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School choice funding plan passes through Iowa House, Senate committees

The bill aims to set up an "education savings account program" that would provide Iowa students more than $7,500 annually to pay for private school.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds' education bill took big steps forward on Wednesday, as it passed through committees in both the senate and the house.

The measure, known as the Students First Act, was first introduced on Jan. 10, meaning it has taken just over a week for Republicans in the statehouse to take action. 

The bill aims to set up an "education savings account program" that would provide Iowa students more than $7,500 annually to pay for private school.

“This is just the first step in giving educational freedom to Iowa’s students and parents," Reynolds said in a statement. "For too long government has told parents when, how, and where their kids can receive an education. It’s time for the government to get out of the way and allow parents the freedom of choice in education.

The proposal is now eligible for debate in both chambers. State Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, said on Wednesday she is unsure if debate would take place this week or the next. 

Wednesday's advancements come after a massive turnout for a public hearing at the capitol on Tuesday, and at a meeting on Jan. 12 when the bill was still in subcommittee. 

At the Jan. 12 meeting, both opponents and supporters voiced their opinions on the controversial bill. 

"This is $7,500 that can be used to purchase supplies, train teachers, hire school counselors, or go on field trips, make schools safer, or any number of the things that benefit all students in the district," said Amanda Acton, who is against the plan.

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"School choice didn't kill public schools in Indiana. It reduced private school enrollment and caused more parents to choose their public schools. Scores went up. Parents had more power," said Dan Zylstra, who is in favor of it.

While the bill has faced a fair amount of criticism, Reynolds is confident that school choice is the right decision for Iowa. 

“It is not shocking to see the same special interest groups who tried to lock our students out of their classrooms advocating against this bill," Iowa's governor said in a statement. "They were wrong then, and they are wrong now." 

Reynolds also added that she looks forward to the bill reaching both chambers. "Iowans deserve to see where their elected leaders stand." 

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