“Students First’ education reform bill moves foward


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DES MOINES — Legislation to create Education Savings Accounts (ESA) and expand tuition credit, among other things, passed an Iowa Senate Jan. 28.

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ “Students First” education reform bill, Senate File 159, passed the Senate on Jan. 28, the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) reported. The bill would make available ESAs for about 9,000 students in 34 school buildings across the state that the federal government identified as in need of comprehensive improvement. The measure moves to the House.

The bill does not include ESA provisions for existing nonpublic school students, just students who transfer from a “comprehensive school” or would be assigned to one as a kindergartener, said Trish Wilger, executive director of Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education and Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education.


Some highlights of the proposed legislation:

• Creation of Education Savings Accounts (ESA). The state has identified 34 schools, including seven public schools in the Diocese of Davenport boundaries where funds would be available. Students in grades 1-12 who have attended one of the listed schools for two consecutive semesters would become eligible for the ESA, which provides up to $5,200 per year, per student. Kindergartners who would have attended one of these schools also are eligible, Wilger said. Current nonpublic school students would not be eligible for an ESA.

• Increases the Tuition and Textbook Tax Credit. This is a “nice improvement for our nonpublic school parents,” Wilger said. This part of the bill also includes homeschool families. Currently, public and private school parents can claim a tax credit of $250 per child on eligible education expenses. The proposed legislation would increase the total to $1,000 per child. As a refundable tax credit, it would also benefit low-income families. • Adds another enrollment count on April 1.
• Creates a charter school law

• Eliminates the voluntary diversity plan as a reason to deny open enrollment to students.

• Establishes electronic/data information duties of DE director.

• Modifies open enrollment at public schools.

“We are now asking members of the Iowa House to expand the proposal to help some of our current students in Catholic schools. You can send a message to your representative here: https://www.votervoice.net/ICC/
campaigns/79857/respond,” said Tom Chapman, executive director of the ICC.

In other news regarding education, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill last week that requires all schools to offer in-person education. Lee Morrison, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Davenport, said all of the Catholic schools in the diocese are currently offering a full time, in-person option.

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