Superintendent says Iowa governor wanted him to lobby state lawmakers on school voucher bill

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) — A rural superintendent in Iowa said he believes Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) wants school officials to push lawmakers to pass the brief 2369 of the Senate, commonly referred to as the School Voucher Bill.

The push occurred during a meeting in April between the governor and about six other rural superintendents, according to MMCRU Superintendent Dan Barkel. Barkel, who said he was at the meeting, said he was surprised the governor was trying to get local districts to advocate for a policy they told lawmakers could hurt. to public schools.

“It told me how much she wanted this to pass,” he said. “And we were all surprised at how much of a priority that is for her.”

Barkel said the governor’s point was that the vouchers would improve Iowa schools because they create a more competitive environment. He said she used different data points from a brochure, in a 30-minute meeting.

“It gave test results from a test that, quite honestly, most school districts don’t pay much attention to,” Barkel said. “If we know that particular assessment was going to be the report card if we had any good ones or not. Man, I’m sure we’d pay attention to this rating.

Heather Nahas, who works in public relations for the governor’s office, said Governor Reynolds has had more than a dozen private meetings with stakeholders about a school voucher bill since December 2021. She said those meetings included school administrators, parents, teachers and students. .

The bill shifts public funds to private schools through scholarships, where those who qualify would have a household income below 400% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, the maximum a family can earn to qualify is $106,000.

In this case, 70% of the funding per student, or approximately $5,300, would be deposited into an “education savings account” that the family could spend on tuition at private schools, home or other eligible education expenses. The remaining 30% would stay in the state to be reallocated to smaller, often rural school districts.

Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed Barb Kniff McCulla over current Deputy Majority Leader Jon Thorup, who plans to vote against the school voucher bill, in House District 37’s Republican primary on Wednesday. Thorup said he hadn’t heard of Reynolds before the approval and believes it has to do with his lack of support for the school voucher bill.

A spokesperson for McCulla’s campaign said McCulla would support any bill if it gave parents more choice about a child’s education in a text message.

Pat Garrett, spokesperson for Kim Reynold’s campaign, said McCulla would help establish a pro-parent agenda, which includes parental choice in education.

Megan Goldberg, who is a political science professor at Cornell College and a KCRG-TV9 political analyst, said the endorsement is a signal to other Republicans about the consequences of voting against the governor. She also said the party and governor could also take fewer public actions, such as sharing consultants, data or any other campaign resources with the main challengers rather than the incumbents.

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