Top Republican in Iowa House says votes are there to pass ‘school choice’
Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley (IPBS photo)

DES MOINES — House Speaker Pat Grassley says Republicans are having “productive conversations” and he’s predicting the governor’s school choice bill has the votes to pass the Iowa House.

“I don’t think I’d be moving the bill along throughout the process if we didn’t have that expectation,” Grassley said during a news conference on Thursday.

Governor Kim Reynolds has proposed less expansive plans in the past two years, but each failed to secure enough support among House Republicans to pass. Her new plan would let low income parents get state funds to cover expenses if they enroll a child in a private school and starting in 2025 — any private school parent could apply. Grassley said the goal now is to take a vote on the governor’s bill next week.

“I think we’ve come up with a really good bill here,” Grassley said. “I think the governor has proposed a really strong bill that addressed a lot of any of concerns that may have existed over the last two years in the debate that we’ve had.”

Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced the bill yesterday, so it’s eligible for debate next week in the Senate, too. Democrats say legislators should at least wait for the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency to complete its analysis of the bill’s fiscal impact. Senator Claire Celsi, a Democrat from Des Moines, said she doubts the governor’s estimate the plan will cost about $900 million over the next four years.

“We have no clue what it’s really going to cost,” Celsi said during the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting. “If you look at what it costs in other states that have gone this route, the estimates are way low.”

Other Democrats say the bill doesn’t have enough oversight of the private company that will be hired to distribute the state money to private school parents.