School choice can take many shapes and sizes. We will all soon find out exactly what Governor Reynolds and the legislature have in mind for Iowa.
When Iowa House Republicans released committee assignments for the 2023 legislative session, one new committee stood out above the rest: the Education Reform Committee. Speaker Pat Grassley will chair the committee that he explained will consider “bills containing significant reforms to (Iowa’s) educational system.” This year’s election grew Republican majorities in the Iowa House and Senate, and delivered Governor Kim Reynolds a re-election victory of almost 20 points. News outlets have begun connecting the dots that additional school choice legislation will be on the way. Governor Reynolds herself even called it her top priority recently.
With the governor championing educational choice proposals in our state over the past several years, there have already been legislative victories in the 2022 and 2021 sessions. However, a bill creating Educational Savings Accounts has not yet made it to the governor’s desk. That could change next year when more supporters of school choice are sworn into office. In order to predict what might happen when legislators return to the Capitol in January, it is helpful to consider the state of education reforms in Iowa, as well as what happened around the country this year. Following are brief summaries of school choice activity in 2022.
Charter school access increased in Missouri when Governor Mike Parson signed a law injecting over $60 million into charter schools in the Show Me State, and in Kentucky where the General Assembly is now requiring public school districts to share funding with charter schools.
Arizona now offers truly universal school choice as they expanded the eligibility for Educational Savings Accounts to include every family in Arizona.
Georgia grew their tax credit scholarship program by increasing the total cap on contributions into the program, as well as doubling the amount that individuals may contribute to the program.
Microschools and learning pods are now permitted in West Virginia, creating additional educational opportunities in the Mountain State after their recent passage of the Hope Scholarship Program.
Kansas now has an open enrollment law similar to what Iowa adopted in 2021, allowing public school students to transfer to any other public school in the state.
Louisiana’s legislature passed two bills that created Educational Savings Accounts to allow state funding to follow students to private schools. One bill was tailored to students who were not reading at grade level, and the other was tailored for students with disabilities. Both bills were vetoed by Governor John Bel Edwards.
Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives passed a Lifeline Scholarship bill to grant state funds to students in the Keystone State’s lowest-performing public schools, enabling those students to use $6,800 for private school tuition or tutoring. The bill did not pass the Pennsylvania Senate.
School choice enables parents to make the best decision for their students’ education. The public school system has a monopoly on education and expanding school choice in Iowa will not only force more accountability from our public schools, but it will also create greater competition and encourage better outcomes. Education is vital, and parents should be empowered to provide the best educational option, whether public or private. Expanding school choice is about freedom, opportunity, and changing lives for the better.
Voters have seemingly declared support for conservative solutions at the polls. As recent education reform action around the country and within our state demonstrates, school choice can take many shapes and sizes. We will all soon find out exactly what Governor Reynolds and the legislature have in mind for Iowa.