The Iowa Association of Christian Schools (IACS) applauds Governor Reynolds for highlighting Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) in her Condition of the State Address last week. We fully agree with her statement: “Let’s work together to make sure every child receives a quality education, regardless of income, and no matter their zip code.” We also agree with her that school choice and parental rights in education is not a zero-sum game. We stand ready to work with her and the legislature to ensure that every Iowa parent has the choice of a great public, private, or other education option that best meets their child’s needs.
To that end, we want to thank the Governor for submitting her education bill, starting a conversation on how best to meet that goal we should all share: a quality education for every child. As currently written, the bill is divided into eight “divisions,” and a couple of those divisions directly impact IACS member schools.
Division V expands the tuition and textbook tax credit. This tax credit has been in existence for many decades and benefits families utilizing public and private schools. We applaud the Governor for including this in her proposal.
Division I creates “students first scholarships” at a rate we estimate to be about half the per student dollar amount available to students who choose a charter school outlined in Division II of the bill. As written, these students first scholarships are only available to students residing within the boundaries of 34 schools in Iowa with the lowest classifications of performance based on federal ESSA standards. In essence, this limits choice based on zip code. IACS has consistently discouraged basing a family’s ability to choose an educational environment that best meets their needs based on “failing” schools or the actions of a third party in general. There are practical concerns about implementing a program of this nature along with the philosophical questions. We are hopeful that the Iowa legislature considers replacing this division of the bill with an ESA program that serves Iowans statewide based on a parent’s choice because we agree with the Governor that these programs should be offered “regardless of income, and no matter their zip code.”
Division IV creates a database we believe is unnecessary, doesn’t align with our accreditations, and that would require us to pay up to $7 per student to report to. We will be encouraging the legislature to amend or remove this division.
For these reasons, we are currently declared “undecided” on the bill as we work with the Iowa legislature to improve it. As soon as we see the changes we highlighted above, we’ll declare “for” the bill. We are hopeful and we are, again, extremely grateful to Governor Reynolds for introducing parental choice as an issue this year and the many legislators who have voiced their support of Iowa parents.
We do not currently have an action alert up on our website as things may change quickly but you are welcome to visit our website and email your legislators directly. Just scroll down and enter your zip code under “Find Officials.”
We may have a call to action soon and we encourage you to sign up for alerts using that same page on our website.
The Iowa Association of Christian Schools exists primarily to strengthen, grow, and advocate for Christian schools in Iowa. We are, however, supportive of every option and want to see public options and private options of all types succeed so all Iowa students get the education that is best for them. We have an amazing opportunity to empower parents AND support public school students this year. Let’s ensure all ships rise and keep students first in our discussions.
**Update – Jan 26** – We now have an action alert on our website and the bill number has changed to SF 159 (link above changed)