The Iowa Association of Christian Schools (IACS) responded to SSB 1065, a K-12 education bill proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds and introduced on Wednesday in the Iowa Senate that has several school choice provisions. The group has represented Protestant, Christ-centered schools as their public policy voice at the State Capitol since 1976.
They applauded Reynolds for highlighting Education Savings Accounts during her Condition of the State address last week.
“We fully agree with her statement: ‘Let’s work together to make sure every child receives a quality education, regardless of income, and no matter their zip code.’ We also agree with her that school choice and parental rights in education is not a zero-sum game. We stand ready to work with her and the legislature to ensure that every Iowa parent has the choice of a great public, private, or other education option that best meets their child’s needs,” they said in a published statement on their website on Saturday.
They thanked her for submitting the bill to start a conversation. The bill contains eight divisions and three impacts Iowa’s Christian schools.
Division I creates what is called “students first scholarships. The scholarships are available to students who reside within the boundaries of 34 schools in Iowa who have the lowest performance classifications based on federal standards established by the Every Student Succeeds Act. IACS says this bases parents’ choice on zip code.
“IACS has consistently discouraged basing a family’s ability to choose an educational environment that best meets their needs based on “failing” schools or the actions of a third party in general,” they said
IACS notes there are also practical concerns about implementing a program of this nature along with the philosophical questions.
“We are hopeful that the Iowa legislature considers replacing this division of the bill with an ESA program that serves Iowans statewide based on a parent’s choice because we agree with the Governor that these programs should be offered ‘regardless of income, and no matter their zip code,'” the organization said.
In Division IV, IACS says creates a database they believe is unnecessary and does not align with their independent accreditations. They said the new database requires their schools to pay up to $7 per student in order to report to it. “We will be encouraging the legislature to amend or remove this division,” they wrote in their statement.
IACS applauded Reynolds for Division V that expands the tuition and textbook tax credit. IACS said this decades-old tax credit benefits families utilizing public and private schools.
They say they are registered “undecided” on the bill and commits to working with the Iowa Legislature to improve it. They said when they see changes they recommend they will support the legislation.
“We are hopeful and we are, again, extremely grateful to Governor Reynolds for introducing parental choice as an issue this year and the many legislators who have voiced their support of Iowa parents,” the organization’s statement read.
The bill will have a subcommittee hearing on Monday morning before State Senators Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, and Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale.
Read the bill below:SSB1065