Governor Says Her Plan Puts ‘Significant Amount of Money’ into Education

Governor Kim Reynolds says state funding for small public schools in rural areas will remain stable or could increase if the legislature approves her plan to set up state-funded accounts for parents who send their kids to private schools.
Reynolds discussed details of her school choice bill during an interview with Radio Iowa.

Reynolds estimates about 107 million dollars of state funds would be deposited in Education Savings Accounts for low income parents enrolling children in a private school this fall. She’s also recommending that legislators provide 190 million dollars more to public K-through-12 schools in the next academic year. Reynolds said she’s under no illusion she’ll change opponents’ minds about her plans. “I want somebody to tell me what is the magic number. What is the magic number that all of a sudden will make all of education wonderful? Is it 75% of the budget? Is it 65% of the budget? You know 57% of the state budget is going to education. Come on,” Reynolds said. “There are examples of states out there that are spending way less on education and getting better results.” Current state law guarantees small public schools with declining enrollment don’t see their state funding decline. The governor has proposed public schools get 12-hundred dollars for every district resident who’s enrolled in a private K-through-12 school. The governor says that could benefit some small rural schools.

This is the third and most expansive “school choice” plan Reynolds has presented to legislators. Last year, Reynolds met with rural school superintendents and principals as she tried to round up support, and votes in the House, for the concept.

By 2025, all private school parents in Iowa, regardless of income, could get state money to cover private school expenses under the governor’s plan, an estimated $341 million in total. A private company would oversee those payments.

Reynolds indicates the chosen company would then ensure the money is spent on private school tuition or other allowed expenses, like private tutoring, textbooks or school-related fees. The money is not to be spent on food, clothing, transportation or disposable school supplies, like pencils and paper.

The state authorized so-called five-29 College Savings Iowa Plans provide some tax advantages to parents saving for college expenses and the accounts are managed by Vanguard, an investment company. Earlier Thursday, Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the governor’s school choice bill. The legislation is now eligible for debate next week in the House and Senate.


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