DES MOINES, Iowa (KCAU) — Iowa families will soon be able to apply for education savings accounts which will allow families making less than 400% of the federal poverty guidelines to use state dollars to attend private schools.

Starting May 31, families can apply for Students First Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). The application will be valid for one year, according to Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.

The Students First Act was passed by both houses of the Iowa Legislature earlier this year and then signed into law by Reynolds. Proponents of the bill say that it allows families of students of all incomes to attend the school of their choice. Opponents say the bill puts public dollars into the hands of private schools.

Reynolds said, “We are one step closer to providing choice in education for Iowa families regardless of income or zip code.”  

The program applies to incoming kindergartners and K-12 students attending accredited public schools along with students attending private schools who have an income below 300 percent of the poverty guidelines, about $90,000 for a family of 4, are eligible for the program for the first year of the program and 400 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for the second year. The program’s Frequently asked questions page also says homeschooled children who intend to switch to full-time private education are also eligible for the program.

As part of the program, students will receive tuition assistance of up to the state dollars given for student education. For the next school year, 2023-2024, that works out to $3,815.50 per semester. The dollars can only be used for private schools within Iowa and the student must attend the private school full time.

There will be no income guidelines starting in Academic Year 2025-2026.

Parents looking to enroll their students in the program can sign up online starting on May 31. The link to the application will be posted on the Department of Education’s website. The sign-ups will go through June 30.