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  • Office of Rep. Hayes

School Choice for Iowa

On Monday, January 22nd, the Iowa House and Senate voted on a historic piece of legislation. This bill (which has now been signed into law) has been referred to as House Study Bill 1, House File 68, Senate Study Bill 1022, Senate File 94, but is most commonly called the “Students First Act.” There are many differing opinions on both sides of the aisle regarding what is best for all the students in Iowa and whether the Students First Act fits in to that. I personally have received hundreds of emails and phone calls from engaged citizens, some excited and some concerned.


So, what does the Students First Act really do? I speak to this issue not from any certain party perspective, but simply to break down what the bill itself says. Here are some points to note:


1. Establishes Education Savings Accounts

An Education Savings Account is an account designated in the state treasury for one specific child, into which the State of Iowa will deposit around $7,600 per school year. The money in this account can be used for what is classified as “Qualified Educational Expenses,” including tuition and fees at an accredited non-public school, textbooks, fees or payments for educational therapies, and other expenses. (See Page 3 of the bill for the full list.)



2. Provides More Funding For Public Schools

Some folks have been concerned that money given to families who choose to send their children to a private school will result in less funding for public schools. In actuality, the Students First Act allocates MORE funding to public schools by changing the way students in any particular district are counted for district enrollment. Under the previous code, students who moved away from a public school to a different option would no longer be counted as part of the district. With the new policy, students who receive an ESA (Education Savings Account) in a certain district will count toward the total number of students. This allocates around $1,200 per student in the ESA program per Fiscal Year to the public school district in which they reside. (See Page 2 of the Bill for more details)


3. Increases Flexibility for Public School Funds

Also new in this legislation is increased flexibility for how school districts can spend their money. Right now, the State earmarks school districts’ budgets for specific programs and some of those dollars go unspent. The Governor’s proposal will allow school districts to use these unspent funds to increase teachers’ salaries as well as other special programs.


To view the full bill, visit www.legis.iowa.gov and type in “HF68” to the Bills search on the left hand side of the main page.



In conclusion, this Act opens up many exciting opportunities. Public schools have opportunities for more funding and flexibility. Private schools have the opportunity to serve more students. Parents have the opportunity to choose what is best for their child. Opportunities are opened up for those wanting to start an accredited private school.


Know your school district more thoroughly by taking these two action steps:

Explore your school’s funding - www.projectnickel.org Examine your school’s performance - www.iaschoolperformance.gov



Even though the Students First Act has been signed into law, many pertinent decisions are still made at the local level between school boards, superintendents and parents. I would also encourage those wanting to affect change to attend local school board meetings and have conversations with those who are in charge of your individual school.


Always feel free to reach out to me with comments or concerns you have on current legislation and issues. My contact information is:

Email: helena.hayes@legis.iowa.gov

Capitol Phone: 515.281.3221

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