Now a faith-based education is within reach for more students in Iowa. Does your child qualify for an Education Savings Account (ESA)? Learn more about how your child can experience an exceptional education. Applications for the 2024-2025 school year will open up in the spring.
Debunk the myths. Get the facts about ESAs.
Let’s Debunk Common Myths About ESAs
Myth: ESAs take funding from public schools.
False. When students leave public schools using choice programs, they free up money for the students who remain. Taking a student out of public school removes the cost of educating that student to that school. Most of these savings remain in local school budgets where they benefit other students; the rest of the savings go into state budgets. Additionally, for every student enrolled in an accredited non-public school, their public school district will receive $1,178 of additional funding for the 2023-2024 school year – even if the student has never attended their local public school.
Myth: There are no open seats at faith-based private schools.
False. While some schools are at capacity, the majority of Iowa faith-based private schools have seats available for new students.
Myth: Faith-based private school tuition exceeds ESA funds provided.
False. The average tuition for K-8 faith-based private schools in Iowa is $5,600 Unused ESA funds roll over from year to year and can be used to cover higher tuition costs for high school which averages $8,811 a year. In addition, all private schools offer tuition assistance through School Tuition Organizations (STOs). Other tuition assistance may also be available to students who qualify based on income requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Student First Act?
The Student First Act was introduced by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and signed into law on January 24, 2023. This law makes state funding available for eligible Iowa K-12 students who choose to attend accredited private schools. It also provides public schools additional funding for students who live in the school’s district but attend private schools.
What is an Education Savings Account?
An Education Savings Account (ESA) is a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts which eligible families may use to cover tuition, fees, and other qualified education expenses at accredited private schools in Iowa.
How do ESAs work in Iowa?
Parents who enroll their eligible children in an accredited private school will receive $7,635 per child for the 2023- 2024 school year. Funds are deposited into the student’s ESA (managed by a state contractor) yearly and the parent pays the school through an app. Funds remain available until the student graduates high school or turns 20. The remaining balance is returned to the state general fund.
Who is eligible?
ESAs in Iowa will be phased in over three years, based on the following eligibility:
How are ESA funds managed?
The state has signed a contract with Odyssey to manage program administration for Students First Education Savings Accounts, including applications, financial transactions, compliance, fraud prevention and customer service.
Which schools accept ESAs?
ESAs are accepted at all accredited non-public schools, including accredited faith-based schools across Iowa. Find a faith-based school near you.
Am I eligible for tuition assistance if I receive an ESA?
Yes. You can receive an ESA in addition to other tuition assistance that may be available to your family. ESAs were not intended to replace STOs and local tuition assistance programs.
Do private schools accept students with diverse learning needs?
Faith-based private schools are committed to working with all learners to the best of their ability, including children who may require additional support. Many schools work with parents and the local public school district of students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to provide the services identified to meet the academic and behavioral needs of the child. There may be some student needs that private schools are not able to accommodate, and these decisions are based on the best interests of the child. Contact your local private school for information regarding admission information and criteria.
When is the application deadline?
The application window for the 2023-2024 school year is closed. Applications will open up again in the spring for the 2024-2025 school year. Applications are valid for one year; a family must apply annually to remain eligible for the program.
How do I apply?
The application process opens again in the spring. Click here to apply. Only one application is needed per household. Parents/guardians can add multiple students attending multiple schools from their households. The application process should take no more than 10-15 minutes and results will be available immediately.
Parents are invited to send their questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 515-281-5211 for more information.