Iowa Marks National School Choice Week by Enacting Students First Act

COMMENTARY Education

Iowa Marks National School Choice Week by Enacting Students First Act

Jan 25, 2023 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Madison Marino

Research Associate and Project Coordinator

Madison is a research associate and project coordinator for Heritage’s Center for Education Policy.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, pictured here on August 25, 2020, signed the education freedom bill Students First Act into law in January, 2022. Arrangements for the 2020 RNC / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

2023 looks poised to be the biggest year yet for education choice, with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, first out of the gate.

Other states, such as Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas, are also expected to take steps to expand education choice opportunities.

School choice meets [students'] social and emotional needs, increases academic achievement and attainment, is more economical, and empowers parents.

Jan. 22 to Jan. 28 is National School Choice Week, and what better way to highlight the fact that parents today have more choices for their children’s education than ever before than by celebrating Iowa’s Students First Act being signed into law on Tuesday?

The year 2011 was deemed “the year of school choice” after 12 states enacted new—or expanded existing—school choice programs, including Arizona establishing the nation’s first education savings accounts program.

A decade later, 2021 was named “the year of education choice,” in which 18 states enacted seven new education choice programs and expanded 21 existing ones—primarily education savings accounts.

Millions of children across the country now have access to school choice options—such as ESAs, tax-credit scholarships, and vouchers—that enable their parents to choose learning options that best fit their needs. Now, 2023 looks poised to be the biggest year yet for education choice, with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, first out of the gate.

In Iowa, the Students First Act was approved by state lawmakers this week and was signed into law by Reynolds on Tuesday. The education freedom bill will allow Iowa families who opt their children out of the public school system to access the state’s portion of per-pupil spending—about $7,600—through an ESA to use for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, curricular materials, special-needs therapy, and more.

Meanwhile, in Utah, policymakers are pushing to advance education choice with the Utah Fits All Scholarship, a bill that would give $8,000 in flexible scholarships to students for private schooling, homeschooling, or tutoring. The education choice bill has passed the Utah state House and is awaiting debate in the state Senate.

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner recently unveiled a plan to pave the way for universal education choice in Florida. This legislation would convert the current Family Empowerment Scholarship into an ESA, meaning parents would have even more flexibility in how they can customize their children’s education.

It would also expand the eligibility for ESAs to all of Florida’s students so that all families would have a chance to make the best decisions for their children.

Other states, such as Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas, are also expected to take steps to expand education choice opportunities this year.

The efforts by state legislators across the country to increase education freedom are worth celebrating and highlight how even more education options are needed. States should continue to work to establish universal education choice options.

Congress should also take the opportunity to advance school choice, as appropriate, through federal policy—beginning by creating education options for students in areas under federal jurisdiction, such as for children of military families, Native American children attending Bureau of Indian Education schools, and students residing in the District of Columbia.

We know that school choice works. It ensures that students are safe, meets their social and emotional needs, increases academic achievement and attainment, is more economical, and empowers parents.

For National School Choice Week 2023, here’s hoping for the brightest year of education choice yet.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal

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