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Gov. Reynolds' revamped private school scholarship bill stays alive

The fund proposal is similar to "school choice" legislation from previous sessions, but this version adds a fund to help rural schools.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Senate Education Committee approved Gov. Kim Reynolds' "student first" scholarship bill Thursday, opening the door for some state education funds to go to private schools.

The proposal would allow qualifying students in grades K-12 to use 70% of their per-pupil funding (around $5,300 per year) to attend a nonpublic school. A student is eligible if their household income is under 400% of the federal poverty level or they have an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

This proposal is similar to "school choice" legislation from previous sessions, but in this version, the remaining 30% of a student's per-pupil funding would go to small school districts.

“There are high-quality public schools across Iowa that are meeting the needs of the students and families they serve, but some parents believe their children would do best in a different learning environment,” Reynolds said. “In many cases, those options belong exclusively to those who can afford them. I believe more families deserve a choice, which is why I’ve introduced a bill that empowers low and middle-income parents and raises the bar for all schools.” 

Democrats uniformly oppose the bill.

"Bluntly [Reynolds is] having difficulty because it's a bad bill," said Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville. "Public dollars should be used to fund public schools. Iowans whether you're Republican, Democrat, or Independent can agree."

A similar bill is also being considered in the House.

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