Iowa’s School Choice Comeback

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Gov. Kim Reynolds shook up school-choice politics in Iowa last spring by endorsing primary challengers to Republican state lawmakers who refused to back education savings accounts. Several won their races, and now the Governor may see her gamble pay off. An even more robust school choice bill is poised for a vote in the Legislature as soon as Monday.

The bill that state lawmakers passed out of committee last week would provide education savings accounts (ESAs) of about $7,600 for students to use toward private-school tuition, tutoring, and more. That’s a notable increase from the ESAs worth roughly $5,000 in the proposal that died last year. The 2022 bill also set income caps on those who can apply. This year’s legislation would set some caps for the first two years but remove them in 2025-26, making the program available to anyone.

Democrats are responding with their usual complaints about taxpayer dollars going to private schools. At issue last year was purported concern for rural districts. Public schools are sometimes the only option in rural areas and school choice will ruin them, the argument goes.

But as Corey DeAngelis recently wrote in these pages, rural districts have as much to gain from school choice as anywhere else. If public schools are truly the best, or the only, option, students won’t go elsewhere. A Heritage Foundation report recently documented that rural school districts haven’t suffered in Arizona, where school choice is flourishing.

Iowa parents expressed support for the bill in public comments to the Legislature.

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