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House votes to end diversity plans in five Iowa school districts

DES MOINES — Republicans in the Iowa House have voted to no longer let five Iowa school districts cite voluntary diversity plans as the basis for denying student transfers to enroll elsewhere.

Representative Dustin Hite, a Republican from New Sharon, cited a report indicating the Des Moines School District denied 455 open enrollment requests this academic year.

“I think this bill is an important bill for the state of Iowa. It’s important because we are listening to those parents who are saying: ‘We want other options in education,’” Hite said. “This will gives them that.”

In addition to Des Moines, school administrators in Davenport, Postville, Waterloo and West Liberty currently may limit transfers to maintain economic and language diversity in their districts. This bill would end that.

“School districts need to understand they are here for the students,” Hite said during Tuesday night’s debate. “The students are not here for the districts.”

Representative Sue Cahill, a Democrat from Marshalltown, said being in a diverse school prepares students for adulthood.

“I believe that not everyone has the best intentions if they want an open enrollment. They’re thinking of their child, but again we need to think of all kids,” Cahill said. “If we want it better for one child, we have to make it better for all kids.”

Governor Kim Reynolds has said this policy change is among her 2021 legislative priorities.

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