Iowa is Third State to Enact Broad School Choice Law
Families Will Get $7,598 in an Education Savings Account
“For the first time, we will fund students not systems!” – Gov Kim Reynolds
“What an amazing day for our children!”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was ecstatic Tuesday as she signed into law a seismic education plan three years in the making.
“What an amazing day for our children!” she exclaimed to a crowd of children, parents, lawmakers and other supporters gathered in the Iowa Capitol rotunda. Parents, not the government, can now choose the education setting best suited to their child regardless of their income or zip code. Iowa has affirmed that educational freedom belongs to all!”
Surrounded by private school students, Reynolds, a Republican, inked her signature on a law that will allow any Iowa family to use taxpayer funds to pay for private school tuition — at a cost of $345 million annually to the state once fully phased in.
The Legislative Services Agency’s analysis predicts 14,068 students will be enrolled in the program in fiscal year 2024, its first year. That includes an estimated 4,841 students who would transfer from a public school to a nonpublic school.
By fiscal year 2027, the agency expects 41,687 students in Iowa to receive education savings accounts to pay their private school costs. Over that time, the agency projects enrollment in public schools to drop from 486,476 in fiscal year 2024 to 475,207 in fiscal year 2027.
The sweeping legislation represents Reynolds’ third — and most ambitious — attempt to pass some form of “school choice” legislation, a push that has been mirrored in other Republican-led states.
You can read the full account from the Des Moines Register here.
“This is one of the best vehicles for providing families with more options, since parents can use the ESAs (education savings accounts) for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, curricular materials, special-needs therapy and more. We’ve already seen success from ESAs in Arizona,” said Jason Bedrick, a research fellow in the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation. Republicans made use of their expanded legislative majorities to muscle the latest version of the legislation into law by just the third week of the session. Opposition from Democrats has been fierce.
Reynolds touted the law’s benefits for families, saying Iowa will be “funding students instead of a system.”
“Public schools are the foundation of our educational system, and for most families, they’ll continue to be the option of choice. But they aren’t the only choice. And for some families, a different path may be better for their children,” she said, drawing a few scattered murmurs of “amen” from the crowd.
When the law is fully phased in by the 2025-2026 school year, every Iowa family will be eligible for the program.
The law also allocates $1,205 to public schools for each student within the district who uses the state funds to attend private school and allows public schools to use funding more flexibly to raise teacher pay.