Des Moines, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds has signed her “School Choice Plan” bill into law. It is expected to give $345 million to parents to send their students to private schools.

One of only three Republican senators to vote “no” on the bill was a state senator that represents a portion of our area. District 3 Republican State Senator Lynn Evans voted against the bill. Iowa Senate District 3 consists of all of O’Brien, Osceola, and Buena Vista counties, along with most of Clay and Cherokee counties. Evans is the former superintendent of the Alta-Aurelia Community School District.

Most Republicans in the Iowa legislature have voted for Governor Kim Reynolds’ top 2023 priority — a bill that will provide state-funded accounts for the parents of private school students.

Republican Representative John Wills of Spirit Lake opened Monday’s House debate by saying the bill is about freedom.

Democrats like Representative Sue Cahill of Marshalltown say the choice is up to private school administrators since nothing requires private schools to accept all students.

After five and a half hours of debate, the bill cleared the House on a 55 to 45 vote. Senators debated in earnest for about three hours, passing the bill just before 12:30 this (Tuesday) morning on a 31-to-18 vote. Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, says state funds will now follow a child to the school that best fits their needs.

Representative Thomas Moore of Griswold opposes the governor’s two, less expansive “school choice” proposals and he is one of nine House Republicans who voted against this year’s proposal.

Three Republican Senators opposed the plan. Representative Skyler Wheeler, a Republican from Hull who backed the bill, says public school parents got frustrated during the pandemic and asked for this alternative.

Representative Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City, disagreed.

In the first year, low-income parents who enroll a child in a private school could apply for nearly $7600 in state funding to cover tuition, computers, textbooks, and tutoring. In 2026, all private school parents could apply for the state money. Representative Austin Baeth, a Democrat from Des Moines, says an estimated 79 percent of the money will be spent on kids already enrolled in private schools.

Wills says if Iowans didn’t want school choice, they wouldn’t have expanded the Republican majorities in the legislature — and would not have reelected Governor Reynolds by a 19-point margin.

All Democrats in the legislature voted against the bill. Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls says the governor’s plan is Robin Hood in reverse.

Reynolds held a private ceremony in her formal office Monday to mark the start of “School Choice Week.”

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