116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / News / Government & Politics / State Government
Updated: Learn how to apply for Iowa’s new private school assistance program
State officials have scheduled a series of webinars
State officials have scheduled a series of webinars to teach Iowans about how to apply for state-funded financial assistance to attend a private school in the 2023-2024 school year.
Applications for the Students First Education Savings Accounts will be accepted starting May 31 through June 30.
⧉ Related article: Capitol Notebook: Iowa soon taking applications for new private school assistance program
The program, signed into law by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in late January after being passed by the Republican-led Iowa Legislature earlier this year, will be phased in over four years until, at full implementation, all K-12 students in Iowa will be eligible for roughly $7,600 per year in state funding to put toward private school tuition or other private school expenses.
The State Board of Education adopted administrative rules on May 4 that specify definitions for the program, eligibility requirements, parameters for the application process, and program administration and accountability.
The program is expected to cost $107 million in the first year and $345 million by 2027, when fully implemented. In total, over the course of four years, the program would cost the state an estimated $879 million.
A New York-based company, Odyssey, that administers similar programs in other states has been contracted by Iowa to operate the program.
The legislation was approved with only Republican support. They said the program will provide greater choice for families in their child’s education. Democrats and critics of the program say it will divert state funding from public schools and will disproportionately benefit higher-income families.
Learn how to apply for Iowa education savings accounts
Anyone interested in learning more about the parent/guardian application process for Iowa’s new private school assistance program can register to attend online training on one of the following dates and times:
Tuesday, May 23, 10 a.m.
Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_3Bd8mAs-TWGKMuJbhX4JJg
Thursday, May 25, 8 p.m.
Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2DsfTNrtR06LL2uE4qrRjA
Saturday, May 27, 12 p.m.
Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_MUFIRiANRSm57AAwtcwUOQ
Tuesday, May 30, 2 p.m.
Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_iPsDoIBLTlWTNDMgJ9qxQQ
Monday, June 5, 11 a.m.
Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_9Mv08byQSD-SVvrRgP_kcA
Wednesday, June 7, 7 p.m.
Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_F7EBpAMET0mCWBFWW4HKjw
Since the Education Savings Accounts were signed into law, some private schools have announced increases in their tuition fees for the coming school year.
Reynolds, speaking during an appearance on "Iowa Press“ recorded Thursday at Iowa PBS studios in Johnston, said she does not feel that reports of some Iowa private schools increasing tuition weakens the state’s new financial assistance program, but said she will keep an eye on it.
Reynold told reporters that private institutions are facing the same increased costs in education that public schools are. She added private school teachers in Iowa often make less than public school teachers, and that tuition increases could go toward teacher salaries.
“And we should be doing that across the board, and that’s one of things I’ll be working on next year,” Reynolds said.
Iowa public school teachers make less than the national average. Iowa K-12 public school teachers made an average of $59,581 last fiscal year, according to data from the National Education Association.
The national average public school teacher salary in 2021-22 was $66,745. The average teacher starting salary in Iowa was $39,208.
Reynolds said that gap is why she introduced the provision in the ESA program allowing public schools to use unspent categorical funds to increase teacher salaries.
What information will be shared during these webinars?
The webinar will provide an overview of how to apply, eligibility criteria, how eligibility is verified, school registration, how schools confirm enrollment and how to contact the Odyssey Support Team, said Heather Doe, communications director for the Iowa Department of Education.
The information presented in each seminar will be the same.
Who are these webinars intended for?
While these training sessions are geared toward families, anyone interested in learning more about the application process can register to attend a training, Doe said.
Will there be separate webinars offered for school officials, both public and private?
Separate training will be offered for nonpublic school administrators and other school personnel who will be working with the Students First Education Savings Account program, Doe said.
Will there be a Q&A aspect or component to the webinars?
Participants will be able to submit questions during the webinar. Questions be reviewed following the webinar and answers posted on the Department’s Student’s First ESA web page, according to Doe.
Who will be conducting these webinars? Will they be taking public comments or feedback?
Odyssey, the state’s contracted vendor for administering the Students First ESA program, will be conducting the webinars. Participants will be able to submit questions and comments through the chat feature, Doe said.
How Iowa’s private school savings accounts will work
Parents/guardians who choose to enroll their children in an accredited non-public school will receive an amount equal to the per pupil funding allocated to public school districts for each eligible child. The per pupil funding for the 2023-24 school year will be $7,635. Half of the money will be available to pay tuition and approved expenses for the fall semester and the remaining half will be available for the spring semester.
Funds will be deposited into an education savings account to be used for tuition, fees and other qualified education expenses. The money cannot be used to pay preschool tuition.
ESA funds must be used for kindergarten through 12th grade education at an accredited private school in Iowa. That includes an online private school, provided the student is enrolled full-time and the school is accredited through the Iowa Department of Education.
Who is eligible for an education savings account?
Year one (2023-24)
- All kindergarten students
- All public school students
- Private school students at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($90,000 for a family of four)
Year two (2024-25)
- All kindergarten students
- All public school students
- Private school students at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level that will be updated January 2024
Year three (2025-26)
- All K-12 students in Iowa, regardless of income
The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency predicts 14,068 students will be enrolled in the program in fiscal year 2024, its first year. That includes an estimated 4,841 students who would transfer from a public school to a non-public school.
By fiscal year 2027, the agency expects 41,687 students in Iowa to receive Education Savings Accounts to pay their private school costs. Over that time, the agency projects enrollment in public schools to drop from 486,476 in fiscal year 2024 to 475,207 in fiscal year 2027.
Students must be enrolled full time and attend classes for at least 75 percent of the full-time schedule.
How to apply for an education savings account
The application process is in development, according to the Iowa Department Education’s website. Iowa families may begin applying for Education Savings Accounts May 31. Applications will be due on June 30 for next school year. Applications are valid for one year, and a family must apply annually to remain eligible for the program, according to the state’s Students First Education Savings Accounts website.
Where to learn more
The Iowa Department of Education has created a website https://bit.ly/44Y3AjO with answers to frequently asked questions. Parents and guardians can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 515-954-5652 for more information.
Comments: (319) 398-8499; email@example.com