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Gov. Reynolds Considering Compromises in Private School Scholarship Plan

DES MOINES, IA (Radio Iowa) Governor Kim Reynolds is not revealing details, but Reynolds says she may agree to adjustments in her plan to provide state scholarships to some parents who enroll their child in private or religious schools. All but one Republican in the state senate has endorsed the idea of providing 10-thousand of these scholarships for private schooling, but it currently lacks the votes to pass the Republican led Iowa House.

“We need to provide opportunities for all families to make sure that their child has every opportunity to learn in an environment where they can thrive…but I need to talk and look at compromises, too, and so we’re working through that process right now and I think we’re making progress,” Reynolds says. “I feel good about it. We still have a lot of work to do, but I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.” Reynolds says she has meetings every single day as she tries round up votes.

“I continue to meet with families, I continue to meet with educators. I continue to meet with superintendents,” Reynolds says, “and, of course, legislators who are a big part of that.” Reynolds says as she meets with superintendents who oppose state scholarships for private schooling, she’s been expressing support for public schools AND explaining how other states are spending tax dollars on charter schools as well as private and religious schools.

“That’s been helpful, too,” Reynolds says. “You know, I don’t have any illusions, as I said earlier, that I’ve changed their minds, but I feel good to be able to have the opportunity to actually sit down at a table and have that conversation,” Reynolds says, “and talk about things that maybe we can do next year to provide them some flexibility, to look at the education formala. It is antiquated and to really walk through flexibility and different chapters that may be helpful for them as well.” A formula originally established in state law in the 1970s is used to distribute state tax dollars to public schools on a per pupil basis. Reynolds had a private meeting with parents in Marion this week to talk about a Linn-Mar School District policy for transgender students. Reynolds says those parents feel trapped in the public school system and her idea for state-funded scholarships for private schools would help them.

“I think parents need an option if they feel that their child is not being educated in a safe environment or they feel that their values aren’t being represented at school,” she said, “or they feel that the school district is not focused on a quality education.” Linn-Mar officials say the transgender support plan the school board adopted last week aligns with federal requirements the district has been following for years. Reynolds says the district is “way off track” and — after meeting with upset Linn-Mar parents — she’d consider legislation that would require all Iowa students to use the bathroom in their school that matches the gender listed on their birth certificate.

“You think back to when you were in high school, some of the things you did,” Reynolds says. “Think about a girl going into a restroom and having boys peering over the top taking photos. Talk about how uncomfortable that would be — and that’s what some of their kids are experiencing.”

Reynolds made her comments during a brief question and answer session with reporters in her statehouse office.

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