Gov. Kim Reynolds allows public to fund private schooling, local schools speak out against law

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 5:51 PM CST
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LEE COUNTY, Ia. (WGEM) - Iowa governor Kim Reynolds signed the Students First Act into law today.

Also known as the “school choice” bill, the current law means Iowa students who want to attend a private school can do so using taxpayer money to help alleviate tuition and other education costs.

“We’re not looking at a system, we’re looking at children and kids and funding them and making sure we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that they have an opportunity to succeed and a great education,” said Reynolds.

Educators in Lee County think that will come with a negative cost for public school systems.

“We’re on different sets of playing fields and so that’s our biggest frustration if they have to meet the same standards and credentials that public schools do then no big deal,” said Central Lee Schools Superintendent, Andy Crozier. “We’re all on the same platform and we’ll all compete the same way, but in this case, one team is getting a whole different set of rules than another team.”

Crozier and other superintendents in the Lee County school district drafted a letter to Iowa representative Martine Graber expressing their concerns before the bill was signed into law.

Reynolds believes the law will offer educational freedom for families.

Crozier said that private schools could turn students away based on race, color and other factors, limiting education opportunities.

“Iowa’s always had choice, now you can choose to go to a private school, if they accept you, Central Lee will accept you here,” Crozier said.

Governor Reynolds said that private schools across Iowa are not rejecting students.

The new Iowa law states students who want to attend a private school can do so using taxpayer money to pay for tuition and other costs.

Crozier said that’s taking money away from public schools that are already underfunded.

His school district has been advocating for equity in open enrollment funding for years, and he said it’s disappointing to know Central Lee doesn’t receive 100% funding for all open enrolled students.

He said private schools will now.

“They’ve ignored addressing some of the open enrollment issues that are already existing in Iowa and just completely shifted the topic to private school students and given them whatever they wanted in funding,” Crozier said. “We’re pretty disappointed that public education continues to be on the backburner here at the state legislature here in Iowa.”

The bill passed in the House and Senate with republican support.

Democrats argued the plan gives wealthy families the upper hand in education.

Reynolds said it levels the academic playing field.

“This is a similar model, we do it for preschool‚ we do it with the Iowa Tuition Grant for higher education,” Reynolds said. “But for some reason, we’ve decided that for K-12, they shouldn’t have that option, and so there’s precedence for it, it already exists. Those options already exist, it’s just not everybody has the opportunity to take advantage of that especially if they don’t have the resources to do it.”

Crozier said Iowa’s public school funding is based on enrollment numbers, so if students transfer from public schools to receive private education, the public school system will continue to remain underfunded.

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