Capital Clicks

Conservative Iowa PAC launches six-figure ‘school choice’ ad buy

By: - January 9, 2023 11:34 am

Gov. Kim Reynolds accepts an award from St. Theresa Catholic School Principal Ellen Stemler on Feb. 15, 2022 during a visit to the Des Moines school. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Priorities for Iowa, a conservative political action committee, launched a six-figure ad buy across Iowa in support of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ “school choice” legislation.

The group announced a new ad Monday featuring the governor in a classroom, discussing the need to give parents more choices for their children’s education. One of the governor’s priorities heading into the 2023 legislative session was passing her private school scholarship bill into law, after it failed in the Iowa House the past two years.

Some critics said the legislation was taking away money from the state’s K-12 public school system, but Reynolds defends her plan in the ad by saying the state government has increased school funding by more than $1 billion since 2012.

“But money alone isn’t the solution,” Reynolds said in the ad. “Parents also need choice to send their kids to whatever school is best for them, regardless of income or ZIP code.”

Reynolds’ proposal would provide state funds for tuition and other expenses to public school students seeking to attend private schools. Under previous legislation, the public school that student formerly attended would lose its per-pupil state funding, a controversial move among some conservatives representing rural districts which do not have private schools within their boundaries.

Some of the GOP legislators who opposed the private school scholarship proposal were unseated by challengers in Republican primaries in 2022. Heading into the third year of debate on this plan, Republican leaders are emphasizing that the proposal does not mean that public school systems will not receive support.

The House’s new Education Reform Committee will take up private school scholarships in 2023. House Speaker Pat Grassley said there is no final language on the program yet, but that he believes they will reach legislation that meets Iowa’s educational needs.

“I, quite frankly, think that this can be done in a way that’s good, to give more choice to parents, support those that want to send to an alternative path,” Grassley told the Iowa Capital Dispatch. “But also, we can do this in a way that will support public education as well.”

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.