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Iowa approves more than 17,000 education savings accounts applications

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(The Center Square) – More than 29,000 students applied for an Iowa education savings account in June, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday.

The Students First Act was enacted Jan. 24, and the program launches with the 2023-2024 school year. Kindergarten through 12th grade students at accredited nonpublic schools in Iowa will receive funding that’s the equivalent of the “per pupil” funds the state’s public schools receive annually. This year, that’s $7,635.

Reynolds’ office said that 29,025 students applied during the program’s monthlong application period.

“The tremendous response from Iowa families demonstrates there’s both a need and a strong desire for school choice in our state,” Reynolds said. “Allowing parents to choose the education that’s best for their children levels the playing field and creates equal opportunities for Iowa’s students.”

Funds are first allocated for tuition and fees, the release said. Any leftover funding can cover other approved educational expenses or be held for future school years.

In the first year of the program, all incoming kindergarten students and all public school students could apply for the upcoming school year, the release said. In the first year, private school students with household incomes no more than triple the federal poverty level, or up to $90,000 for a family of four, are eligible. In the 2024-2025 school year, children in households that make up to quadruple the federal poverty level, or up to $120,000 per family of four, will be eligible. In the following school year, all students in Iowa will be eligible.

The state has approved 17,481 applications so far, the release said. The other applications need more review. The state has 30 days from the close of the application period to complete the review process and determine applicants’ eligibility.

So far, 40% of approved applicants are students planning to move from public to accredited private schools, the release said. The remainder are for students already attending accredited private schools whose families meet the income eligibility criteria. Public-to-private applicants’ average household income is an average of $128,507. Private school applicants’ average household income is $62,199.

Fourteen percent of applicants have household incomes that are less than the federal poverty level, which is $30,000 for a family of four, the release said. Thirty-one percent have household income that’s between the federal poverty level and double the federal poverty level, and 36% have between double and triple the federal poverty level. The remainder have more than triple the federal poverty level.

Families who apply and are approved for an account must also apply for an accredited private school, the release said. If they’re accepted, they notify the state of the school the child plans to attend. The school invoices the family for the tuition and fees through the account, and parents approve the payment so the school gets paid. If parents don’t approve payment to the school, the state retains the funding.

Approved accounts can get funding as soon as July 15, the release said. If a student is approved for an account but doesn’t attend a private school by Sept. 30, the account is closed for the school year, and the state retains the funds within the general fund.

“The final number of ESA program participants and other program details will not be available until certified school enrollment numbers are finalized later this fall,” the release said.

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