education savings accountsLast week I supported another step toward meaningful education reform by offering legislation that puts parents in the driver’s seat of their student’s education. Education savings accounts (ESAs) let parents choose where to send their child; a public school district, charter, nonpublic, or home school. They would receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts with restricted, but multiple, uses. Those funds could be utilized to cover public or private school tuition and fees, private instruction, tutoring, and training.

This amendment was an attempt to level the playing field when it comes to educational opportunities in the state. The language allowed Education Savings Grants to be deposited into student ESAs in the amount of the average per pupil state aid. The money may be put toward the costs of attending school or for home school expenses. Education is changing and we need to adapt and incorporate a multitude of opportunities such as ESAs to ensure future student success.

Iowa has world-class higher education opportunities and encouraging Iowa students to stay in the state and complete their advanced degree is a common sense option that will benefit the entire state. To that end, any unspent funds in their account could be used for Iowa-based colleges or universities.

While I will continue to work for the best interest of Iowans, the majority party refused to accept new solutions to education disparity in this state and voted against the ESAs. Offering a variety of educational opportunities for our students should be accepted and embraced if we want our students to be able to compete at a global level and achieve success. It is my belief that ESAs are a step in the right direction when it comes to education reform and we will continue to put Iowans first by offering common sense opportunities in order to maximize educational success.

  1. Senator Zaun, is there a way to set up ESAs that doesn’t foster educational resegregation, particularly regarding low-SES, ESL/ELL, and special needs students? I believe that all of the educational choice mechanisms that have been implemented so far in other states – whether it be charters, magnets, vouchers, or whatever – have led to increased concentrations of our neediest students in public schools that become further under-resourced because of fiscal outflows to other entities.

    I’m not against ESAs or parent choice. I just don’t know how to make ESAs work in a way that achieves other, larger societal and educational interests.

    1. The current German government is explicit in their opposition to parental choice. They argue that they have a ‘larger, societal interest’ in preventing minority groups with counter cultural opinions from growing. So, they outlaw home schooling. What are your “other, larger societal and education interests”, specifically?

      And, if these “neediest students” are given the same choices as all others, then why would that lead to increased concentrations? Could it be for the same reason that I seem to find increased concentrations of old, white, overweight men on fishing boats? The same reason that I seem to find increased concentrations of young, skinny women at the mall?

      Birds of a feather flock together. Are “other, larger societal interests” being violated in this principle?

      1. Um, larger societal and education interests like common schools? desegregation? equity of opportunity?

        I have yet to meet a person who thinks that needy students and their families have the ability to exercise the same choices as those of us who are more fortunate.

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