The Iowa legislature approved a proposal to create Education Savings Accounts to help fund nonpublic school education. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the Student First Bill on Jan. 24 surrounded by supporters of school choice.
“It is with great excitement that we celebrate a win for children in Iowa – the ability for families to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs,” said Donna Bishop, superintendent of schools.
Parents who opt to enroll their children in an accredited nonpublic school will receive funding based on the average of what the legislature decides public schools will receive per pupil, estimated at $7,600. This applies both to those who already have students in private schools and those who transfer their children to private schools.
“The funds will be transferred from the state’s general fund directly into a special state savings account most likely accessible by an app,” said Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference. The parent will use the app to pay approved vendors such as accredited nonpublic schools. Balances in student accounts will remain in their account until high school graduation or up to age 20.
The new law will be phased in over three years beginning with the 2023-2024 school year.
This legislation will not change the core mission of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Des Moines to be collaborative communities of spiritual formation and academic excellence where students grow in faith and wisdom and emerge as responsible citizens dedicated to lifelong discipleship.
“The Student First Bill was written to maintain the independence of our Catholic schools,” said Superintendent Bishop. “This bill will not restrict or make changes to the current Iowa core and faith-based curriculum we offer today as accredited schools in the state of Iowa. Faith will continue at the core of all we do and who we are as we remain rooted in Christ.”
The new education savings accounts will not affect the Catholic Tuition Organization grants or tuition assistance provided to families through the Diocese. Donors to the CTO are encouraged to continue to support tuition assistance for families that want a Catholic education for their children. Additionally, all families who meet the CTO income guidelines should complete an application by April 18 even if they qualify for an ESA.
There were 397 donors who contributed more than $3.4 million in 2021 for tuition assistance this academic year. Thirty-seven percent of the student population in the Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools received tuition assistance this school year. Families
The ESA process and timeframe for the distribution of funds are still being determined. For more information, visit https://educateiowa.gov/pk-12/education-savings-accounts or click here to download a FAQ on Education Savings Accounts and the Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools.
The Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools includes 16 schools that serve more than 6,300 students across central and southwest Iowa. Catholic schools in the Des Moines Diocese build Christ-centered, collaborative, inclusive partnerships with parents, students, and parishes to provide students with innovative academic excellence and inspirational faith formation. To learn more about Catholic schools in the Diocese of Des Moines, visit dmdiocese.org/grow or email email@example.com.