Iowa school choice legislation making its way through House

Posted at 6:39 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 19:39:02-05

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Ia. (KMTV) - Legislation in Iowa is sparking controversy since it advocates for school choice, providing grants to students in 35 underperforming public schools to go to private schools with a $3 million price tag. It passed the Senate and is making its way through the House.

Lewis Central Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost is outspoken about his outrage, calling the legislation "frustrating." To him, the bill is not about choice, it opens the door to get public funds to pay for private education. He warns Iowa is on a slippery slope.

"If suddenly, parents with kindergarten students can choose this and I'm a parent with kids already in private schools in first grade, how is that fair?" Knost said. "Lawsuits would probably follow, there would be more legislation that follows."

State Rep. Brent Siegrist insists Iowa legislators are dedicated to funding public education.

"This bill that passed is only a $3 million impact, that in and of itself would be very, very minimal impact. We spend over $2 billion a year on public education in Iowa," Siegrist said.

Siegrist expects tension will remain on both sides of the aisle.

"Right now, not sure what the outcome is going to be, but the debate will continue this year and next year if nothing happens," Siegrist said.

Knost remains clear. He will never fully support the legislation, believing there is a better alternative.

"When a school is in need of comprehensive support and improvement, they don't need less funding, they need more funding," Knost said.

Siegrist says the legislation is in committee in the House. Right now, there's no consensus on the House side to move forward.