‘Not about public versus private schools,’ Gov. Kim Reynolds pushes ‘School Choice” bill during Condition of the State address

Gov. Kim Reynolds delivered the 2023 Condition of the State Address on Jan. 10 from the Iowa State Capitol. Reynolds praised the state’s “strong foundation,” before announcing her education reform plans.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, during her Condition of the State Address on Tuesday, said early on “we could already see keeping schools closed” during the Coronavirus pandemic had “terrible consequences” for children, but she said Iowa was first to return to in-person learning.

“We ignored the hysteria, and our kids are better for it,” she said.

Iowa. Gov. Kim Reynolds
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. Photo courtesy of the governor’s office.

Reynolds said her first priority this legislative session is making sure every child is provided with a quality education that fits their needs. She announced a comprehensive education reform package to applause.

“This is no small feat, and it will take all of us, and it will involve multiple efforts,” she said.

“It is not about public versus private schools,” she said. “If that’s how you want to frame it, if you want to pretend this is a war between two different school systems, then you’re not focused on our children.”

During the address, Reynolds, who has been governor since May of 2017, said every parent should have a choice on where to send their child. She has pushed school reforms for several years.

“And that should not be limited to families who can afford it,” she said, of the new proposal.

In her “School Choice Bill,” the state would contribute $7,598 to an education savings account, among other reforms, allowing parents more educational choices, she said. That’s the amount of funding the state provides for each child who attends public school, she said. The plan would be phased in, she said.

“And in three years, every family will have a choice in education and no child will be limited by income or zip code,” she said.

Democratic leaders have decried Reynolds’ proposals.

“The agenda offered tonight by Gov. Reynolds is full of promises and paybacks for the ultra-rich, big corporations and out-of-state interests trying to impose their will on our state,” Iowa Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said, in a statement. “But it offers almost nothing for Iowa’s middle-class families.”

“Iowans did not give the governor a mandate to defund public education and weaken our community schools. Iowans did not give Republicans a mandate for more giveaways to the ultra-rich or culture wars that pit us against each other,” Wahls said. “Governor Reynolds’ speech tonight badly misread the needs of our state and the priorities of the folks she was elected to represent.”

“Senate Democrats are ready to set aside the ideological agendas, skip the special interest giveaways, and serve the needs of everyday Iowans,” Wahls said. “We hope Gov. Reynolds will join us.”

In other priorities, Reynolds, calling Iowa a “pro-life state,” said she had fought hard in the courts to make sure “this legislative body” can “protect the unborn.”

Reynolds said this is the year tort reform must be enacted to stop the “out of control verdicts” that are driving OB-GYN clinics out of business and medical school graduates out of the state. Reynolds said Iowa is in the minority of states that don’t protect their health care systems by placing reasonable caps on non-economic damages.

Reynolds also said she wants the legislature to increase penalties for manufacturing and distributing fentanyl in any amount. She said first responders should have access to Naloxone to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.

Reynolds also laid out plans to streamline and shrink the number of government agencies, among other priorities.

Here are Reynolds’ prepared remarks from the governor’s office.

This story was updated at 11:11 p.m.

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