Jan 13, 2023 - Politics

Iowa's private school deserts dog Gov. Kim Reynolds' 'choice' plan

Photo courtesy of Priorities for Iowa via YouTube

Iowa would allow families to apply per pupil public-school allocations — currently $7,598 a year — to pay for private schools, under a plan outlined by Gov. Kim Reynolds Tuesday night.

Yes, but: Groups like the left-leaning Common Good Iowa contend Reynolds' plan is not an option for much of Iowa.

  • Forty-one of Iowa's 99 counties have no private school and 23 have just one, according to state data released last year.

Catch up fast: Reynolds contends her plan would allow families choice in sending their child to a school that best fits them — including for reasons of faith and moral convictions.

  • Her two previous attempts at this failed after opposition from some members of her own party.
  • Opponents contend it would sap resources from public school systems and divert it to educators with far less accountability to taxpayers.
Iowa counties with private schools
Data: Iowa Department of Education; Map: Erin Davis/Axios

Flashback: Last year, Reynolds advocated for GOP primary candidates who agreed with her school choice efforts, ultimately helping to oust some of the incumbents who opposed her plan in the 2022 legislative session.

What's happening: Reynolds' strategy is showing results.

  • Republican majorities grew in the Iowa House and Senate following November's election.
  • And the governor significantly expanded her plan, which last year would have limited private-school vouchers to 10,000 families below an income threshold.

The big picture: The educational choice movement is growing, fueled by frustrations that festered during pandemic restrictions.

  • In the last two years, at least 20 states have started or expanded school voucher programs, the Guardian reports.

What's next: Iowa politicking.

  • Groups like the Iowa State Education Association have unveiled a legislative toolkit to help oppose the "school choice" bill.
  • Priorities for Iowa, a conservative group, this week launched a six-figure ad campaign featuring Reynolds.

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