Last week the Senate Education and Appropriations committees passed Senate File 94, commonly known as the Students First Act. Governor Reynolds spoke at length about this bill in her Condition of the …
Last week the Senate Education and Appropriations committees passed Senate File 94, commonly known as the Students First Act. Governor Reynolds spoke at length about this bill in her Condition of the State speech last week. The bill has been the primary topic in the Iowa Senate over the first two weeks. After passing both committees the bill is now eligible to be debated by the full Senate.
The Students First Act empowers all parents and students to choose the public or non-public school to best fit their educational needs. It establishes an Educational Savings Account (ESA) for parents to pay for private school tuition, tutoring or other non-public school related expenses. The plan phases-in over a three-year period. Once fully implemented all students will be eligible for an ESA. Currently, only families with significant financial means are able to afford to pay their income, sales, and property taxes while also paying thousands of dollars per year in private school tuition. This bill opens school choice to low- and middle-income families as well.
The governor’s bill also includes over $1,200 per student in new funding for public schools with resident students attending a non-public school. Public schools will keep their property tax revenue and they will receive an estimated $1,200 for each resident student opting for private education with an ESA. SF 94 also creates an opportunity for nearly a hundred million dollars statewide, currently unused in restricted accounts in public schools, to be used to raise teacher pay.
Experiences in other states with substantive school choice programs show improved student achievement in both public and non-public schools. Eleven peer-reviewed studies show improved achievement from students in private schools, and 25 studies show improved achievement from students in public school in states with school choice programs. Furthermore, students in rural schools also see improved achievement. Arizona, a state with one of the most expansive school choice programs in the country, saw rural students improved by 21 points between 2007-2019 compared to a national rural decrease of two points.
Some critics say school choice will take funding away from public schools. This claim is quickly countered by the record of increases for K-12 schools over the last several years. Since 2017, cumulative increases in K-12 spending is roughly $1.5 billion. Next year, Iowa schools are expected to receive over $17,000 per student, for an average of over $340,000 for a classroom of 20 students, and a total of $8 billion statewide from all sources.
I have three children currently enrolled in and will continue to attend public school because I love our school and it is what is best for our family. I believe a vast majority of Iowa students will continue to choose public school. Through school choice, we are offering an option for what education is best for the student. I want to make sure that every child gets the education they deserve to make them successful in the future. I appreciate my constituents from District 46 reaching out to me on this topic and will consider everyone’s opinion and concerns before I vote. As always, do not hesitate to contact me with any other concerns you have on this piece of legislation or any other piece of legislation we are working on in the legislature.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here