DES MOINES — Governor Kim Reynolds’ new plan to let the parents of private school students apply for state funds to cover tuition and other expenses is speeding thru the legislature.
It cleared Republican-led committees in the House and Senate Wednesday and a bill is eligible for debate in the House as early as Monday. Republican Representative John Wills of Spirit Lake said the concept has been adequately discussed.
“It’s not quickly at all,” Wills said during Wednesday’s House Education Reform Committee meeting. “…For two solid year’s we’ve been talking about it.”
During that time, the governor’s less expansive plans to give state money to low income parents who want to send their kids to private school never came up for a vote in the House. House Speaker Pat Grassley has used his power to change committee rules, so the bill may be debated on the House floor soon. Grassley said while the plan is projected to spend over $900 million on the education of private school students over the next four years, the state is likely to send over $15 billion to public K-12 schools during that time period.
“This is the most in-depth walk through of any major piece of policy I’ve been a part of during my time in the legislature, when it gets into the weeds,” Grassley said, using the conversational “weeds” to describe the plan’s financial details.
House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst said those numbers come from the governor’s staff and lawmakers should at least wait for a nonpartisan agency to review the plan and come up with a cost estimate.
“There are 39 new members in the Iowa House of Representatives, so any argument that we’ve been talking about this for years is moot,” Konfrst told reporters after the House Education Reform Committee meeting.
Konfrst used the word “irresponsible” to describe debating the bill in the third week of the legislative session. “I think we’re rushing this process for no good reason,” Konfrst said.
Senate President Amy Sinclair of Allerton rejected the idea things are being rushed, since Republicans in the Senate have already voted for the governor’s previous plans. “I would suggest that maybe it’s long overdue,” Sinclair said during the Senate Education Committee’s meeting today.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to review the governor’s new plan at 10 a.m. Thursday and the bill would be eligible for debate in the Senate next week as well.