Former Betsy DeVos Aide Is Iowa’s New Education Director

By Ty Rushing

June 22, 2023

Iowa’s new director of the Iowa Department of Education is a former aide to billionaire Betsy DeVos, who has used her family’s wealth to fuel the rapid expansion of taxpayer-funded private school scholarships, including in the Hawkeye State.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday that McKenzie Snow—the former DeVos aide—would lead Iowa’s Department of Education starting June 26 following the resignation of Chad Aldis, who was in the position for three months.

According to Reynolds’ press release, Aldis resigned for “family reasons.” His resignation won’t take effect until June 30, so he can help with the transition.

Before her upcoming move to Iowa, Snow’s most recent position was deputy secretary of Education in the Commonwealth of Virginia under Gov. Glenn Youngkin, whose exploitation of the education culture wars was emulated by Reynolds to pass a slew of bills aimed at reshaping public education in Iowa while also subsidizing private school education.

Snow will likely play a large role in leading Reynolds’ new K-12 private school voucher program—called Students First Education Savings Accounts—which will divert hundreds of millions in Iowa taxpayer funds toward private schools.

“Governor Reynolds is an education champion, and I am humbled by her appointment to serve Iowa’s students in partnership with families and teachers,” Snow said. “All children—regardless of their background or zip code—deserve a great education that inspires and prepares them for the future. Together, we will continue to build upon Iowa’s commitment to educational excellence for all children.”

Reynolds and other Iowa Republicans often erroneously refer to using taxpayer funds to pay for private school education as “school choice,” despite the fact that parents already could choose what school to send their children to and that private schools don’t have to accept all children like public schools do. 

According to the Virginia Mercury, much of Snow’s work in education policy has centered on “school choice.”

“Before joining the Trump administration, [Snow] worked as policy director at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a think tank formed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2008,” the Mercury article states. “In the role, she advocated for multiple initiatives aimed at expanding alternative education options, including increased funding for charter schools and education savings accounts.”

The Mercury also notes that Snow co-authored a 2017 policy paper that “argued eligibility requirements for the programs should extend to families making three times the federal poverty level.”

Reynolds used the last few legislative sessions to push various voucher programs. One of the things that held back last year’s version was the opposition of several Republicans in the Iowa House. Reynolds retaliated by endorsing the primary opponents of the holdout representatives and DeVos’ Americans Federation For Children political action committee spent $254,000 in targeted ads against those same legislators. Most of Reynolds’ endorsed candidates won and took office this year, paving the way for the governor’s voucher expansion.

In her release, Reynolds said Snow “will be a tremendous asset as we continue to expand opportunity in Iowa’s education system.”

CORRECTION (Thursday, June 22, 3:04 p.m.): The name of Betsy DeVos’ political action committee has been corrected.

 

by Ty Rushing
06/22/23

 

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  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.

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