DES MOINES, Iowa – State Senator Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, this week introduced the Iowa Student Opportunity Act, SF 2206, a school choice bill that would create education savings account for students who attend a school identified for support and improvement under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The Iowa Department of Education designates 482 schools in Iowa as ESSA support schools. For a student to be eligible they have to attend a school on that list for two consecutive semesters prior to receiving an education savings account. Students receiving the grant during the prior school year will also be eligible to receive a grant.
“I am filing the ‘Iowa Student Opportunity Act’ to give parents of children in low performing schools an alternative. Basic skills test results of non-public schools reveal that in many instances, they can exceed their public school counterparts significantly. Parents who pay the same income, sales and property taxes should not be forced to enroll their children in low performing schools. Individual proficiency results have big picture implications for academic, social, and economic outcomes of our children. They should be given the best possible opportunity to succeed,” Carlin told Caffeinated Thoughts.
He said his bill is unique compared to past ESA bills is that it targets low performing school districts.
Students who are eligible for an ESA will receive a grant worth 60 percent of the state’s regular program per pupil cost for the school budget year. The accounts would be managed by the Iowa Department of Management. In FY2020, an ESA grant would be worth $4,125.
ESA grants could be used for expenses such as:
- Nonpublic school tuition and fees
- Curriculum fees and materials
- Payments for educational therapies including tutoring and cognitive skills training
- Tuition and fees for nonpublic online education
- Educational materials for students with disabilities, and
- Standardized test fees
Families who have a positive balance can roll those funds over for the following year if the student is still eligible. Students who graduate high school with a positive balance can use that money for higher education opportunities within the state until they turn 25-years-of-age.
The legislation states that the bill does not authorize the state or school districts to exercise any authority over any nonpublic school or should be construed to require a nonpublic school to modify its academic standards in order to receive a payment from a parent or guardian using the grant.
The bill was assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Senators Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, Jerry Behn, R-Boone, and Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines.