Massive Private School Scholarship Bill Heads to Governor Reynolds’ Desk
A significant piece of legislature was just passed by Iowa lawmakers. The next step is the desk of Governor Kim Reynolds for what could be a huge victory for one of her biggest priorities since taking office.
After more than five hours of debate on Monday evening, House lawmakers voted 55-45 to passed a bill that would spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year to pay families' private school costs. After that, the Senate passed the bill with a 31-18 vote, which sent the bill to Reynolds for her final approval.
The bill is set to provide Iowa students with $7,598 each year to use for private school tuition and costs associated with education. All public schools will be eligible to use an educational savings account (or ESA) starting in the subsequent 2023-24 school year. Students who are already attending a private school must meet income limits to qualify for the program during its first two years, per The Des Moines Register.
Governor Reynolds issued a statement praising the bill's passage early Tuesday, January 24th:
For the first time, we will fund students instead of a system, a decisive step in ensuring that every child in Iowa can receive the best education possible. [....] With this bill, Iowa has affirmed that educational freedom belongs to all, not just those who can afford it.
Opponents of the legislation in both the House and Senate argued it would harm public education while unfairly benefitting private schools that will be able to pick and choose which students they'll accept. Others, such as Senator Molly Donahue, a Democrat representing Cedar Rapids, said that spending the public's money with no accountability is reckless. She also added that the legislation itself creates "a private, exclusive school entitlement program with unknown costs and unlimited funding."
House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst echoed the concerns of Democrats, saying that the legislation moved too fast and wasn't adequately fleshed out:
It has been rushed. We have too many questions. It is not ready for primetime.
The bill is known as House File 68, and would phase in over the course of three years. You can read the text of the bill here, and see a more minute breakdown of what's inside via The Des Moines Register.