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Senate advances governor’s ‘Student First’ scholarships for private schooling

DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate has approved Republican Governor Kim Reynolds’ plan to give the parents of a few hundred K-12 students state scholarships to attend a private school. Republican Senator Amy Sinclair of Allerton said the eligible students are attending 34 public school buildings flagged for failing federal standards.

“Thirty-four schools that have gotten so bad that they need federal assistance to try and improve,” Sinclair said. “…We don’t have time to study it. These children are not being educated.”

All the Democrats in the Senate opposed the bill.

“Republicans are prioritizing the expansion and fiscal health of private schools, some of them being religious schools, over the fiscal and education well-being of Iowa’s public schools,” Senator Claire Celsi, a Democrat from Des Moines, said.

Senator Jeff Edler, a Republican from State Center, said the bill will help parents exit failing public schools.

“I’ve heard people say this is the camel getting the nose under the tent,” Edler said. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, if we’re doing our job, we will tip that tent upside down to find better outcomes for Iowans…Is it so radical to ask for success?”

Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, a Democrat from West Des Moines, said private schools that accept these student transfers aren’t being required to accept all students, which is a requirement for public schools.

“I see it as money laundering to side step civil rights protections and that is incredibly troubling for me,” Trone Garriott said.

While Republicans hold a 32-seat majority in the Iowa Senate, the bill passed with the bare minimum of 26 Republican votes. Similar legislation is eligible for consideration in the Iowa House.

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