Iowa Gov. Reynolds seeks state funding for private schools

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Every Iowa student would have the option of using more than $7,500 in state money annually to pay for private school under a plan Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed Tuesday night in the annual Condition of the State speech.

Reynolds, a Republican, has tried unsuccessfully twice before to enact a less expansive program of taxpayer-funded scholarships for private school. However, her more far-reaching program this year could finally be approved thanks to larger Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.

She outlined the private school scholarships proposal during a speech in which she also called for a new effort to improve reading in poor-performing schools, supported offering grants to encourage fathers to be involved in their children’s lives, proposed programs to benefit rural health care and sought to limit awards given in lawsuits against health care systems.

In describing her private school scholarship program, Reynolds said she supported public schools but thought all children, not only those from wealthy families, should have the ability to attend private schools. The $7,598 she proposes making available to each student — the same amount the state allocates for a child in public schools — would initially be focused on lower-income children who want to attend a private school but after three years it would be available regardless of income.

“Some families may want an education that conforms to their faith and moral convictions. Some kids may have ambitions and abilities that require a unique educational setting. Others may experience bullying or have special needs,” Reynolds said. “Regardless of the reason, every parent should have a choice of where to send their child, and that choice shouldn’t be limited to families who can afford it.”

Before offering her agenda for the upcoming legislative session, which began Monday, Reynolds ticked through several programs approved since she became governor in 2017, including changes to collective bargaining rules for public employees, steep tax cuts and her push to require that school districts offer classroom learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Repeatedly, Reynolds said, her political opponents, the media and “so-called experts” predicted catastrophe if such proposals were approved, but she argued the state had emerged stronger because of those actions.

“The pundits said we were wrong, the experts condemned us, and they underestimated our resolve,” Reynolds said. “But none of that matters. It doesn’t matter because the people of Iowa were with us.”

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