Governor signs Students First Act and enacts student voucher program | Iowa

(The Center Square) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the Students First Act into law at the Statehouse Tuesday morning.

The law allows any student at any school to use whatever amount the state allocates to a child in public schools. In fiscal year 2023, that amount is $7,598, according to the bill’s tax assessment.

Beginning in fiscal year 2024, eligible students for the Education Savings Accounts are:

• Pupils eligible for admission to Kindergarten.

• Students who were enrolled in a public school in the previous year and students who were enrolled in a public school in the previous year with an annual household income of $83,250 or less for a family of four.

• Residents who receive an education savings account payment in the immediately preceding school budget year.

In the following financial years, pupils from kindergarten to 12th grade who attend non-public schools in the respective financial year are entitled to contribute.

“Parents throughout Iowa, you are responsible for your children’s education,” House Legislative Floor Manager Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, said at the news conference that accompanied Reynolds’ signing of the bill.

Reynolds said she anticipates most families will continue to attend public schools, but some families need to have other, better options for their child.

“With this bill, every child in Iowa, regardless of zip code or income, will have access to the school that best meets their individual needs,” she said.

Per the bill’s tax note, the law allocates funds from teacher pay, professional development, early intervention and teacher leadership supplemental programs to the local public school for district resident students who receive the savings accounts. For each additional program, the district cost is the cost of that supplement per student for the budget year multiplied by the sum of budget enrollments for the school district plus the number of district-resident students who received an Education Savings Account payment for the base year, the bill said.

Public school districts may use the remaining funds from the Professional Development, Teacher Leadership, and Talent Advancement Program for fiscal year-end categorical teacher salary sponsorships, beginning with fiscal year 2023, for categorical teacher salary supplements according to the tax assessment notice. The size of the savings accounts is determined by the state cost per student for the fiscal year, which changes annually based on the state percentage growth.

The Iowa House of Representatives and Senate passed bills 55-45 and 31-18, respectively, on Monday.

Americans for Prosperity-Iowa state director Drew Klein said passage of the bill will make Iowa one of the first states in the nation to offer the accounts. It comes during National School Choice Week.

“[It] puts our state at the forefront of the fight for freedom of education,” Klein said.

He said the organization hopes Iowa can set an example for the rest of the country to do what is best for every student’s success.