Gov. Kim Reynolds was ecstatic Tuesday as she signed a three-year earthquake education plan.
“What a day for our children!” she exclaimed to a crowd of children, parents, lawmakers and other supporters gathered in the rotunda of the Iowa State Capitol.
Surrounded by private school students, Republican Reynolds signed a law that would allow any family in Iowa to use taxpayer funds to pay for private school tuition — once fully implemented, the state will Cost $345 million.
The sweeping legislation represents Reynolds’ third — and most ambitious — attempt to pass some form of “school choice” legislation, a push mirrored in other Republican-led states. Over the past few years, disagreements over her previous proposals have lasted for months and ended in failure.
But this year, Republicans used their expanded legislative majority to force the latest version of the legislation into law in the third week of the session.
tomorrow:Who voted for Kim Reynolds’ private school scholarship bill?The stories these maps tell
Reynolds touted the law’s benefits for families, saying Iowa would “fund students not a system.”
“Public schools are the foundation of our education system, and for most families they will continue to be the first choice. But they are not the only option. For some families, a different path may be better for their children,” she said said, and there were occasional murmurs of “Amen” from the crowd.
Opposition from Democrats has been fierce. Mori. During the ceremony, Claire Celsi, a Democrat from West Des Moines, stood above Reynolds in the Capitol Rotunda, Shouting “nobody wants vouchers” Before she was overwhelmed by the crowd of support.
Lawmakers debated the bill through Monday afternoon and into the early hours of Tuesday to bring the measure to Reynolds for her signature during National School Choice Week.
The proposal in House Document 68 accelerated through the legislative process a full two weeks after Reynolds called on lawmakers to pass it in her State of the State speech, as Republican legislative leaders removed procedural hurdles that blocked the bill’s passage.
tomorrow:The Iowa Legislature passed a massive private school bill and sent it to the governor.Kim Reynolds
Twelve Republicans — nine in the House and three in the Senate — joined Democrats in opposing the bill. Democrats have sharply criticized the legislation, saying it would hurt rural public schools while benefiting wealthy families.
“It is reckless to spend public money without accountability. Our public schools and students deserve better,” the senator said. Molly Donahue, D-Cedar Rapids. “We should not create a private, exclusive school entitlement program with unknown costs and unlimited funding — a blank check — until we are willing to provide enough funding for the vast majority of public school students.”
What will the Private Schools Act do and who is eligible for funding?
The law, which will be phased in over three years, will eventually allow all Iowa families to use up to $7,598 a year in an “education savings account” to pay for private school tuition.
If there is any left over after tuition and fees, families can use the funds for specific educational expenses, including textbooks, tutoring, standardized test fees, online education programs, and career and life skills training.
During the program’s first year, the 2023-24 school year, the funds will be available to all new Kindergarten students and all public school students. It will also be provided to current private school families whose income is at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
tomorrow:How will the government. Will Kim Reynolds’ Private School Scholarship Program Work?here are the details
For the 2024-2025 school year, eligibility will expand to include private school families at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
When the law is fully implemented in the 2025-2026 school year, every family in Iowa will be eligible to participate in the program.
The law also allocates $1,205 to public schools for each student in a district who attends a private school using state funds and allows public schools more flexibility in using the funds to raise teacher salaries.
tomorrow:Who voted for Kim Reynolds’ private school scholarship bill?The stories these maps tell
How much is the legal cost to Iowa taxpayers each year?
Once fully implemented, the plan is expected to cost $345 million a year by its fourth year, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Service.
Over the first four years, the state will spend approximately $879 million as phases of the program.
Analysis by the Legislative Service Bureau predicts that 14,068 students will be enrolled in the program in fiscal year 2024, its first year. This includes an estimated 4,841 students who will transfer from public schools to non-public schools.
By FY 2027, the agency expects 41,687 students in Iowa will have access to education savings accounts to pay for their private school expenses. During that time, the agency expects public school enrollment to decline from 486,476 in fiscal 2024 to 475,207 in fiscal 2027.
tomorrow:Kim Reynolds proposes private school scholarship for every Iowa family
By year four, the agency estimates public school districts will receive $49.8 million in new per capita funding for private school students within the public school district. The agency also expects a net reduction of $46 million in public school funding as more students attend private schools.
The cost of administering the program is unknown, the nonpartisan analysis said. The bill would allow the Iowa Department of Education to contract with third parties to manage education savings accounts, but the state has yet to issue requests for proposals to companies seeking to manage the funds.
Lawmakers debate until midnight – where Reynolds celebrates with a selfie
Reynolds signed the bill less than 12 hours after the Iowa Senate passed the legislation early Tuesday morning, with debate running until midnight.
Opponents have fought for hours against the proposal, arguing it would tie up funds in public school districts while unfairly benefiting private schools that are subject to different rules.
“Public schools take all kids. Private schools pick and choose,” said House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights. “It’s not about school choice. It’s about school administrators’ choice. School administrators decide who goes to our private schools, and public schools welcome all children.”
But Republican leaders echoed Reynolds in their views on the legislation, arguing that the law would give parents long-awaited choices in their education.
“This bill is about liberty,” the Rep. said. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, House manager of the bill. “This bill is about the freedom of families to make decisions. This bill is about where families think their children are best educated. This bill is not about attacking teachers. Opponents of this bill will say we are attacking teachers all over again tonight Again. It doesn’t get any more outrageous than that.”
House lawmakers passed the bill in a 55-45 vote Monday night after more than five hours of debate, with nine Republicans defecting to join an all-Democrat opposition. After midnight, the Senate voted 31-18 to send the bill to Reynolds for his signature. Three Republicans opposed it.
Early Tuesday, Reynolds waited behind the Senate chamber, where she hugged Republican supporters of her bill and took selfies, including one with Senate President Amy Sinclair. Reynolds cheered when national school choice activist Corey DeAngelis showed up for a round of hugs and selfies.
“Iowa will now be a national leader in educational freedom,” DeAngelis said. “I am pleased that Governor Kim Reynolds has been a staunch supporter of parents’ rights to education, which further reinforces that fact.”
Opposition from House Republicans not enough to prevent bill from becoming law
When Reynolds thanked lawmakers during Tuesday’s signing ceremony, she paid special tribute to House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done to make sure we have enough numbers, we have enough votes to get it across the finish line,” she said. “We couldn’t be more grateful.”
Her praise illustrates the importance of efforts by Iowa Republican House leaders, such as Windschitl and House Speaker Pat Grassley, to get the bill passed after two years of failure.
Opposition from House Republicans helped defeat a previous version of Reynolds’ proposal, leading Reynolds to campaign against several incumbent GOP representatives on the issue. The GOP then expanded its majority in the House of Representatives to 64 seats in the general election, drawing more support for the issue and giving the GOP leadership an extra cushion.
This year, opponents of the bill lacked the votes to block the legislation.
Rep. Tom Moore (R-Griswold) told reporters after the vote that his constituents asked him to vote no.
“It simply comes down to my constituents,” he said. “I’m in a very Republican, very conservative district, and they told me no.”
Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, said he is concerned that appropriating funds to private schools will ultimately lead to more regulation of those schools. He disagreed with the bill’s lack of income limits for wealthy families.
“I certainly can afford to send my kids to private schools,” he said in an interview with the Des Moines Register. “I’m very disturbed by extending it to people like me, it seems to me that it’s a cost that we don’t need to bear. It’s a big number.”
At the signing ceremony, Grassley said Republicans focused on education issues, such as requiring school attendance and banning masks, because they heard from Iowa about their priorities.
“Whether it’s getting your kids back to school or making sure they don’t have to wear masks … we don’t do these things because we come up with them,” he said. “We come up with these ideas because we hear the love News from Iowa.”
Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa State Capitol and politics for The Register. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 515-284-8169.Follow him on Twitter @sgrubermiller.
Katie Akin is a political reporter for The Register.contact her firstname.lastname@example.org Or call 410-340-3440.Follow her on Twitter @katie_akin.