DES MOINES – Governor Reynolds has announced that applications for Students First Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) will be accepted starting May 31, 2023. 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 2023-2024 school year.
Additionally, the State Board of Education today adopted administrative rules that specify definitions for the program, eligibility requirements for participation, parameters for the application process, and program administration and accountability.
“As we prepare to accept applications later this month for Iowa’s landmark Students First ESA program, the rules approved today will provide families with the details they need to consider their options and prepare to apply,” stated Governor Reynolds. “We are one step closer to providing choice in education for Iowa families regardless of income or zip code.”
All incoming kindergarteners and all K-12 students currently enrolled in a public school district are eligible for the ESA program. Families whose children currently attend an accredited nonpublic school are also eligible for ESAs based on their annual income during the first two years of the program. For the 2023-2024 school year, income eligibility is 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL); and 400 percent FPL for the 2024-2025 school year. Beginning in the 2025-2026 school year, all K-12 students in Iowa will be eligible for an ESA regardless of income.
The following rules specify some eligibility requirements for students currently attending an accredited nonpublic school:
- Parents or guardians of students currently enrolled in an accredited nonpublic school will verify their income eligibility using “net income” from their 2022 state tax form.
- Household size will be determined by the number of people who reside together and are related by birth, marriage, adoption, legal guardianship, or by placement in the home through a state agency. “Household” includes parents, student applicants, and other children who share at least one parent by birth, adoption, a parent’s current marriage, or placement in the home through a state agency.
- Students must be enrolled full time at an accredited nonpublic school.
The administrative rules are posted in their entirety on the Iowa Department of Education’s ESA webpage, along with answers to frequently asked questions about the program. Parents interested in applying for an ESA are encouraged to sign up for notifications when information is updated on the website.
Parents will complete and submit applications through an online system which the Department of Education, Office of the Chief Information Officer, and other state agencies are now implementing with Odyssey, the vendor selected to administer the ESA program. Webinars will be offered to assist parents with the application process when the system launches on May 31.
Applications will be accepted from May 31 through June 30, 2023, for the 2023-2024 school year.