We have an action alert in our “Action Center!” Please email your Senator today and ask to see improvements to the Governor’s Ed Reform/School Choice Bill.
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)
The Iowa Association of Christian Schools (IACS) applauds Governor Reynolds for looking to empower parents in the education of their children. For the first time, we have a Governor willing to champion an effort that includes Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and other measures to ensure parents have access to choices that best meets their child’s educational needs: whether public, private, homeschool, or other educational service. For over seven years, we’ve been a part of a coalition of parents and schools that has introduced a number of ESA proposals and we stand ready to support efforts that simultaneously empower parents while preserving what makes each option unique and high quality.
In her address, Governor Reynolds mentioned her proposal would include a form of ESAs, charter school changes, and open enrollment reform. We agree with Governor Reynolds that “school choice is not a zero sum game.” We believe the legislature has a chance to ensure every option is adequately funded, supported, and empowers parents to make choices and have ownership over their family’s education. We look forward to working with the Iowa legislature to advance ESAs and ensure that whatever is considered and passed meets the needs of families looking for options and respects the diverse missions and role of Iowa’s private schools.
New this year to the IACS website is a bill tracking feature as part of our “Action Center” section available on the right side of each page.
Just click on the Action Center link from anywhere on our website and then click on “View Key Legislation” to see a selection of bills we are working on. Although it doesn’t include every bill we are following, it will give you an idea of the kinds of legislation IACS is tracking and working on.
Please contact us with questions!
One of the primary roles of parents is to be involved in and direct the formal education of their children. There are many ways to accomplish this but those without the income to access more than one option lack that basic, fundamental right. The best way we know how to ensure every parent has access to what is best for their child is through Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). ESAs will allow parents who choose not to enroll their children in a public school to receive a deposit of public funds into a savings account set up by the state. This money could be used by parents for private school tuition and some other education expenses including tutoring, giving parents the ability to customize their child’s education to meet his/her needs.
Iowa has increased public school funding annually, while maintaining school choice programs such as the School Tuition Organization tax credits. IACS supports the state’s commitment to public and non-public education. We are not advocating that parents wanting to utilize a non-public option be given every financial resource available to the public system. We are simply asking that the state allow a portion of those resources to follow the student to ensure every Iowa parent has every available quality option at their disposal.
School choice will not lead to money being “siphoned away from public education and given to private education providers.” No state or local funding for public schools would be diverted to this program. ESAs would be funded by a separate appropriation by the legislature.
Senate File 372 was introduced this week and has passed the Senate Education Committee’s subcommittee. It is now eligible for debate in the full Education Committee. We encourage you to contact members of the Senate Education Committee and Senate leadership in support of an ESA program which would be accessible to as many parents as possible. Rewrite the sample message in your own words and keep your comments positive.
Thank you for your willingness to engage on this issue!