Reynolds signs voluntary diversity ban into law, extends open enrollment for five districts

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers the Condition of the State address in the House Chambers at the Iowa Capitol Building on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (Pool photo by Bryon Houlgrave/Des Moines Register)

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law Monday afternoon that bans voluntary diversity plans at Iowa schools.

School districts will no longer be able to restrict open enrollment to promote diversity at an institution. The change will affect five school districts: Des Moines, Davenport and Waterloo, which have socioeconomic metrics of diversity, and West Liberty and Postville, where English language learners are considered.

The bill takes effect immediately. The March 1 open enrollment deadline is waived for students in those five districts who want to transfer before this fall.

A nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency analysis of the bill estimated that over 500 students would choose to leave those five districts and choose new schools for the 2021-2022 school year. That would mean a funding dip for the districts, as the state appropriates money based on the number of students enrolled.

Des Moines schools could lose $2.6 million next year, the LSA predicted. Davenport schools could lose nearly $700,000. Bill leader Rep. Dustin Hite said on the House floor the loss would be minor for large school districts like Des Moines Public Schools.

“Our education should be about the kids,” Hite, R-New Sharon, said, “And not about the school districts themselves.”

Among other bills Reynolds also signed into law:

  •  A bill that allows third-party companies to deliver wine, beer and liquor in Iowa. The change comes less than a year after the Legislature passed a bill to allow restaurants and bars to offer alcoholic beverages, including cocktails, for carryout.
  • A bill to allow parents to teach driver’s education to their children.
  • A bill to allow Iowans to bring a civil case against someone who makes a harmful false report against them.