DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, told reporters on Monday that the Iowa House will not vote on SF 2369, Gov. Kim Reynolds’ school choice bill, before the legislature adjourns.
“When it comes to the school choice bill that the governor proposed, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to put the votes together in the House this year to pass that,” he said.
The bill would have created “Student First Scholarships” The scholarships would be worth 70 percent of the state’s per-pupil spending, currently $5,359, for qualified education expenses defined in the bill, such as non-public school tuition, textbooks, curriculum, tutoring, non-public online education, and vocational education.
A student must be enrolled in a public school for the 2021-22 school year and have a household income that does not exceed 400 percent of the federal poverty level or have an individualized educational plan to be eligible. The bill capped the scholarships in the first year at 10,000.
The remaining 30 percent will be reallocated to school districts that participate in operational sharing among districts, such as administration, social workers, mental health, transportation, and other school support services.
The Iowa Senate passed the bill in late March and held up some budget bills to try to persuade, along with Gov. Kim Reynolds, enough Republicans to vote for the bill.
State Senator Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, said the bill failed because “average Iowans know the value of our public schools and want to fight to protect and improve our schools, instead of underfunding education. They want their taxpayer dollars to go to public schools.”
School choice is an issue for the upcoming Republican primary, with several incumbent lawmakers facing primary challenges over the issue. For instance, State Reps. Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon, Jon Thorup, R-Knoxville, and Jane Bloomingdale, R-Northwood, opposed SF 2369 and face challenges. Gov. Kim Reynolds also recently endorsed Thorup’s opponent. Democrats also want to make it an issue in November as well.
Lydia Quick, executive director with the Iowa Association of Christian Schools, expressed disappointment that the Iowa House won’t vote on the bill.
“There are many parents and students who need the help ESAs would bring. If what Speaker Grassley is saying is true, we are certainly disappointed the House couldn’t find the votes. We are grateful to the Governor and Senate for their willingness to champion the needs of students this year and we will be back until every student can choose the educational environment that best meets individual needs,” she said.