The private school voucher program pursued by Gov. Kim Reynolds and other Republican leaders in the legislature doesn’t have widespread support from Iowans.
Conversations during the legislative session showed widespread pushback to the proposal, and Data for Progress polling done for Starting Line confirms it.
When asked, 71% of respondents said, “Public schools are vital in educating our children. They have been underfunded for too long, and we need to fund and protect them so they can continue to serve our communities.”
It was the majority position across political parties with 56% of Republicans, 70% of Independents or third-party members and 91% of Democrats agreeing.
Similarly, a 60% majority of Iowans oppose Reynolds’ proposed policy to create state-funded scholarships for students to attend private schools.
Republicans were the only group that supported it by a small plurality, with 48% in favor and 44% opposed. Only 11% of Democrats and 29% of Independents/third-party members support it.
The poll was conducted from July 22 to 29, with a survey of 637 likely voters and a margin of error of ±4 percentage points.
Her plan, contained in Senate File 2369, would have diverted $55 million from public school budgets for up to 10,000 scholarships to pay for students to attend private schools.
The measure failed in the Legislature this spring, mostly due to a handful of rural Republicans in the Iowa House who recognized vouchers could hurt public schools in their districts, which are less likely to have nearby private schools. Those Republicans wouldn’t vote for the measure, despite weeks of negotiation.
“I think many people in rural Iowa are very concerned that that could mean the end of their small school districts at some point — not today, not tomorrow but maybe five or 10 years down the road,” Rep. Jon Thorup (R-Knoxville), an assistant majority leader, told the Des Moines Register at the time. “There’s just a lot of fear amongst even a lot of Republicans.”
In response, Reynolds threw her support behind those Republicans’ competitors in Iowa’s June primary elections, many of whom supported the voucher plan. As a result, many of those Republicans who opposed Reynolds’ plan lost their primaries.
Thorup was one of them.
Reynolds has said the voucher proposal will likely come back in the next legislative session, for a third time, despite the fact Iowans don’t want it.
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