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The governor’s top priority this session is expanding educational choice and it was the first bill heard in committee this week. The room was packed, with both supporters and opponents.

Here are the provisions of her Educational Savings Account (ESA) bill:

  1. Parents who choose to enroll their child in an accredited private school will receive $7598 (if SSA is raised 2.5%), which is the amount of per pupil funds allocated annually by the state to use for tuition, fees, and other qualified expenses. The money will go into an account for the student.
  2. ESA’s will be available to students based upon the following eligibility:
    1. Year 1 – 2023-2024:
      1. All Kindergarten Students
      2. All Public  School Students
      3. Private school students at or below 300% Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is $83,250 for a family of 4
    2. Year 2 – 2024-2025:
      1. All Kindergarten Students
      2. All Public School Students
      3. Private school students at or below 400% FPL, which is $111,000 for a family of 4
    3. Year 3 – 2026-2026:
      1. All K-12 Students in Iowa, regardless of income
  3. School districts will have the flexibility to use unspent and ongoing funding from the special categorical funding streams received from the state-Teacher Leadership Compensation, Professional Development, Talented and Gifted, and Teacher Salary Supplement-as are needed for expenses in the district. Districts will be able to use this money as though it were part of their general fund. There is currently almost $100 million unspent in these funds and almost $250 million allocated to these funds each year.
  4. These special categorical funding streams for the public school will remain with the public school. It’s estimated that Iowa’s public schools will retain about $1205 worth of this special funding per student who resides in their district, yet chooses to attend a private school. This money is in addition to the property tax revenue schools currently receive for a student who resides in the school district, whether that student attends the public school or not.

Contrary to what I’ve heard, this is not a voucher program. Vouchers go straight to the school bypassing the family. With ESA’s, the money would go into an account for the student. The family would then decide what school to send their child. The money would follow the student to the school of the family’s choice, like it does for the Iowa Tuition Grant.

Why I Support It:  Each family and child is individual and unique, so the more options we can offer parents the better student needs will be met and the better education for all our students will be. That choice shouldn’t be limited to families who can afford it. All parents should have a choice regardless of zip code or income. Parents are the best ones to decide the educational setting for their children and the state should support that as the education of children affects the state’s future. One particular educational setting does not work for all students, whether it is public school, private school or homeschool. Sometimes students that do not thrive in one setting will thrive in a different setting. This legislation will further open the options for educational settings for students, ensuring more students will have the opportunity to thrive in a setting that fits them.

Author: Sandy Salmon



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