Reynolds pushes private school scholarships in response to Linn-Mar transgender policy

By: - May 5, 2022 2:07 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds said her private school scholarship plan would help families who “feel trapped” at public schools. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Gov. Kim Reynolds promoted her proposal to fund private school scholarships Thursday in response to a controversial new policy for transgender students in Linn County public schools.

The Linn-Mar Community School District voted last week to adopt a new policy allowing transgender students to use their preferred name, pronouns and facilities matching their gender identity. For students in seventh grade or older, the student’s preferences will take priority over their parents’ – allowing a transgender teen to attend school as their preferred gender, even if their family disapproves.

Reynolds and Rep. Ashley Hinson held a closed-door “listening session” with parents in Marion on Wednesday, KCRG first reported. Reynolds told reporters Thursday the meeting was “really informative.”

“As a parent, they were really concerned that the school district was eliminating them in the process,” she said. “You know, a parent has to sign off on a child to take an aspirin or go on a field trip. But yet, they’re implementing a policy that says the student – a seventh grader – will decide if a parent knows about (their gender identity) or not.”

Hinson tweeted Wednesday that parents at the meeting were “worried about being cut out of conversations & decisions regarding their kids at school.” Her two sons attend school in the Linn-Mar district.

“Bottom line: parents deserve to be informed, involved, and empowered when it comes to their child’s schooling,” Hinson wrote. 

Reynolds on Thursday tied the issue to her proposal to create state-funded scholarships for students to transfer from public to private schools. She suggested that policies like the one at Linn-Mar schools made parents and students “feel trapped” if they disagree but cannot afford to transfer to a private school.

“I think that’s one of the reasons I think parents need an option,” Reynolds said. “If they feel that their child is not being educated in a safe environment, or they feel that their values aren’t being represented at school, or they feel that the school district is not focused on a quality education.”

But Reynolds’ voucher proposal faces an uncertain future at the State Capitol. Negotiations have stalled between the governor’s office and House Republicans, many of whom refuse to support the private school scholarships.

Reynolds told reporters she continues to meet with families, educators, superintendents and lawmakers. She said stakeholders were making progress but “still have a lot of work to do.”

“I don’t have any illusion that … I’ve changed any of their minds, but I feel good to be able to have the opportunity to actually sit down at a table with them and have that conversation,” Reynolds said.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.