BHS reacts to Iowa’s education savings account


Kim Reynolds officially signs the Students First Act into law on Jan. 28, 2023.

Kenz Morrison, Staff Writer

Governor Reynolds signed the Students First Act, giving Iowa an education savings account (ESA). Bettendorf faculty and students give their thoughts.

On January 24, Reynolds signed the Students First Act which will provide funds for parents to allow their students to attend private schools or other forms of private schooling. Only a few states have a similar bill including Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. 

Starting in the 2023-2024 school year, incoming kindergarten students and students attending public school will be able to apply for this funding. For families with students in private schools they will be able to applyStarting in the 2023-2024 school year over the next couple of school years depending on their incomes. Families with incomes at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty line will be able to apply starting the 2023-2024 school year, and families with incomes at or below 400 percent under will be able to apply in the 2024-2025 school year. Starting in the 2025-2026 school year, all families will be able to apply for the funding.

ESAs can also help low income families who are eligible for the Student Tuition Organization program. Students enrolled into a non-public school are able to receive tuition grants from donations from people in the community. Those who donate also receive tax credit equal to 75 percent of what they donate. These two organizations can help low income families and students greatly in their education by providing money and opportunities for them.

Historically, public schools have been funded by taxpayers and the state for years, but with the introduction of these private school vouchers, questions of funding have come up. 

Many in Iowa are concerned that their money will go into funding for private schools and would take away from public school funding. 

“I think that funding for Iowa public schools will go down and would take money that they could use for fixing buildings and classrooms away from those schools,” said Driston Owen, a freshman at Bettendorf High School. 

The decrease of funding towards public schools will also increase the gaps between people attending public schools and those attending private schools.

“With almost $7000 per student being taken away from public school funding for every student who chooses to leave, public schools will not be able to maintain their current quality. Therefore, the gap between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have nots, the privileged and those not so, will widen,” said Cathy Ahrens, a social studies teacher at Bettendorf High School.

Public schools also provide many opportunities for students such as sports, clubs, and other extracurricular activities. Many people see the ESAs as a way to take those activities away from students. 

“I oppose this legislation and stand strong in my belief that our local public schools provide a quality educational and extracurricular experience for all students that is second to none. Public schools are an investment in our communities and in future generations of Iowans that should be viewed as value generating, rather than profit generating,” said Joanna Doerder, a director on the Bettendorf Community School District’s school board.