Iowa Republican governor signs sweeping school choice bill

For decades, conservative have fought to establish school choice programs as an alternative to the public education system.

According to Fox News, Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds scored a major victory in that fight earlier this week. 

Bill phases in over three years

The network noted that Reynold signed a piece of legislation on Tuesday called the Students First Act. Under its provisions, any Iowa student is permitted to use public funds to pay for private schooling. A press release on the governor’s official website explains that the bill has three phases.

Eligibility in the 2023-2024 school year is limited to private school students with household incomes at or below 300% of the federal poverty level.

Students with household incomes at or below 300% of the federal poverty level will be eligible for funding in the 2024-2025 school year while all students will become eligible thereafter.

Reynolds touted the legislation in a tweet on Thursday, declaring, “For the first time, we will fund students not systems!”

Governor: “Educational freedom belongs to all”

“Parents, not the government, can now choose the education setting best suited to their child regardless of their income or zip code,” she insisted, adding, “Iowa has affirmed that educational freedom belongs to all!”

Jason Bedrick is a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, and he voiced praise for the Students First Act.

“This is one of the best vehicles for providing families with more options, since parents can use the ESAs (education savings accounts) for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, curricular materials, special-needs therapy and more.

Arizona bill established education savings accounts

American Federation for Children senior fellow Corey DeAngelis was impressed as well, telling Fox News that while “Iowa is the third state to pass universal school choice, it is the state with the heaviest foot on the accelerator.”

“Although Arizona was the first state to pass school choice for all families last year, their program had been around for over a decade,” he continued.

“Gov. Reynolds just signed into law a program that includes most families in its first year and automatically expands to all families after two years.”

Fox News noted that the Students First Act comes in the wake of legislation signed last year by former Gov. Doug Ducey which established education savings accounts.