ESAs Fund Parents and Children
An ESA gives parents the choice to customize their child’s education and unique needs regardless of income, location, cost, special needs, or other barriers currently preventing choice. The funding goes to the parents for approved educational expenditures such as tuition, tutoring, therapies, or online learning.
Statewide polling consistently shows Iowans’ support for Education Savings Accounts hovers at or above 64 percent.
Do the ESAs take money away from public schools and fund private schools?
No. The grant goes to the parents who can then choose approved school options that best fit their children’s needs. Many studies have shown that school choice programs do not have a detrimental effect on public schools. There has not been a mass exodus from public schools when a widespread choice program has been implemented.
Why is an ESA needed in Iowa?
Education is not a one-size-fits all service. Giving parents and students choices is not a zero-sum game. All ships can rise as we make sure every child has access to the education that best meets their needs:
Parents should have the freedom to choose their child’s learning options.
ESAs give parents options to seek schools with smaller class sizes and more individualized teacher attention.
ESAs offer parents the opportunity to access schools with curriculums that better fit their needs (high level science, engineering and math).
ESAs should be available to all families regardless of income or special needs.
If parents choose to use an ESA grant to send their child to a faith-based school, doesn’t that violate the separation of church vs. state?
America has had a long history of allowing religious institutions to serve the citizenry. Parents have been allowed to send their children to religious pre-schools that the state funded, Medicaid patients can choose religious hospitals for care, and the GI bill from the early 20th century allowed the greatest generation to pay for tuition at religious colleges and even seminary. A number of recent court cases have all but ended the debate by striking down policies based on anti-religious bigotry or many state’s unfortunate “Blaine Amendments” in their constitutions. Funding parents and their choices is Constitutional.
Does the Governor’s 2021 (SF 159) Education Bill include ESAs for Iowa families?
Sort of. The bill, among many other things, establishes “Students First” scholarships. Similar to ESAs, the scholarship grants are available to students who attend a “failing” public school building. Currently on the Comprehensive (failing) list are approximately 34 schools in Iowa; including some in Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Dubuque, Davenport, Marshalltown, Waterloo.
The program would be administered by Dept. of Education. So far, we estimate two-three new students for each nonpublic school in the metro areas impacted. Maximum universe of students is approximately 10K students.
The program is very small, geographically limiting, and based on zip code. That’s why we are asking every Iowa parent to email their state representative (it already passed the Senate 26-21) and ask him/her to improve this portion of the bill to include current families and additional students statewide. We are also asking legislators to remove the duplicative, expensive, and over-reaching statewide database program in the bill (Division IV).