The Weekly Rocket by Senator Rocky De Witt
The gavel has fallen and the 2023 session of the 90th General Assembly has begun. This week, we welcomed a total of fourteen new members to the Iowa Senate. Along with the new members, the Senate also elected Senator Amy Sinclair as the Senate President, making her only the fourth female to be sworn in as Senate President in Iowa history. In addition to the new legislators, we spent time with organizations from all over the state, visiting with constituents, business owners, and school groups.
A lot of work is ahead of us, but I am ready to get started and work on the important issues affecting Iowans all across the state. As bills get drafted, filed, and moved through the legislative process, please feel free to reach out with questions, comments and concerns. It is a pleasure to serve you in the Iowa Senate, and I appreciate hearing from each of you.
Historic Tax Bill Starts to Take Effect
Last year, Republicans in the legislature passed a transformational tax bill for Iowa. It had a number of important reforms for the state, including implementing a 3.9 percent flat tax for all Iowans, reducing the corporate tax rate, and providing farmers with a first-time pension exemption. This bill was such an important piece of legislation for families, small business owners, farmers, and Iowa taxpayers, but there is still much to do.
Governor Reynolds Releases School Choice Bill
This week Governor Reynolds released her school choice bill. School choice has been a priority for her for several years. She boldly led on the issue during the election and voters resoundingly reelected her. During the pandemic many parents developed concerns about the children’s education, virtual or hybrid learning, and the curriculum and content available in their children’s schools. They wanted options to address those concerns.
The governor’s proposal also includes more than $1,200 per student in new money to the resident school district of any student in a private school that has an education savings account. This money is in addition to the property tax revenue schools currently receive for a student who resides in the school district, whether students are attending a public school or not. This new funding is in addition to the half a billion dollars in new money allocated to K-12 schools since 2017. Transportation equity funding has also helped rural schools address their high transportation costs.
Critics say school choice will be of no benefit to rural areas, while also reducing the number of students in rural schools. First, those claims are mutually exclusive. Rural areas cannot simultaneously receive no benefit of choice and also incur a substantial loss of students. Secondly, experiences in rural areas in states with robust school choice programs have seen an expansion of options in rural areas. I, in fact all of us in the legislature, receive a lot of emails in support of, and opposition to this proposal. There will be a lot of careful consideration on both sides of the aisle.
The goal of education is to prepare students for their careers and improve student achievement. Many studies over the years have demonstrated improved test scores in students participating in a private school option. Even more studies have shown positive academic outcomes in public schools in states with school choice programs. These studies have shown school choice provides value by improving quality, and in the case of education, student achievement.
Thanks for tuning in to The Weekly Rocket… more to follow.