For the second year in a row, Gov. Kim Reynolds’ attempt to divert public school funds to private schools was defeated.
Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford) confirmed to the Des Moines Register on Monday that Reynolds’ school voucher proposal—which would have diverted $55 million from state public school funding for 10,000 private school scholarships—didn’t have enough support in his chamber.
“When it comes to the school choice bill that the governor proposed, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to put the votes together in the House this year to pass that,” Grassley told the Register. “Obviously we want to continue to work with the governor to get something achieved.”
The Iowa Legislature has been in a stalemate for weeks as Reynolds has tried to pressure holdout House Republicans to vote for her voucher bill. Senate File 2369 passed through the Iowa Senate 31-18, with state Sen. Annette Sweeney (R-Alden) joining Democrats in opposing the measure.
“It just didn’t fit our rural environment,” Sweeney told the Iowa Falls-based Times Citizen newspaper.
The news was celebrated by a number of Iowa Democrats and their affiliates on social media.
“Public money is for public schools,” a tweet from the Iowa House Democrats read. “Iowans get it, Kim Reynolds still refuses to listen.”
— Iowa House Democrats (@iowahousedems) May 23, 2022
“Knocking on doors I have heard resoundingly from people of all political affiliations—Iowans don’t want vouchers,” tweeted State Sen. Sara Trone Garriot (D-West Des Moines. “I’m glad these Reps were listening.”
Knocking on doors I have heard resoundingly from people of all political affiliations—Iowans don’t want vouchers. I’m glad these Reps were listening. https://t.co/cGnfCWf4OQ
— Sarah Trone Garriott (@SarahforIowa) May 23, 2022
Before Monday’s defeat, Reynolds had taken a number of steps to try and get support for her voucher bill, which also aligns with her parent-focused campaign reelection strategy cribbed from last year’s Virginia gubernatorial race.
According to KCRG, Reynolds held an April meeting with seven rural Iowa school superintendents to try and get support for her voucher bill, which, again, would divert funds from public schools toward private ones.
MMCRU Superintendent Dan Barkel was the one who told KCRG about the meeting. His district is the byproduct of a sharing agreement between Northwest Iowa school district Remsen-Union and Marcus-Meridian-Cleghorn, the latter of which is the result of multiple rural school district consolidations over the years.
Barkel told KCRG that Reynolds said her plan would create a more competitive environment between public and private schools.
Lobbyists for most of Iowa’s education groups including the Area Education Agencies of Iowa, Iowa Association of School Boards, the Iowa State Education Association, the Rural School Advocates of Iowa, and the School Administrators of Iowa oppose the bill.
Reynolds has also taken the unusual step of endorsing a candidate in the House District 37 primary. The governor gave an official endorsement to Barb Kniff McCulla over incumbent Rep. Jon Thorup, largely because of his opposition to her voucher bill.
Reynolds also handed out pro-voucher packets during a secret meeting with Linn-Mar School District parents earlier this month.
The governor previously told the Register if her voucher bill did not pass this year, she would—this is pending her winning reelection against Democrat Deidre DeJear in the fall—bring up the proposal again next year. This was something state Sen. Minority Leader Zach Wahls (D-Cedar Rapids) noted in his remarks.
“Iowans have made their voices loud and clear: public dollars are for public schools,” he said in a statement.
“Make no mistake – if Sens. Waylon Brown, Jake Chapman, Chris Cournoyer, Dawn Driscoll, and Jack Whitver are re-elected in 2022, Kim Reynolds’ private school voucher scam will pass next session. That’s what is at stake this election.”
by Ty Rushing
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