DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa launched its universal school choice program on Wednesday morning with the start of the application period for Students First Education Savings Accounts.
“Today marks an important milestone for Iowa’s education system as universal school choice becomes a reality for Iowa families,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a video message. “Applications are now open for our new Students First Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs, which expands opportunities for Iowa families – empowering them to choose the type of education that’s best for their children regardless of their income or zip code.”
“I believe education is the great equalizer, which is why it was so important to remove the boundaries that have existed between public and private schools for too long and to ensure families can send their children to the school of their choice. Today, we’re changing the face of education in Iowa and influencing what it looks like nationwide. I believe that school choice will improve our overall education experience in Iowa. I believe it will create a system of schools, both public and private, that are driven by student-centered missions. Schools where teachers want to teach, parents want to send their children, and students excel and thrive. Schools that offer opportunities for all and shape the future of our state,” she added.
Parents and guardians can access the online application from a link on the Department of Education’s ESA webpage. The link will redirect them to the Students First ESA platform managed by Odyssey, the program administrator selected by the state. Applications are available in English and Spanish, and will be accepted until Friday, June 30, at 11:59 p.m.
The Students First Act was signed into law earlier this year and will provide state funding for eligible students who attend accredited nonpublic schools starting in the upcoming school year. Students must be residents of Iowa and attend an accredited nonpublic school located in Iowa.
All incoming kindergarteners and all K-12 students currently attending a public school who choose to enroll in an accredited nonpublic school for the 2023-2024 school year are eligible for the ESA program regardless of income.
Students who attended an accredited nonpublic school at any time during the 2022-2023 school year are eligible for the 2023-2024 school year if their household income is at or below 300 percent of the 2023 Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Income eligibility will be automatically verified during the application process using the parent’s or guardian’s 2022 Iowa State Tax Return. If a parent did not file a 2022 tax return in Iowa, other documentation will be required to complete their application.
After the ESA application period opens, technical support will be available from Odyssey representatives by phone at 515-368-9564 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.