The Students First Act, which was signed into law during National School Choice Week, creates a universal education savings account (ESA) program that all students in Iowa can access beginning in 2026. It allows all state education dollars to follow students to any accredited school that is best for them.
"Parents, not the government, can now choose the education setting best suited to their child, regardless of their income or zip code," Gov. Kim Reynolds (pictured above) said in a statement. "With this bill, Iowa has affirmed that educational freedom belongs to all, not just those who can afford it."
According to Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader, it is a good chunk of change.
"The state dollars for a student to be educated in a public school is right at $7,600," he figures.
The program does not apply to homeschooled students, although Vander Plaats says there may be ways to apply them through co-ops and associations.
The bill was sponsored by American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Board Speaker Pro Tem John Wills and has the backing of Moms for Liberty, which is holding an education town hall in Des Moines next week.
"The governor is going to kick off the event, [and] we have several state legislators that are on the state education committees that are going to be on the panel," details Moms for Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich. "It is open to the public. We are very excited about it."
The bill faced stiff opposition from teachers' unions, Democratic lawmakers, and liberal non-profits, which was to be expected.
"In their worldview it is their schools, these are their children, and they have the right to indoctrinate as they please," Vander Plaats submits. "They don't want to see competition."
But he believes that newfound competition will only have a positive influence on public schools, especially the smaller ones.
"They don't want to lose their students," he explains. "They're thinking about athletics, fine arts, [and] just keeping their school up and going and the lights on. This is a healthy thing."
Competition, Vander Plaats concludes, will reform the public schools.