Iowa is a leader in providing school choice options to families.
Public School Choice:
Iowa families have some choice within the public education system, including inter-district open enrollment.
Private School Choice:
Iowa families have access to two private school choice options: a personal use program and a donation tax credit program. The Education Expense Credit gives parents a tax credit of up to $250 to cover any educational expenses. According to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, "participation in Iowa's tax-credit scholarship program has grown 41% since 2008." Additionally, the Individual School Tuition Organization Tax Credit allows individuals to receive a 65% tax credit for donating to School Tuition Organizations (STOs), nonprofits that award scholarships to children to attend a private school. In 2012, over 10,000 of these scholarships were awarded to low-income Iowa students.
The Center for Education Reform reports that Iowa has one of the nation’s weakest charter school laws, with charter schools acting more like alternative district schools. In 2013, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reported that just 295 students were enrolled in the state’s three charter schools.
According to Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning, Iowa has two supplemental state-led online programs, Iowa Learning Online (ILO) and the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA). In 2011-2012, Iowa Learning Online reported an increase in course enrollments by 52% with 870 total course enrollments, and Iowa Online AP Academy reported an increase in course enrollments by 17% with 561 total course enrollments. There is one district-led program, the Kirkwood High School Distance Learning Program, which served about 600 students in the 2011-2012 school year, a 22% increase from previous year.
In 2011, Iowa expanded its Scholarship Tax Credit Program by over $1 million a year.
Click here for detailed information on Iowa's public school system and see below for school choice contacts and a history of school choice legislation in Iowa.