Iowa House May Debate ‘School Choice’ Plan as Early as Monday
Iowa State Capital

(Radio Iowa) Governor Kim Reynolds’ new plan to let the parents of private school students apply for state funds to cover tuition and other expenses is speeding thru the legislature. It cleared Republican-led committees in the House AND Senate Wednesday and a bill is eligible for debate in the House as early as Monday. Republican Representative John Wills of Spirit Lake says the concept has been adequately discussed.

“It’s not quickly at all,” Wills says. “…For two solid year’s we’ve been talking about it.” During that time, the governor’s less expansive plans to give state money to low income parents who want to send their kids to private school never came up for a vote in the House. House Speaker Pat Grassley has used his power to change committee rules, so the bill may be debated on the House floor soon. Grassley says while the plan is projected to spend over 900 million dollars on the education of private school students over the next four years, the state is likely to send over 15 BILLION dollars to public K-through-12 schools during that time period.

“This is the most in-depth walk through of any major piece of policy I’ve been a part of during my time in the legislature, when it gets into the weeds,” Grassley said. House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst says those numbers come from the governor’s staff and lawmakers should at least wait for a nonpartisan agency to review the plan and come up with a cost estimate.

“There are 39 new members in the Iowa House of Representatives, so any argument that we’ve been talking about this for years is moot,” Konfrst says. Konfrst says debating the bill in the third week of the legislative session is irresponsible.

“I think we’re rushing this process for no good reason,” Konfrst says. Senate President Amy Sinclair of Allerton rejects the idea things are being rushed, since Republicans in the Senate have already voted for the governor’s previous plans.

“I would suggest that maybe it’s long overdue,” Sinclair said. The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to review the governor’s new plan at 10 a.m. today (Thursday) — and the bill would be eligible for debate in the Senate next week as well.

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