DES MOINES, Iowa – An Iowa House subcommittee approved HF 808, an extensive education bill that, in part, expands the state’s tuition and tax credit program to include homeschooling families.
Under current state law, parents of students who attend an accredited private school can claim a tax credit up to 25 percent of the first $1000 paid for tuition or textbooks per student enrolled in a private school. So they can receive a maximum tax credit of $250 per student.
The bill expands the definition of “private instruction” to include families whose students homeschool under competent private instruction or independent private instruction. It also includes families whose students attend a nonaccredited private school.
The bill also increases the tax credit to 25 percent of the first $2,000 paid for tuition or textbooks per student who receives private instruction. So families can receive a maximum tax credit of $500 per student.
The bill also allows teachers to claim deductions up to $500 for certain classroom expenses.
HF 808 (originally HSB 240) passed out of the Iowa House Education Committee. Still, it must also pass through the Iowa House Ways and Means Committee because of its tax policy and budget impact.
Logan Shine, with Governor Kim Reynolds’ office, explained to the committee that the bill was part of Reynolds’ Student First Act.
Melissa Petersen, with the Iowa State Education Association, was the only member of the public speak against the bill. She said her organization’s primary objection is with the tax credit component.
“We do appreciate the doubling of the deduction for the teacher supplies. However, we would prefer not to have that if it also meant we did not expand the tuition and textbook tax credit to homeschool students,” she said.
Petersen said she was concerned with how this expansion would impact state revenue streams in the future.
Tom Chapman, with the Iowa Catholic Conference, said he supports the expansion of the tuition and tax credit for parents and deductions for teacher’s classroom expenses.
Bill Gustoff with Homeschool Iowa, testifying in support of the bill, noted that homeschooling parents had been treated as second-class citizens for years. He stated that his family had some of the same expenses as families in public schools and accredited private schools but could not claim a tax credit because they homeschooled.
Nathan Oppman, with The FAMiLY Leader, also approved the tax credit expansion. “We’ve been pleased with the legislative efforts this year to expand school choice to give more options to parents, and we think this is a step in the right direction,” he said.
Eric Goranson, representing the Iowa Association of Christian Schools, said his organization was neutral on the Senate version of the bill but appreciated the House removing the division related to the student information system.
“We are supportive of any efforts to increase the tuition and textbook tax credit. And we support the inclusion of our friends in the homeschool community,” he said.
There is currently is not a fiscal note available for the bill. A representative with the Legislative Services Agency, prompted by a question from State Rep. Eric Gjerde, D-Cedar Rapids, said that the future expense deductions for teachers, they anticipate, would cost the state $410,000 in Fiscal Year 2022. She also said LSA currently forecasts that the tuition and textbook tax credit will cost the state $11.1 million. She also said they expect it to make a $300,000 impact on schools’ local options tax annually.
Gjerde had additional concerns unrelated to the tax credit aspect of the bill. He opposed the bill going on to the committee.
State Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, supported the bill.
“I love being the piece for homeschoolers. I love the piece for the teachers. Remember, homeschoolers do pay taxes. So this is just a very small, little tax credit for them,” he said.
State Rep. Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon, addressed Gjerde’s concerns. He added that the subcommittee’s role is to focus on the bill’s tax aspect as the policy has already been debated and passed in the Iowa House Education Committee. He believed the subcommittee did that, and he said he supports the bill.