Fact Check | Checking claims in Iowa Gov. Reynolds’ sixth Condition of the State Address

Gov. Kim Reynolds introduced proposals that ensure school choice and parental involvement during her Condition of the State Address on Tuesday. Here are the facts behind the speech.


Jerod Ringwald

Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers a speech during the 2023 Condition of the State at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. At the end of Reynolds’ speech, she thanked supporters. “Thank you for the honor to serve as your governor,” Reynolds said. “God bless you, and God bless the great state of Iowa.”

PolitiFact Iowa is a project of The Daily Iowan’s Ethics & Politics Initiative and PolitiFact to help you find the truth in politics.

If your time is short:

  • During Gov. Kim Reynolds’s annual Condition of the State Address, she advocated for school choice, parental involvement, increased funding for the health care apprenticeship program, and increased penalties for fentanyl manufacture and distribution. 
  • Reynolds also highlighted previous accomplishments like low-income tax rates and reopening schools during the pandemic.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds described the state as a “beacon for freedom and opportunity” in front of the joint session of the Iowa House and Senate Tuesday evening, Jan. 10. 

Reynolds was ready to tout the state’s successes in implementing low-income tax rates and getting children back in the classroom during the pandemic in her annual Condition of the State Address.

But the ritual isn’t just for Iowa’s governor to highlight what they’ve accomplished. It was also the time for Reynolds to introduce where she wants to take the state in the new year. 

Reynolds introduced several proposals for the next legislative session, including:

  • Ensuring school choice and providing funding for parents who want to send their children to private schools. 
  • Loosening reporting requirements for schools to give schools more freedom when it comes to teachers’ salaries, flexibility to achieve their core mission, and taking advantage of dual enrollment. 
  • Promote parental involvement through the expansion of the MOMS program. 
  • Increase the funding from $3 to $15 million for the Healthcare Apprenticeship Program.
  • Increase penalties for the manufacturing and distribution of fentanyl.
  • Streamlining government positions by decreasing cabinet agencies from 37 to 16.

The Daily Iowan and PolitiFact Iowa fact-checked some of the claims made in Reynolds’ speech. 

“We’ve been recognized as the most fiscally responsible state in the country, we’re ranked in the top ten states to live in America, and we continue to be ranked the #1 state for opportunity.”

PolitiFact Iowa reported in a previous fact check that Reynolds’ administration managed to spend while cutting income taxes after the state left fiscal 2022 with a $1.91 billion surplus

In October 2022, the Cato Institute, the Washington, D.C. think tank, named Reynolds as the most fiscally responsible governor in the U.S.

The institute said in a statement from the Office of the Governor of Iowa that Reynolds was ranked the highest because she is dedicated to cutting taxes and high spending. 

The institute also said that this ranking is backed by Reynold’s push to end Iowa’s inheritance tax in 2021.  

“This, combined with her abolition of the state’s inheritance tax has earned her the #1 spot on this year’s report card,” the non-partisan Cato Institute said in the statement.

However, the U.S. News ranks Iowa as the 23rd state for fiscal stability.

Reynolds said on Tuesday that Iowa is ranked as a top ten state to live in America. U.S. News ranked Des Moines, Iowa as the 18th best place to live in 2022-23 in the U.S. and 12th overall as a state.

Iowa’s No. 1 rank in opportunity, according to U.S. News, is based on affordability, economic opportunity, and equality. Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Missouri follow Iowa’s top rank. 

“Florida spends $2,000 less per student and outperforms us in math and reading. Other states spend less, with the same results.”  

During the 2022 legislative session, Iowa House members approved a 2.5 % increase in spending per student in Iowa. In fiscal 2023, the state will spend $7,431 per student

In June 2022, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis approved his Freedom First Budget, raising the state’s per-student spending to $8,143, more than what Iowa currently spends per student. 

State-by-state per-student funding can be linked to students’ performance on standardized tests. In 2022, Iowa’s fourth-grade students scored an average of 240 in mathematics and in reading an average of 218. Florida’s fourth-grade students in mathematics scored an average of 240 and 224 in reading. 

Florida’s eighth graders scored an average of 271 in mathematics and 259 in reading while Iowa’s eighth-graders in mathematics scored an average of  277 and an average of 259 in reading. 

Although Iowa scored less than Florida, according to the National Assessment of Education Performance, Iowa’s students scored higher than the national average. 

Reynolds said on Tuesday Florida spends $2,000 less on education than Iowa when in reality Iowa spends $1,000 more per student. Despite investing more per student, Iowa was outperformed by Florida. 

“Studies show that without a father present, a child is more likely to have behavioral issues, live in poverty, and die in infancy.”

According to the Child and Family Research Partnership at the University of Texas in Austin, infants whose fathers are absent at birth are more likely to have health complications because the mothers are less likely to have been supported by fathers prenatally. 

Additionally, the report says, growing up without an involved father is linked to the likelihood that children will exhibit behavioral problems in school.

A peer-reviewed study from the Annual Review of Sociology reports that students without two parental figures in the home are less likely to be engaged in their studies. The study found evidence that a father’s absence negatively affects a child’s social-emotional development and can be more pronounced if the absence is experienced during early rather than in middle childhood. 

“Overdoses are up by more than 34%, and for Iowans under 25, they’re more than double. In 2021, illicit fentanyl was implicated in 83% of all Iowa’s opioid-related deaths.”

Reynolds asked the legislature to impose heftier penalties on the illegal manufacturing and distribution of Fentanyl, with even bigger penalties on sales that result in overdose deaths. 

Reynolds pointed to a recent epidemic of opioid overdoses over the past few years, according to the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services in 2019 there were 350 overdose deaths reported, and 471 reported in 2021, a 34 percent increase in total overdose deaths. 

The department also reported 20 overdose deaths in people 0 through 24 in 2019, while 44 overdose deaths were reported in 2022 in the same age group. 

The Centers for Disease Control reported similar results with 352 drug overdoses in 2019 and 471 reported in 2021. 

Reynolds said 83 percent of Iowa’s opioid-related deaths were due to fentanyl. According to the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Substance Abuse, in 2021 there were 258 deaths involving opioids and 213 deaths involving synthetic narcotics, the International Classifications of Diseases code for fentanyl and other synthetic opioid overdoses. 

Our Sources:

Iowa PBS, “2023 Condition of the State,” Livestream. 

Office of the Governor of Iowa, “Gov. Reynolds Delivers 2023 Condition of the State.” Jan. 10, 2023 

Iowa Capitol Dispatch, “House passes 2.5 % school fund increase”, Feb. 10, 2022 

Iowa Legislature, House File 2316, accessed Jan. 10, 2023

Florida Department of Education, “Freedom First Budget Provides Record Investments in Teachers, Students and Workforce Education,” accessed on Jan. 10, 2023 

Des Moines Register, “Iowa Republicans boost school funding by 2.5%, Democrats say it isn’t enough,”  Feb. 14, 2022 

The Daily Iowan, “Governor Reynolds touts math and reading scores ranking from national assessment,” Oct. 24, 2022 

The Nations Report Card, “2022 NAEP Mathematics Assessment,” accessed Jan 10, 2023 

The Nations Report Card, “2022 NAEP Reading Assessment,” accessed Jan 10, 2023

The Nations Report Card, “NAEP Reading: State Average,” accessed Jan. 10, 2023 

The Nations Report Card, “Florida Overview,” accessed Jan. 10, 2023 

The Nations Report Card, “Iowa Overview,” accessed Jan. 10, 2023 

PolitiFact, “State spending, school funding, abortion: fact-checking Iowa’s gubernatorial debate,” Oct. 18, 2022

Des Moines Register, “Why Iowa’s $1.91B surplus is cutting corporate taxes but not your income tax — yet,” Sept. 27, 2022 

Office of the Governor of Iowa, Gov. Reynolds named most fiscally responsible governor in the nation by Cato Institute, Oct. 12, 2022 

Office of the Governor of Iowa, Gov. Reynolds discusses historic tax reform bill at LBS, Feb. 2, 2022  

U.S. News, Iowa overall state ranking, accessed Jan. 10, 2023 

U.S. News, 25 Best places to live in the U.S., accessed Jan. 10, 2023 

U.S. News, Opportunity rankings, accessed Jan. 10, 2023

Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, “Iowa Substance Abuse Deaths, Number of Drug Involved Deaths,” Accessed on Jan. 10, 2023. 

Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, “Iowa Substance Abuse Deaths, Number of Deaths Involving Synthetic Narcotics,” Accessed on Jan. 10, 2023. 

Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, “Iowa Substance Abuse Deaths, Number of Deaths Involving Opioids,” Accessed on Jan. 10, 2023. 

Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, “ICD-10 Code Definitions,” Accessed on Jan. 10, 2023. 

National Vital Statistics System, “Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts,” Accessed on Jan. 10, 2023. 

National Center for Health Statistics, “Drug overdose Mortality by state,” Accessed on Jan. 10, 2023.