(Des Moines, IA) State Representative Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights) has introduced a bill, HF 2090, that would create education savings grant fund that Iowa families can use to send their students to nonpublic school or provide competent private instruction. The amount for the educational savings grant given will be equivalent to the statewide foundation aid per pupil in the same year. The state foundation aid for FY 2014 is in the neighborhood of $5500.
“There are similar choice programs up and running in other states as well. In the Midwest, Indiana and Wisconsin have substantial and successful school choice programs.This works to advance freedom of choice in schools for all parents. Currently, only parents with adequate income have choice, while the current STO (school tuition organization) program is directed to lower-income families. This bill works to remove that inequity, and allow all families a choice,” Hagenow told Caffeinated Thoughts.
He said Arizona is the only state with a program like ths that is up and running, but their program only serves a few hundred students. Arizona’s “Empowerment Scholarship Accounts” currently only serves students who fall in the following student populations:
- A child with a disability
- A child of an active duty military parent
- A child who is a ward of the juvenile court and is residing in prospective permanent placement foster care
- A child who is a ward of the juvenile court and who achieved permanency through adoption
- A child who attended a letter grade “D” or “F” public school the prior school year–children eligible for Kindergarten must reside in a failing school’s boundary
HF 2090 does not list such criteria. Hagenow also said there are similar choice programs up and running in other states as well. He noted that Indiana and Wisconsin have substantial and successful school choice programs.
Qualified expenses through the program include: tuition and fees at a nonpublic school, textbooks, fees or payments for educational therapies such as tutoring or cognative training, curriculum fees and materials for a course of study for a particular subject or grade, tuition and fees for nonpublic online education, education services and materials for students with disabilities including paraprofessionals and assistants who are trained in accordance with state law, standardized test fees, higher education costs associated with competent private instruction, as well as, the purchase of a computer or tablet (provided one had not been purchased using grant funds in the preceding two fiscal years).
Hagenow also noted that there will be no additional regulatory burden placed upon accredited schools. The bill is co-sponsored by State Representatives Jake Highfill (R-Johnston) and Peter Cownie (R-West Des Moines).
Trish Wilger, the executive director for Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education, told Caffeinated Thoughts that she was pleased with the bill. “We know from recent polls that Iowans support school choice programs, including Education Savings Accounts. We are pleased to support a bill that responds to that desire, and offers true choice in education to all Iowa parents,” Wilger said.
“The Iowa Association of Christian Schools is proud to be a part of the school choice coalition in Iowa! We are happy to work alongside Iowa ACE (Iowa Alliance/Advocates for Choice in Education) as they lead our efforts to get ESA legislation passed in Iowa,” Brian L’Heureux, President for Iowa Association of Christian Schools, told Caffeinated Thoughts.
“We believe public policy in Iowa should respect the role of parents to direct their children’s education and believe that Education Savings Accounts are an innovative way to ensure that parents have the maximum number of options in a very simple and fair way. A recent statewide survey showed Iowans overwhelmingly support their public and private schools and also showed that a vast majority of Iowans support universal school choice for all parents. We’ll be working very hard to support this legislation along with other ideas that protect the role and mission of private schools in the State while further empowering parents and students,” L’Heureux added.
The bill is currently assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Representatives Greg Forristall (R-Macedonia), Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City) and Quintin Stanerson (R-Center Point).
Update: The bill has passed out of subcommittee and will be considered by the House Education Committee.