i9 Fact Check: Gov. Reynolds claims 200-300 students left Linn-Mar after transgender policy

Governor Reynolds spoke to a well-known conservative group in Washington D-C, with a focus on fiscal policy and education.
Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 5:28 PM CST
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MARION, Iowa (KCRG) - Governor Reynolds spoke to a well-known libertarian group in Washington D-C, with a focus on education, and made a claim connecting enrollment numbers and an Iowa school district’s transgender policy.

Claim: “The one school where they took the parents out of their child’s education, they have had, and it’s a larger school, they’ve had between 200 and 300 have already made the decision to leave that school district and go to another.”

Source: Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds speaking in a forum on state policy with the CATO Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Analysis: Though Governor Reynolds does not specify the district, it is clear from her answers she is referring to Linn-Mar.

“We’ve had school boards that have said a 7th grader can decide if they share information with the parent about pronouns or changes in names or whatever that may be, completely taking the parent out of the child’s education,” Reynolds said moments before making her claim.

Governor Reynolds has been a vocal critic of Linn-Mar’s transgender policy, enacted last year, that allows the school to develop a gender affirmation plan for students who are transgender to go by different pronouns or names or use different facilities. The plan says the staff would not involve parents without the student’s permission to do so in order to create a safe space for that student. Shortly after the policy passed, Governor Reynolds along with Congresswoman Ashley Hinson, who’s kids attend Linn-Mar, held a private meeting with parents to push for the Governor’s voucher plan.

Reynolds references open enrollment policies when making her claim that 200-300 students left Linn-Mar since its transgender policy was approved in April 2022, a process that lets a student living in one school district attend school in a different district. According to certified enrollment data from the Iowa Department of Education, Linn-Mar saw the highest number of students open enroll out of the district in its history this school year. 838 students are enrolled in a different public school district in 2022-23 compared to 691 2021-22, a difference of 147 students. Linn-Mar also saw a drop in students open enrolling in from a different school district, falling to 595 this school year, the lowest since 2016-16 and a decrease of 70 from the previous school year.

Linn-Mar Certified Enrollment (Source: Iowa Department of Education)


Conclusion: Combined, open enrollment in and out of Linn-Mar decreased by 217 this school year, the first after it approved its policy for transgender students. That represents about 3.2% of the district’s total certified enrollment.

However, the total enrollment for the district declined by just 42 students, meaning it isn’t clear how much of the 217 decrease in open enrollment is due to families leaving the district. With the population of Linn-Mar’s area growing, some of the open enrollment change may be due to more families moving into the district and either no longer needing to open enroll in or wanting to open enroll out to their previous district from which their family moved. And while we know of individual families that decided to pull their children from Linn-Mar because of its transgender policy, the data does not include a reason for open enrollment decisions so it is unclear how much of it is due to the transgender policy.