Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds Signs Historic School Choice Bill: Promises ‘We Will Fund Students Not Systems’

Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed an unprecedented school choice bill on Tuesday called the Students First Act Tuesday, allowing Iowa students to use public money to pay for private school expenses or tuition. 

“For the first time, we will fund students, not systems!” said Reynolds on Twitter. 

“Parents, not the government, can now choose the education setting best suited to their child regardless of their income or zip code. Iowa has affirmed that educational freedom belongs to all!” said Reynolds. 

Iowa is now the third state to pass a school choice measure that includes every student in the state after passing the Students First Act. 

“This is one of the best vehicles for providing families with more options since parents can use the ESAs (education savings accounts) for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, curricular materials, special-needs therapy, and more. We’ve already seen success for ESAs in Arizona,” said a research fellow in the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation, Jason Bedrick. 

“Although Iowa is the third state to pass universal school choice, it is the state with the heaviest foot on the accelerator. Although Arizona was the first state to pass school choice for all families last year, their program had been around for over a decade. Gov. Reynolds just signed into law a program that includes most families in its first year and automatically expands to all families after two years,” said Corey DeAngelis, American Federation for Children Senior Fellow.

The most recent passing of school choice legislation occurred in Arizona under former Republican Governor Doug Ducey, who signed the most “monumental” program for education savings accounts in the U.S.

Arizona was the first state in the country to pass education scholarship accounts, expanding the program to all of the state’s 1.1 million K-12 students. Additional red states followed Arizona’s push for school choice legislation.

The letter implores lawmakers to pass alternatives to public education

The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in Florida. A group of school choice advocates signed a letter imploring Florida lawmakers to pass an unparalleled education savings account bill.

Individuals who signed the letter include Republican Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, Libs of TikTok, the 11th U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Karol Markowicz, Young Americans for Liberty, Moms for Liberty, and Parents Defending Education President Nicole Neily, along with many others. 

Private school choice, which provides families with alternatives to the public schools the students are zoned for, can be expanded through several avenues, including tax-credit scholarship programs, individual tuition tax credit programs and deductions, school voucher programs, and school choice programs. Magnet schools, homeschooling, and charter schools are also forms of school choice programs. 

School choice became a more critical issue after the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns sparked a conversation about the scope of the government’s authority and what content should be taught to students from public school curricula.