Lawmakers’ decisions on the state budget and other high profile issues are apparently on hold. Governor Kim Reynolds continues to lobby for state-funded scholarships for 10,000 kids to enroll in private schools.
“That’s where I’m focusing all of my energy right now,” Reynolds said Wednesday.
The Republican-led Senate has passed the governor’s plan, but Reynolds does not yet have 51 Republican “yes” votes lined up in the Iowa House. The governor told reporters she’s fighting for every vote and isn’t interested in negotiating with legislators on other issues, like the Bottle Bill.
“T wish they’d focus on the kids. That’s what I’d wish they’d focus on. If I want to be honest, that’s what I’m talking to legislators about. It’s not the bottle bill,” Reynolds said. “I’m talking to legislators about the students and what I’m hearing from parents and what these kids are being subjected to. Let’s get back to the basics. Let’s teach math and reading and science.”
Reynolds said the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows public school students in Iowa are “falling behind” their peers in other states, with 68% of fourth graders reading at that grade level. Reynolds called that unacceptable.
“We need to do something different and, you know, this is a pilot program to see if it works and if it doesn’t, then we need to readjust, but we should not be afraid of trying something different,” Reynolds said. “It is not about the system. It’s about the kids!”
Members of the Iowa House and Senate get a daily allowance to cover expenses during the first 100 days of the legislative session. Those payments end next Tuesday. That yearly cut-off often triggers decision-making that leads to the conclusion of the legislature. Reynolds said state-funded scholarships for private school expenses will be at the top of her 2023 legislative agenda if they aren’t approved this year.
“I’m never going to give up on that,” Reynolds said.
Republicans who are reluctant to support the governor’s private school initiative say small public schools in rural Iowa have tight budgets now and could see another drop in state funding with a shift to more state support of private schools.