Hundreds gathered in person and online for the first subcommittee hearing on the governor’s latest “school choice” plan.

Governor Reynolds is proposing state-funded Educational Savings Accounts for low income parents who enroll their children in a private school over the next two years, but in the third year the parents of every Iowa private school student would be eligible for thousands of dollars in state money to cover private school expenses. Arlene McClintock says private school was out of reach when she was growing up and being bullied at school. She’s leading a group called Hispanics Aligned for Choice in Education Reform.

“One of the things that parents want to be able to provide for their kids is a safe learning environment,” she said. “That’s something that I wish that I had had growing up and it’s something that I want to provide for my children.”

The governor’s office estimates when fully implemented, the parents of about 40,000 private school students would be getting at least $341 million in state money annually to cover tuition and other private school expenses. Justin Hollinrake told the senate subcommittee sending that much state money to support private schools like likely weaken schools where his relatives live in rural Iowa.

“Ten years from now, is public school even going to be an option?” he asked. “Will schools even be open? Will private school be the only option?”

The newly-formed House Education Reform Committee will hold a public hearing on the bill on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

(By Grant Gerlock, Iowa Public Radio)

Radio Iowa