Why I voted for school choice

By Dawn Driscoll
Posted 2/1/23

This week the Senate and House both passed the Students First Act. Governor Reynolds introduced this bill after her Condition of the State speech. She has led on this issue for years and made it a …

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Why I voted for school choice


This week the Senate and House both passed the Students First Act. Governor Reynolds introduced this bill after her Condition of the State speech. She has led on this issue for years and made it a priority in her campaign, a campaign she won by nearly 20 percent. My decision to support this bill was not made without lots of consideration and without consultation from members of District 46. I tried to look at this piece of legislation from all angles before making my decision on how to vote. I considered my constituents’ opinions and concerns when voting on this piece of legislation. I appreciate everyone reaching out to me with their opinions—this allowed me to gain insight as to the concerns and the misunderstandings of what the bill does. I also spent last Friday afternoon on a Zoom meeting with superintendents in the district to give them the opportunity to express their concerns about the bill. Governor Reynolds’s staff was also on this Zoom in order to fully discuss what the bill entailed and explain the common misunderstandings that the public had on the bill. 

The Students First Act creates an Educational Savings Account (ESA) for Iowa families to use to access a non-public school. This amount is equal to state funding provided to public schools. For next year it will be approximately $7,600. It will be available in the first year of implementation to incoming kindergarten students, students currently in public schools, and families with income of less than 300% of Federal Poverty Level. The program expands by year three to include all families. 

One comment frequently made about the Students First Act is private schools are not accountable. This claim is easily debunked by the reality that private schools have the same accreditation standards used by public schools or by another accreditation system approved by the Iowa Department of Education. Students using an ESA to attend a non-public school are tested and evaluated in the same way students in a public school are tested, and those results are compiled and reported in the same way. Even more than the accreditation standards and testing, non-public schools have the very real and practical accountability realized by the presence of choice. The private school is fully accountable to their parents and wholly motivated to provide a product parents find acceptable, because if they don’t, parents can simply choose another option. It’s the same simple principle used in nearly every other transaction in American life, and it has created the most successful economy in the history of the world.

My children currently attend and will continue to attend public school in Williamsburg. I want every child in Iowa to have the opportunity to excel in the environment best suited for them and the Educational Savings Account (ESA) legislation is a huge step in providing choice to parents and flexibility to schools all at the same time. I was once told “comfort was the enemy of progress” and with this bill you will see that all students and schools will benefit. 

The communications I received on this topic were really important and I appreciate my constituents taking the time to reach out with their questions and concerns. I spent the week responding to emails from my constituents in order to clear up any concerns and/or misunderstandings anyone might have. Please keep in contact as the session moves forward with your thoughts on the issues and legislation before the Senate.


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