116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — A proposal by Gov. Kim Reynolds to shift taxpayer funding for public schools to scholarships for private school tuition assistance will not pass the Iowa Legislature this year, a top statehouse Republican said Monday.
Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, said there are not enough votes among the 60 House Republicans to get 51 votes and pass the proposal in the 100-member House.
The legislative proposal previously passed the Republican-led Iowa Senate. Statehouse Democrats have been unified in their opposition to the proposal.
“It doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to put the votes together in the House this year to pass that,” Grassley told statehouse reporters Monday. “Obviously (we) want to continue to work with the governor to get something achieved. That’s been a big priority of hers moving towards next session. And we’ll work on that in the offseason.”
Legislative leaders had essentially paused the session for the past three weeks while Reynolds attempted to persuade enough House Republicans to support her proposal.
It is the second consecutive year that Reynolds, a Republican, made the proposal, only to see it falter in the Republican-controlled Iowa House.
Reynolds’ spokesman said Monday he would not comment on the news that the bill will not pass the House.
Lawmakers from both the House and Senate returned to the Iowa Capitol on Monday for the first time in weeks, in a signal that they are preparing to complete their work for the 2022 session.
“I think it’s great that the House is stopping school vouchers and the scheme that the governor has been pushing for so long,” said Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, leader of the minority House Democrats from Windsor Heights. “It’s ridiculous that we had to wait this long for a bill that we all knew wasn’t going to pass, because Iowans don’t support school vouchers, and neither does the House of Representatives. So the only people who seem to want this are the Senate and the governor, and we’re glad that it died because it’s not good for Iowa kids.”
The bulk of the holdouts among House Republicans were legislators in rural districts, where public school officials said the loss of students to private schools could be fiscally devastating.
Some House Republicans opposed to the private school tuition assistance proposal are already paying political consequences. Reynolds this past week endorsed a primary election challenger to Rep. Jon Thorup, who has expressed his opposition to the bill.
And in other Republican primary races, political advocacy groups have invested in challengers to House Republicans who have expressed opposition to the bill.
Under the proposed legislation, Senate File 2369, up to 10,000 public school students from families at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible for scholarships to put toward private school costs. The state would shift a portion, roughly $5,300, of the state funding originally dedicated to that student’s public school into an account the family could use to help cover private school costs.
Some of those proposed program requirements were being negotiated as Reynolds tried to reach agreement with those holdout House Republicans. Legislators had considered reducing the number of scholarships available at first, lowering the income threshold to target the lowest-income Iowa families and establishing an enrollment level to make students from the state’s smallest schools ineligible from the program.
Reynolds has said if the bill does not pass this session, she will return to work on it again next year. But first, she must win re-election this November: Reynolds is being challenged by Democrat Deidre DeJear and Libertarian Rick Stewart.
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