Iowa Governor Signs Groundbreaking School Choice/Mask Ban Bill

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

The slow march back to sanity made a pit stop in Iowa on Thursday morning.

Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill that bans masks in schools for faculty and students. The move comes as school boards across America begin wrestling with 2021-22 school year openings in the face of dropping COVID numbers and rising vaccinations.

But that march to sanity didn’t stop there. Perhaps equally or even more important, the anti-mask mandate was just one part of a larger bill that expands charter school access, tax credits and open enrollment. Banning masks (which many teachers say greatly hampers learning in the classroom, particularly among young students just learning sounds and literacy) and allowing parents and their children more educational options using their own tax dollars now puts Iowa at the forefront of putting the needs of students ahead of government.

House File 847 includes several elements of the governor’s original “Students First Act,” including the creation of a “flexible student and school support program” to help schools with innovation; expanded tax benefits teachers; a boost to Iowa’s Tuition and Textbook Tax Credit; and, an expansion of open enrollment eligibility. “We recognize the need for flexibility and choice in education, and this is part of Gov. Reynolds‘ Students First Act to help with those challenges,” said Rep. Holly Brink, R-Oskaloosa, the bill’s floor manager.

Governor Kim Reynolds calls the bill a great step in giving parents back “control” when it comes the education of their children.

“The state of Iowa is putting parents back in control of their child’s education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions,” Reynolds said in a statement. “I am proud to be a governor of a state that values personal responsibility and individual liberties. I want to thank the Iowa Legislature for their quick work in bringing this bill to my desk so that it can be signed into law.”

The mask amendment was not part of the original bill, but added at the last minute as lawmakers responded to growing concerns from parents across the state.

“This amendment comes from the citizens of Iowa,” Rep. Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon, said. “They come from my constituents, from your constituents — I’ve lost count of the number of emails, the number of messages, all of that that I have received on the topic.

 

HF 847 also bans Iowa counties and municipalities from instituting mask mandates moving forward.