The House Rules Committee. (RI photo)

The governor’s bill to establish state funded accounts for the parents of private school students will bypass the House committees that review spending and tax issues.

House Speaker Pat Grassley said he created the new, five member Education Reform Committee to review and then advance the bill to a vote in the House — so it didn’t get blocked in a committee.

“For two sessions now that has been the case,” Grassley said during a meeting of the House Rules Committee. “We feel that Iowans have an expectation, whether you support it or you don’t, that a committee procedure should not be the reason you don’t get to see where the legislature stands.”

Groups that represent educators, administrators and public school districts object to having the plan skip traditional committee review. Margaret Buckton, a lobbyist for the Rural School Advocates of Iowa and the Urban Education Network, said the normal process gives the public time to understand and comment on bills, “and legislation this year coming out of the Ed Reform Committee is likely to have a significant impact on the state budget, somewhere in the neighborhood of $300-$400 million annually.”

Grassley said the five-member House Education Reform Committee will have open debate of the tax and spending implications of the plan and the panel is holding a public hearing tonight at the statehouse.

“House Republicans are being as transparent, in fact what beyond what even the rules would call for in the Education Reform Committee process, so I don’t want this to be an argument (about) trying to hide anything or sneak anything through,” Grassley said.

House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst said changing the rules for Republican Governor Kim Reynolds’ top legislative priority is wrong. “Frankly, we’re supposed to be an independent body that doesn’t work for the governor and if the governor wants to push this through, she can do that,” Konfrst said. “This is not our role to rush this through for anyone else.”

Tonight’s 90-minute public hearing on the governor’s “school choice” plan begins at 5 p.m. Members of the public will be given up to two minutes each to address the committee.

Radio Iowa