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- Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposed Students First Act, which would allocate $55.2 million for students who transfer to private schools, passed the Iowa Senate and is now awaiting action in the House.
- House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst said the bill would benefit only 2 percent of Iowa’s K-12 students in public schools.
- With 10,000 vouchers available, only 2 percent of Iowa’s students would be granted a voucher under the bill, although some state money originally intended for a school district from where the student transfers will remain in the district.
Back in January, the opening of the Iowa legislative session was full of discussion about letting parents choose their children’s education. Since then, lawmakers took another step toward that goal when the Iowa Senate passed a school voucher bill known as SF 2369, the Putting Students First Act.
Prior to passing the bill, House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, sent a press release condemning the legislation. She said the voucher bill would hurt more students than it helps.
"If the bill is approved, only 2% of Iowa students would benefit while the rest of Iowa kids in public schools would end up losing opportunities," Konfrst said in the press release.
SF 2369 would create 10,000 vouchers to use for parents in the area to transfer their kids from their local public school to a private school of their choice.
Ron Robinson, Iowa’s Legislative Service Agency specialist on the bill, said that in order to apply for one of the vouchers, a student’s family must be 400 percent below poverty level, or have an Individualized Education Plan.
To pay for this, $55.2 million would be moved from Iowa’s general fund — the state’s main operating fund. Each student who uses a voucher would receive roughly $5,500, which is 70 percent of that state’s per pupil allocation, Robinson said.
The bill passed the Iowa Senate 31-18 on March 30 and has moved to the House.
We cannot gauge whether "the rest of Iowa kids in public schools would end up losing opportunities," because that is a prediction. But Robinson confirmed Konfrst’s statement that 2 percent of Iowa’s K-12 children will have a chance at vouchers. Only 10,000 vouchers would be available for about 485,000 school children in Iowa, he said.
However, other student funding generated from taxes and federal funds will remain in the district that the student leaves. According to the governor’s fact sheet, public schools will retain roughly $1,400 per pupil in property tax dollars for each student from that particular school district who uses a voucher to attend a private school.
After the Senate vote, Gov. Kim Reynolds sent a news release that said the state should create opportunities for more families to provide their children with the education choice best for them.
"The Senate made clear tonight that parents matter. Iowans want and deserve school choice and educational freedom for their children and I urge the House to get this across the finish line and send a bill to my desk," Reynolds said.
In fiscal 2021, the state’s general fund ended with a $1.24 billion surplus. The $55.2 million amounts to roughly 4.4 percent of the general fund.
Jennifer Konfrst stated that only 2 percent of K-12 students in Iowa would benefit from the Putting Students First Act that is moving through the Iowa Legislature. With about 485,000 school children in the state and only 10,000 vouchers available, she is correct.
We rate the statement True.
Press release from Iowa Rep. Jennifer Konfrst
Press release from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds
Daily Iowan/PolitiFact Iowa interview with Ron Robinson, Sr. Fiscal Legislative Analyst, on March 23
Office of the Governor of Iowa, "Providing Educational Choice and Transparency for Iowa Families"
Iowa Legislative Services Agency, Fiscal Services Division, "Fiscal Update Article", Sept. 27, 2021
Iowa Legislative Services Agency, "Education Omnibus Bill, Senate File 2369". Feb. 28, 2022
Iowa Department of Education, 2021-2022 Certified Enrollment by District, December 13, 2021
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