “we feel that this is one thing that we can do for the families and the parents that want another choice, that they feel that their students aren’t being fed or aren’t being educated in a way that they feel is proper.”
Kraayenbrink was the only Republican to speak about the proposal during Thursday’s subcommittee and committee process.
Senator Molly Donahue, a longtime special education teacher and Democrat from Marion, said private schools don’t face the same requirements as public schools. “Private schools don’t have to accept students with physical, learning or behavioral challenges. Our public schools are required to admit all students. And as a teacher, I’ll tell you, we want to admit all students. We enjoy teaching the diversity in our schools. But it is also the law. That is one of the main reasons that public dollars need to go to public schools.”
Both the full House and Senate could debate the proposal as soon as Monday.