Administrators respond to Iowa school choice bill

The new law would allot families about $7,500 a year for private school tuition.
A school-choice law is garnering mixed reactions in Iowa.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 5:32 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - When Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the state’s school choice bill into law, it set off a public-private school war in the eastern part of the metro.

“Council Bluffs School District and Dr. Murillo has put them in a really good place, and they’ve grown since she’s been here,” said Larry Gray, executive director of Heartland Christian School in Council Bluffs.

“Really, they’re all our kids,” said Council Bluffs Community School District superintendent Dr. Vickie Murillo. “We should be working together to support all families and all students.”

Dr. Murillo is still trying to figure out the new school choice law, and how the vouchers are going to work -- but she does have a personal opinion.

“I do believe that public dollars should go to public schools, and I think that the challenging piece of this is going to be how do we continue funding public schools,” Murillo said.

Dr. Murillo said Iowa already has a school-choice program in place, and having students transfer out of different schools around the district would upset the student-teacher balance.

“I think that’s the misconception is that we are chasing dollars,” Dr. Murillo said. “We’re not chasing dollars in public schools. What we’re looking to do is ensure we can provide a high-quality educational experience for all students, no matter where you live in the state of Iowa.”

There are some private schools that are more interested in how the new law will help current families.

“For our families that are here that aren’t especially high in income, that work hard to put their kids here, look for scholarships or things of that nature to us, is an answer to prayer for them,” Gray said.

Gray says growth would be good for his school, but he says he does not want to add extra backpacks and coats and make classes too big. And most importantly, they will not sell the mission of their school for state vouchers.

“And a part of that mission is the convictions we have with the Word of God, and that’s number one to us and it always will be,” Gray said.

Right now, both sides are still trying to figure out exactly what comes next after the ink dries on Iowa’s new school-choice law.

The law will completely phase in over three years, allowing Iowa families a little more than $7,500 per year for private school tuition, costing the state almost $345 million a year.