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House kills Reynolds' plan to send $55M to private schools

Reynolds' plan to provide taxpayer-funded scholarships for up to 10,000 students to attend the private school of their choice was a top priorty for this session.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds' proposal to divert about $55 million from public schools to private school scholarships will not pass in the Iowa House because of a lack of Republican support, House Speaker Pat Grassley said Monday.

Reynolds' plan to provide taxpayer-funded scholarships for up to 10,000 students to attend the private school of their choice was one of her top priorities for the legislative session. The measure passed the Senate in March with only Republican support but won't clear the House, despite the GOP holding a 60-40 edge in the chamber.

The opposition largely came from lawmakers in rural areas and smaller communities who were concerned about the loss of money to public schools. Reynolds targeted at least one Republican, Jon Thorup of Knoxville, by supporting his opponent in the upcoming June primary election because of his opposition to her bill.

“It doesn't look like we're going to be able to put the votes together in the House this year to pass that, however, we want to continue to work with the governor to get something achieved that's been a big priority of hers moving toward next session and we'll work on that in the offseason,” Grassley said.

Reynolds' spokesman said Monday she had no comment. She said last week she will keep working to pass the proposal.

Grassley said the session likely will end this week. Adjournment has been delayed over the issue of private school scholarships.

"We know it's good news that vouchers aren't going to pass this year," said House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst. "Of course, we're not going to rest until we sine die and know for sure that they haven't. But we feel really good. We're not surprised because we know Iowans don't want school vouchers. And the majority of the legislature doesn't want school vouchers."

Konfrst remains critical of some of the methods she believes Reynolds used during the stalemate of this bill to convince lawmakers to support it.

"I think it's fair to say that she's endorsing candidates who have told her they will support vouchers, as opposed to the sitting members who have opposed them in the past," Konfrst said. "I'll tell you, she's been throwing everything at the wall to see what will stick."

"The Governor can endorse any anybody she wants," Thorup said. "That's one of the great things in our system, you know, that any Iowan can endorse whoever they want."

Thorup says he's not yet spoken to Reynolds about her endorsement, but says he's working to champion other priorities of hers, like pro-life and biofuels legislation. 

"The issue with the vouchers to me is it's an expense," said Thorup. "It's a high enough amount of money that I really think it is over the course of the next few years is going to hurt our small school districts. And that's just nothing I'm willing to willing to do." 

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