Wednesday evening the Iowa Senate passed Senate File 2369, an education bill which would create a voucher system funded by public money.
It passed the chamber 31-18 with one Republican joining all Democrats in opposition.
Early on in the debate, the bill was amended to include a parents’ bill of rights, which would codify policies and procedures for transparency and parents’ access to school information that already exist for the most part.
It also includes provisions to obtain parents’ consent regarding materials in the school curriculum or library.
Democratic senators raised multiple issues with the legislation such as how Republicans have diverted money away from public schools while at the same time creating this program to prop up private schools.
They also pointed out how private schools are able to pick and choose which students they allow, which puts certain sexualities, gender identities, people with disabilities and religions at a disadvantage.
“It’s common sense: if private schools will be given public money they should admit the public, regardless of disabilities, English speaking ability, their gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or intellectual ability,” said Sen. Zach Wahls (D-Coralville). “In fact, of Iowa’s private schools, only 15%–15–affirmatively list gender identity and sexual orientation as protected characteristics.”
Republicans defended the bill as necessary to preserve parents’ choices and their access to information when it comes to their children’s educations.
Sen. Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) championed how the bill will give low-income students the chance at a better education, and how it centers parents and their decisions when it comes to how children are educated and what they’re exposed to at school.
“It creates processes by which parents can access and request information related to their child’s education, and it places a responsibility on the schools to ensure children have parental permission before they’re ever exposed to some of that sexually charged content, whether in the classroom or in the library,” she said, referring to LGBTQ-themed books that have come under fire.
The Iowa House passed its own wide-ranging education bill yesterday, but it did not include the voucher program. It is not clear yet whether there is enough Republican support in the House to adopt this part of the Senate’s plan.
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