Governor Reynolds’ 2021 Education Bill is currently being considered by the Iowa Senate. Here's a link to the bill: SF 159.
This piece of legislation has generated many questions.
• What’s in it for homeschoolers?
• Will the Student First Scholarships (the ESA portion) be open to homeschoolers?
• Will including homeschoolers lead to government regulation of our homeschooling?
These are great questions!
Here are some answers from our Homeschool Iowa Lobbyist, Bill Gustoff.
It's Still Early in the Process
First, know that we are very early in the legislative process.
For now, we are supporting the bill (for some of the potential for good we see in it) while working with others who support school choice to improve it in the legislature.
What we see in SF 159 now is almost certainly not going to be the final product!
Two Areas of Priority
There are two of the eight divisions of the bill that are of most concern to us (listed in the order of our organization’s priorities):
(i) Division V (Tuition & Textbook Credit) and
(ii) Division I (Student First Scholarships).
Division V (Tuition & Textbook Credit)
Division V not only expands the existing tuition and textbook tax credit available under Iowa Code Chapter 422, but it adds homeschoolers to those eligible to claim it!
This is NOT a voucher program, and it is NOT parents receiving money from the state. It
The current Tuition & Textbook Credit option has long allowed parents to claim a credit against Iowa income taxes for a portion of certain education related expenses.
Governor Reynolds’ bill proposes to add homeschool parents to that, recognizing that we incur the exact same expenses as those in accredited public and private schools, and we should be able to claim the same tax credit as a matter of equality.
Division I (Student First Scholarships)
Division I creates a version of an education savings account [ESA] that would allow a portion of the money the state collects from taxpayers for educating a student to be applied toward the educational setting of the parents’ choosing.
There is a large amount of misinformation being put out about this bill.
Currently it would apply only to those students residing in the 34 Iowa school districts with the lowest performance classifications based on federal standards.
It would give “choice” only to those parents whose children are trapped in a failing public school.
We think the Governor was correct in her Condition of the State Address that programs like this should be available to students “regardless of income, and no matter their zip code.”
Our hope is that we will improvements to Division I in response to our advocacy efforts during the legislative process.
The improvement we would like to see is adding homeschool students using “competent private instruction” as those who qualify.
We do NOT support adding
“independent private instruction” students
under Iowa Code Section 299A.1(2)(b)
or those using CPI
who opt out of any assessment
because those programs must remain independent
for those who wish to have maximum freedom
to teach their children.
But those using CPI who are already filing paperwork with the state and providing some kind of assessment or teacher oversight should be able to access the Student First Scholarships.
To the extent there is any risk of regulation on the curriculum or other aspects of their homeschooling, that risk already exists by taking advantage of dual enrollment or other support services under CPI.
Homeschool Iowa will fight to preserve IPI as an option if the state attempts to overreach.
You Can Help!
The process of making laws is messy and murky!
It requires patience and persistence.
We ask your help in providing input on Governor Reynold's 2021 Education Bill by contacting your legislators.
You'll find the information and simple tools need to do just that in the Legislative Updates portion of the Homeschool Iowa website.
Bill Gustoff serves as our Homeschool Iowa Lobbyist. He devotes many hours and much effort at the Iowa Capitol on behalf of Iowa homeschooling families.
Bill is a homeschooling husband and father and has volunteered for Homeschool Iowa for many years.
He heads the Homeschool Iowa Advocacy Team.
Email [email protected] if you are interested in joining this team.