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Iowa Drive Is Opening Battle for School Choice

DES MOINES--When she was shopping for a school for her daughter Alma, Mary Kakayo found a lot to like in St. Theresa Catholic, including its Catholic social justice theme, student prayer and hour of religious instruction every day.

“Morally, my child knows how to respect others,” said Mrs. Kakayo, whose daughter is now in the fourth grade. “She knows when to listen, and when to talk and bring in her ideas.”

For Mrs. Kakayo and her husband, the best part may be that the school costs them only $85 per month. As it does for one-third of St. Theresa students, the state covers more than half of Alma’s $3,025 tuition in a program that resembles the Trump administration’s proposal for a federal private school choice plan.

But few topics in education are more controversial than the idea of diverting public money to private institutions, and Iowa has become a study in the kind of political fights that may be in store for the administration.

Despite Republican control of the governor’s mansion and both houses of the State Legislature, proposals to significantly expand...

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