School Voucher Bill and What it Means for Iowa Students


Governor Reynolds signed the bill into law the morning after it passed in The House and The Senate.

Olivia Moody, Newspaper Editor

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, the school saving account bill was signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds. 

While there was an overwhelming majority of legislative support for this law, many Iowans still question the financial burden and possible discrimination that underlies this law. 

This law would allot tax-payer money into education savings accounts (ESAs)  for underprivileged students to afford private schools. Each student wanting to utilize this program would receive around $7,600 each year, which is the equivalent amount that public schools spend on each student per school year. 

While in the first year only lower class families will be able to take advantage of this program, each year the financial cutoff will increase, and in four years, any Iowan family will be able to use these savings accounts. 

Iowa Republican Legislators supported this law because they believe that it will open doors for underprivileged students to gain a higher quality education or an education that matches their religious ideals. Republicans noted that families who do not support certain literature and lessons about race and sexuality will be able to easily afford to send their child to a religious institution. 

Iowa Democratic Legislators were adamantly opposed to this law due to its implied discrimination. Private schools are able to deny students based on physical and mental disabilities, sexuality, race and religion. Democrats explained that they do not support a law that uses public dollars to support public institutions that can discriminate. 

Many Democratic leaders also worry that in rural areas, where school populations and funds are already dwindling, the option for students to attend a private school more easily, could potentially force these rural schools to close. According to “The Daily Iowan”, the law does provide public schools with $1,200 for each student that is enrolled in a public school within the school district to help cover the loss of funding due to the ESAs, but Democrats argue that it is not enough money to cover the difference in student population. 

Another concern that many had was the financial burden the law would be to tax-payers. The Legislative Services Agency (LSA)  was unable to pinpoint all of the expenses that would occur with the law, and therefore the total price is unknown, and will be unknown for quite some time. 

The LSA did come out with an estimate on costs for the first year and beyond. An article published by “Iowa Public Radio” explained, “A fiscal analysis prepared by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates that, in the first year of the program, 14,068 children would receive Education Savings Accounts, including 4,841 transferring from public to private schools. The program would cost $106.9 million in that year. By the fourth year, around 42,000 students would receive ESAs at a total cost of $345 million per year. The vast majority of students would have started and stayed in private school systems.”

The largest scandal of the bill was the fact that it was not passed through the Appropriations Committee before it was debated on the floor. The Appropriations Committee is responsible for analyzing the budget of the state and deciding what legislation fits in the budget. Republicans stated that they did not need to go through this committee because the School Vouchers Bill had been through appropriations in past years when the bill did not pass. Democrats stated that the law had changed significantly this year and therefore needed to go through the committee again; however, the amendment in the House of Representatives passed to forgo going through the committee. 

Even  though Democrats and a handful of Republican legislators opposed this law, the Republican majority in Iowa ensured that the bill would pass. While the law is quite contentious, only time will tell if it benefits the students of Iowa or not.