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Gov. Reynolds signs private school funding bill into law

"We are putting an end to the notion that competition is a zero-sum game," Reynolds said Tuesday.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds’ has signed her signature education bill into law after it passed through both the Iowa House and Senate.

The bill contains education savings accounts for Iowa students and families to use toward private schooling. With the bill in place, every Iowa student would have the option of using more than $7,500 in state money each year to pay for private school.

"For the first time, we're funding students instead of a system, we're rejecting the idea that the answer to improving education is simply pumping more money into the same system year after year without making significant changes," Reynolds said before signing the bill Tuesday.

"And we are putting an end to the notion that competition is a zero-sum game."

Watch the bill signing

Here's what some of Iowa's Democratic representatives had to say about the governor's proposed bill as it was debated all day and night Monday:

"I rise in opposition of House File 68 because it stinks," said Rep. Austin Baeth, D-Des Moines. "Currently there's 33,000 who are in private school. So that means 79% of people by the time this is fully introduced, 79% were already going to private school. So what this really is, is a government handout. A government handout to people who don't need it. And it's taking dollars away for people who really need every single dollar they can get."

"Taking money away from the form and 85,000 kids in public schools will result in more school closings in rural areas, higher class sizes, and fewer opportunities," House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfirst added. "Public schools accept all kids, private schools pick and choose. This is not about school choice. This is about school administrator choice. School administrators decides decide who goes to our private schools, public schools welcome all children."

But the House majority party did not back down, saying the measure was crafted after years of frustrated parents wanting more say in their children's education.

"When you stick masks on kindergartners, and the parents object to it, and then you tell the parents to get lost, you better believe this is going to come up. They're going to their legislators and governors and say 'Help us out,'" said Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Hull.

"On average it's a very small percentage of students who leave public schools for private schools when programs like this go into place," Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison added. "About 1-3% of these percentages. Even smaller, leave rural programs."

Speaker Pro Tempore John Wills defended the bill's flexibility and potential to benefit teachers.

"The opponents of this bills say we are attacking teachers over and over again tonight. Nothing can be further from the truth," Will said. "If so, then why are we giving schools the flexibility and the opportunity to increase some teachers' salaries with the categoricals that I mentioned before."

The House passed the bill around 9:30 p.m. Monday with 54-45 votes in favor.

They immediately sent it to the Senate, where it passed.

Local 5 will update this story as more information becomes available. Download the We Are Iowa app or subscribe to Local 5's "5 Things to Know" email newsletter for the latest.

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