Sieck, Costello Cast Contrasting Votes On Private School Bill

State Rep. David Sieck

State Sen. Mark Costello

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation into law Tuesday that will provide families nearly $7,600 per child to cover private school expenses.

The controversial Students First Act was passed by lawmakers  overnight on Monday without the support of nine Republicans in the House of Representatives, including David Sieck of Glenwood.

Sieck has publicly voiced his opposition to the legislation in the past and stuck to his word when it came to a vote Monday.

“If I’m voting my district, my district says they’re liking their public schools and I don’t have any private schools, so why would I change,” Sieck stated in an interview with The Opinion-Tribune on Sunday.

Reynolds made the legislation a top priority in her Condition of the State address on Jan. 10.

“I am thrilled that both the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate have passed the Students First Act and I look forward to signing it into law later today,” Reynolds stated early Tuesday morning. “For the first time, we will fund students instead of a system, a decisive step in ensuring that every child in Iowa can receive the best education possible.

“Parents, not the government, can now choose the education setting best suited to their child regardless of their income or zip code. With this bill, Iowa has affirmed that educational freedom belongs to all, not just those who can afford it.”

Opponents of the bill have argued that public tax dollars should be spent on public schools alone and the legislation will be harmful to school districts in rural areas of the state. Less than half of Iowa’s counties have private schools.

Sieck said his view on the matter has never wavered.

“When I first started running, I said all I have is public schools so I’ll always support them. That still stands today,” he said. “I don’t have anything (private schools) in my district. We’ve got St. Albert just outside of my district, which might gain in this. I guess they can take on another 100 kids, which is what I’m being told.

“I put my stake in the sand this summer and said, ‘Look, I’m not going to change my vote for this.’ You’ve already got open enrollment so why would you change your theory on it?”

Sieck said around 70 percent of the e-mail communication he received from residents of his legislative district was against passage of the legislation.

Mills and Fremont County’s representative in the state senate, Mark Costello, voted with the majority. He voiced his support for the legislation in a letter to constituents earlier this month.

“The governor’s bill gives parents those options by expanding school choice beyond just wealthy parents with the means to afford to pay taxes and school tuition. It means all parents have choice,” he said. “Her plan phases in low- and average-income families currently in a non-public school and kindergartners. It expands over the next few years to eventually include all families.”

Costello added, “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.”

The voucher program for private school families is projected to cost the state of Iowa more than $900 million over the next four years.

The Opinion-Tribune

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