Public schools concerned new state program could lead to more budget cuts

Public schools concerned new state program could lead to more budget cuts
Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 11:20 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Over 18,000 students in Iowa were approved for education savings accounts heading into the 2023-2024 school year after the governor signed the Students First Act in January.

Scott County, alone, had over 1,300 students approved, which is in the top-five for the state.

Applicants who were approved received about 7,600 dollars in accounts that can be used by eligible families to cover tuition, fees and other qualified expenses at a private school in Iowa. A statement released from the governor’s office in July said about 60 percent of approved applications were for students already enrolled in a private school.

Finalized data for this year’s applicants will not be available until later this fall or next year.

Toby Paone, a union leader for the Iowa State Education Association, believes the program favors private schools.

“What we’ve been seeing is that the people who are taking advantage of it have already sent their children to private schools,” said Paone, “So it’s like, they were paying for tuition, and now they’re getting their tuition essentially, for free, from the state of Iowa.”

For the 2023-2024 school year, approval for students already enrolled in private schools was based on household income. Next year, income restrictions will be eased. All students will be eligible, regardless of income, for the 2025-2026 school year.

North Scott superintendent, Joe Stutting, is concerned critical funds needed for public school districts will be slowly cut as more money is spent on education savings accounts.

“Now we add up potentially another 38,000 kids over the next three years, to add to what we already paid to educate kids,” said Stutting, “can Iowa afford it? Or will we drop another percent, or half a percent, of new money?”

Governor Reynolds remains consistent, saying that the program benefits all families who are seeking the best education for their children.

“Allowing parents to choose the education that’s best for their children levels the playing field,” said Reynolds, “and creates equal opportunities for Iowa’s students.”