HomeSchool Reform NewsGovernor Makes Education an Issue in Iowa GOP Primaries

Governor Makes Education an Issue in Iowa GOP Primaries

Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa endorsed Republican primary candidates aligned with her vision for education choice in the recent GOP primary elections.

Several Republican incumbents lost their seats to candidates who support education choice, after Reynolds campaigned with the challengers, KWWL reports.

Reynolds supports the Student First Scholarship bill, which would provide approximately $5,500 to families choosing to send their children to a school other than their assigned government-run public school. The proposal passed the Senate but did not garner enough votes to pass in the Iowa House, KWWL reports.

Some Republicans, particularly those from rural districts, oppose the bill because they fear the loss of taxpayer dollars from government-run local schools. Two years in a row the bill failed to pass.

“[Reynolds] has said she thinks families who can’t afford it should get the opportunity to send their kids to private schools if they feel their public school doesn’t align with their values,” writes Katarina Sostarik for Iowa Public Radio.

Rep. Dennis Bush (R), who opposes families’ right to school choice, lost the nomination for his House District 5 seat to Zachary Dieken, a candidate endorsed by Reynolds, Iowa Starting Line reported.

“I might as well come out and say it,” Bush told NW Iowa. “The governor is trying to use this election as a referendum for her voucher bill. I’m the only candidate running for the House of Representatives that is standing with our public schools. To paint all of our schools with the same brush is doing a disservice.”

Dieken says he supports school choice.

“School choice means Iowa parents have the power over their children, which is the way it should be,” Dieken told Budget and Tax News. “It means Iowa families can use their own money to decide what will help their child learn, not hope the government has their child’s best interest in mind—which it doesn’t.”

Dieken says current and retired educators have told him school choice is a good option because of the problems they see with the education system. Parents have a right to guide their children’s education, says Dieken.

“At the foundation of the whole matter is the fact that parents know what’s best for their children; the government doesn’t,” Dieken said. “It is important that we always leave the childrearing, and fundamental decisions that influence a young child, up to the parents and not the government.

“We have to remember there is no such thing as neutrality,” Dieken said. “The worldview of the state is being pressed down upon our children, and parents should have the right to pull their children away from that into a system they think is best.”

Dieken says children and parents both benefit when parents make decisions for their children.

“The benefit ultimately comes back to the power being in the hands of the parents,” Dieken said. “There is no incentive for any government school to do anything parents say, since there is no financial change if the student leaves. The children benefit from the competition that derives from the free market giving them options for education. Competition always breeds a better product.

“I believe this also shows these future adults that the power always resides in the people, not in systems or governments,” Dieken said. “Specifically, a child will benefit from school choice because rather than being forced into one option, i.e. a public school that is terrible, they might now have the option to go to a private school or homeschool because their parents can now more easily afford it.”

Newcomer GOP candidate Helena Hayes beat incumbent Dustin Hite (R-New Sharon). Reynolds endorsed Hayes, a stay-at-home mom, over Hite, an attorney and chair of the House Education Committee.

Hayes was also endorsed by The Family Leader, an organization whose mission is to “strengthen families, by inspiring Christ-like leadership in the home, the church, and the government.”

In the organization’s endorsement, Family Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats said, “Helena Hayes is a strong pro-life, pro-parent candidate. At no time in our recent history has it been more clear that parents need more involvement and more choice in their children’s education. Hayes is a champion of school choice, Gov. Kim Reynolds’ ESA plan, protecting children in schools from pornographic material, and increasing parental control of their children’s education.”

Heather Hora, a farmer from Washington, was victorious over Washington Mayor Jared Rosien. Neither candidate had the incumbent advantage, but Hora was endorsed by Reynolds. Rosien stated his opposition to any initiative that would weaken government-run public schools.

Hora campaigned with her entire family, making it an educational experience for her children along the way.

“We went to every town,” Hora told the Iowa City Press Citizen. “We knocked [on] the doors. We just did what we had to do. We just did it as fun, and we really looked at it as an opportunity to spend time together to learn the process.”

Hora said bringing her children as she campaigned may have demonstrated her commitment to education and her awareness of the problems with the public education system.

“I am a pro-family, pro-parent, pro-taxpayer candidate, and I think that’s just going to resonate,” Hora said.

In House District 53, two incumbent GOP candidates ran against each other because of redistricting. Dean Fisher (R-Montour), a Reynolds-endorsed candidate in favor of the voucher program, easily beat David Maxwell (R-Gibson), the anti-voucher representative.

Reynolds also endorsed Barb Kniff McCulla over incumbent Jon Thorp in House District 35. Kniff McCulla won, with the unofficial tally showing she received 70 percent of the vote and Thorp 30 percent, Yahoo News reports.

Larry Sand, president of the California Teacher’s Empowerment Network, says he sees the results in the Iowa primary as encouraging. In the 2020-2021 school year, 19 states created new school choice programs and 23 expanded existing programs, Sand notes.

“Parents in growing numbers have become pro-school choice,” Sand said. “The teacher-unions-orchestrated Covid lockdowns and the radical CRT agenda that is becoming normalized in traditional public schools are forcing parents to seek alternatives.”

During her reelection campaign this year, Reynolds has highlighted the fact that Iowa led the way in opening schools while other states mandated remote learning during the Covid pandemic.

“Despite what you hear from President Biden and liberal elites, the threats facing this nation aren’t from Canadian truckers, Joe Rogan’s podcast, or parents who care about their child’s education,” Reynolds said during her campaign announcement. “The threats come from politicians who tell parents they should sit down, be silent, and let government control their kids’ future, from elected officials who restrict your freedoms with COVID mandates that they don’t even follow, from a United States president who refuses to do his job and secure our border, who refuses to stop human trafficking, and who refuses to stop the staggering influx of deadly drugs that are pouring into our neighborhoods.”

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Eileen Griffin
Eileen Griffin
Eileen Griffin, MBA, Ph.D., is a contributing editor at Heartland Daily News and writes on a wide range of topics, from crime and criminal justice to education and religious freedom. Griffin worked for more than 20 years in leadership roles in the financial industry and is the author of books on business and politics.


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