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Gov. Reynolds signs Students First Act into law

DES MOINES — Governor Reynolds signed HF 68 into law today amid hundreds of supporters in the Iowa State Capitol. The Students First Act makes state education funding available for K-12 students who choose to attend private schools.

The bill passed the Iowa House and Senate yesterday.

Kim Reynolds

“Public schools are the foundation of our education system and for most families they will continue to be the option of choice, but they aren’t the only choice,” Governor Reynolds stated. “For some families, a different path may be better for their children. With this bill, every child in Iowa, regardless of zip code or income, will have access to the school best suited for them.”

Universal eligibility will be phased in over three years. All incoming Kindergarteners and all public-school students will be eligible beginning year one with the start of the 2023-2024 school year. Eligibility for families of children currently enrolled in accredited private schools will be income based over the first two years.

  • During the 2023-2024 school year, private school students with household incomes at or below 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL), currently $83,250 for a family of four, are eligible.
  • In the 2024-2025 school year, private school eligibility expands to include families with household incomes at or below 400% FPL, currently $111,000 for a family of four, are eligible.
  • Beginning in the 2025-2026 school year, all K-12 students in Iowa are eligible regardless of family income.

Parents or guardians who enroll their eligible children in an accredited private school will receive an amount equal to the per pupil funds allocated by the state to all public school districts each year. The funds are estimated at $7,598 per pupil for the 2023-2024 school year and will be deposited into an education savings account (ESA) to be used for tuition, fees, and other qualified education expenses.

The state has issued a request for proposal (RFP) from businesses with experience managing ESA programs. The RFP was issued first for targeted small businesses in Iowa and will be posted publicly after 48 hours according to Iowa code. Responses are expected within three weeks. The vendor selected will manage the application process, support the transfer of funds from the state to ESA accounts of eligible students, and ensure program compliance.

Once a vendor is selected and the system is implemented, the application period will begin. Applications will be accepted through June 30, 2023.

Information is available on the Iowa Department of Education website at educateiowa.gov and will be updated regularly. Families interested in applying for ESAs can sign up to receive notifications when new information is posted on the webpage.

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