Public weighs in on proposed ‘Education Savings Account’ program

Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 11:10 PM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Legislators held a public hearing at the Iowa State Capitol Tuesday night focused on Governor Kim Reynolds’ controversial plan to start an education savings account program.

The “Students First Act” aims to create ESAs with about $7,600 in state funds for families to send their kids to the private school of their choosing.

It also proposes giving public school districts $1,200 per student living in the district, regardless of where they go to school. The governor’s office argues this is to offset any potential lost funding.

For the first three years, these funds would only be available to families making 300% less than the federal poverty line. After those three years, it would expand to all families regardless of income.

Before the public hearing in Des Moines, a TV6 News crew spoke to parents outside Sudlow Intermediate and Madison Elementary in Davenport earlier today about the bill. Many of them weren’t aware of the topic and declined interviews.

However, one parent did weigh in.

“I think it’s a good thing,” said the parent. “Kids that might not have that option will now have it, and I think that’s great.”

Monday, the House Subcommittee on Education Reform hosted the hearing.

About 100 signed up to speak, however, the subcommittee was only able to hear from about 40.

One speaker said he supports the bill, as he believes it will give parents more choices.

“Who’s responsible for their children? Parents,” said the speaker. “Who knows their children best? Parents. Who knows what’s best for their children? Parents.”

Another speaker said she’s against the idea because she thinks it will hurt disadvantaged populations.

“Diverting focus and resources from public schools for certain families to go to private schools may slip us back into the days of segregation where only certain types of students were allowed,” said the speaker.

Of those who spoke, it was about an even split of people on both sides of the issue.

The 16-page bill will now make its way through the Iowa General Assembly.

According to the General Assembly’s website, the bill is still at the subcommittee level in the House. Over in the Senate, the subcommittee on the topic recommended its passage, last Thursday.

Governor Reynolds and the Republican Party have a super-majority in both the Iowa State House and Senate.