On Monday evening, the House and Senate voted on the historic piece of legislation known as the “Students First Act” (HF 68/SF 94). Governor Reynolds then signed it on Tuesday morning (pictured above).
It was exciting to be a part of the debate and voting process for this bill.
What does the Students First Act accomplish? Here are a few points to note:
1. Establishes Education Savings Accounts
An Education Savings Account is an account designated in the state treasury for one specific child, into which the State of Iowa will deposit around $7,600 per school year. The money in this account can be used for what is classified as “Qualified Educational Expenses,” including tuition and fees at an accredited non-public school, textbooks, fees or payments for educational therapies, and other expenses. (See Page 3 of the bill for the full list.)
2. Provides More Funding For Public Schools
Some folks have been concerned that money given to families who choose to send their children to a private school will result in less funding for public schools. In actuality, the Students First Act allocates MORE funding to public schools by changing the way students in any particular district are counted for district enrollment. Under the previous code, students who moved away from a public school to a different option would no longer be counted as part of the district. With the new policy, students who receive an ESA (Education Savings Account) in a certain district will count toward the total number of students. This allocates around $1,200 per student in the ESA program per Fiscal Year to the public school district in which they reside. (See Page 2 of the Bill for more details)
3. Increases Flexibility for Public School Funds
Also new in this legislation is increased flexibility for how school districts can spend their money. Right now, the State earmarks school districts’ budgets for specific programs and some of those dollars go unspent. The Governor’s proposal will allow school districts to use these unspent funds to increase teachers’ salaries as well as other special programs.
To view the full Bill, click here.
The Dept. of Education has created a web page with all the current information about ESAs including how to apply. This is a helpful resource!