DES MOINES — This could be a pivotal week for Governor Kim Reynolds’ top legislative priority.
Speaker Pat Grassley has said the goal is for the House “to take some level of action” on the governor’s new bill to give state money over the next two years to low income parents sending kids to private school. In year three, all private school parents could apply for the state payment.
Governor Reynolds told Radio Iowa state money spent on education should benefit all students. “We made that decision a long time ago when it came to education. We just said we’re going to fund education for students, people that have the means and people that don’t. We fund Social Security the same way. It’s not based on whether you have money or you don’t,” Reynolds said during an interview Thursday, “so I feel like this is the status quo.”
Some House Republicans have publicly said they will not vote for the plan. It would require “no” votes from at least 14 of the 64 Republicans in the House, though, to prevent its passage. The governor’s bill is eligible for debate in the Iowa Senate this week as well.
None of the Democrats in the Senate or the House will vote for the plan. Senator Claire Celsi of Des Moines said the core mission of the the legislature is to fund public, not private schools.
It’s an embarrassing overreach,” Celsi said during a Senate committee meeting last week. “It’s an embarrassing waste of taxpayer dollars for a very small portion of our population.”
Senate President Amy Sinclair of Allerton said Republicans in the Senate have been supporting this move for years.
“I don’t think I’ve been shy in six years of introducing possibility after possibility on parents rights and choice in education,” Sinclair said during the Senate Education Committee meeting last week. “For six years I’ve been singing this same song.”
Governor Reynolds issued an open letter to Iowans late Friday, calling her plan “a worthy investment in the future.” The top Democrat in the Senate said the governor’s bill diverts state funding for public education to wealthy Iowans who don’t need the subsidy to pay private school tuition.