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Iowa lawmakers approve public money for private school students

Iowa lawmakers approve public money for private school students
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By The Associated Press
Jan. 25, 2023 | DES MOINES
By The Associated Press Jan. 25, 2023 | 08:29 AM | DES MOINES
Any Iowa student who wants to attend a private school could use public money to pay for tuition or other expenses under a plan passed Tuesday by the Legislature and quickly signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Iowa becomes the third state to pass a measure that allows such spending with few restrictions.

Republicans approved the bill despite objections from Democrats and others who argued the new education savings accounts would lead to reduced funding for public schools. Reynolds, who made the private school funding measure one of her top priorities after failing to pass similar but less expansive proposals twice before, signed the bill at an event backed by supporters and students.

“For the first time, we will fund students instead of a system, a decisive step in ensuring that every child in Iowa can receive the best education possible,” Reynolds said in a statement. “Parents, not the government, can now choose the education setting best suited to their child regardless of their income or zip code.”

The bill passed the state House late Monday and the Senate early Tuesday with only Republican support.

With passage of the bill, Iowa joins West Virginia and Arizona as states that provide taxpayer money to help families pay student tuition and other expenses at private schools with few limits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Other states offer such help to families that meet requirements for income, disabilities or other factors.

Legislatures also are considering similar program in other states, including Florida, Nebraska, Virginia and Utah.

Iowa Republicans, who hold wide majorities in the House and Senate, approved the bill remarkably quickly, with final passage coming in the third week of the legislative session. A nonpartisan analysis by the Legislatives Services Agency estimated the measure would cost $344.9 million annually in its fourth year, after it is fully implemented. The agency noted its assessment came without knowing some details, including the cost of paying a business to oversee the program.

The governor and Republican legislators have argued that they support the state’s public schools but that all families should be able to send their children to private school, not just those wealthy enough to afford the tuition. They note that if students opt for private school, their $7,600 in per-pupil support would follow them to the private institution, but the plan would send $1,200 to the public school districts where the students resides. The public funding also would be available to students already enrolled in private schools, with family income requirements phasing out over three years.




Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to school children as she signs a bill that creates education savings accounts, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Any Iowa student who wants to attend a private school could use public money to pay for tuition or other expenses under the plan approved early Tuesday by the Legislature, making the state the third to pass a measure that allows such spending with few restrictions. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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