February 14, 2017

Facts about ESAs

The Facts About Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)

What is an Education Savings Accounts?

  • Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), also known as vouchers or education savings grants, are state taxpayer dollars that are diverted away from public schools and all other state funded programs to subsidize nonpublic schools, private instruction, or homeschools.
  • ESA funds are not audited, meaning there are no safeguards against fraud and misuse.
  • ESAs do not guarantee that a child will be able to afford an alternative to public school.
  • Unused ESA funds may be rolled over year to year to eventually pay for post secondary education.
  • Iowa ESA advocates estimate the cost of a proposed ESA program to be $185 million. The current increase in public school funds for the 92 percent of Iowa’s children who attend K-12 public school recently passed by the Iowa Legislature was $40 million. If instituted, Iowa taxpayers will spend more than 4.5 times as much on non-public education than the Legislature approved for public education for the 2017-2018 school year.

Facts about nonpublic schools, private instruction, and home schools in Iowa

    • They do not have to accept all students as public schools do, including students who may need additional academic support, such as students with learning or behavioral challenges, children on the autism spectrum, or children with Down syndrome. They can remove students without cause or recourse for families.
    • They are exempt from oversight, unlike public schools, which are audited annually to be accountable for taxpayer funding.
    • They do not have to meet educational or assessment standards, either for students or teachers.  Some opt to become accredited, which is not the same accreditation as public schools accreditation.  This accreditation is not mandatory as it is with a public school.
    • They can discriminate based on gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, or gender identity.
    • They do not provide transportation solutions for students, which is often a barrier to enrollment for low and even middle income families.  
    • They may promote religious doctrine.  
  • In summary, although these schools receive taxpayer funds,  they are not subject to the same public school regulations and accountability factors as public schools.

Who ESAs hurt

    • Rural communities. They have less access to nonpublic schools and already face significant transportation costs. Remember: With each student lost, each public school receives reduced funding, which can be devastating for rural communities.
    • Lower-income families. There is no guarantee that an ESA account will fund the entirety of private school enrollment. ESAs do not provide funds for additional needs such as meals or transportation.
    • Students needing educational assistance. ESAs do not help children who need additional educational assistance or who may not meet the admission “standards” of an nonpublic or private school.
    • Every public school student in Iowa. ESAs do not improve educational outcomes. According to the Journal of Public Economics, they foster isolation and segregation by race, socioeconomic status, disability, and language.
    • Every public school in Iowa. ESAs have the potential to drain hundreds of millions of dollars from our public schools’ budgets.
  • In summary, ESAs do not improve access to schools for students and do not improve academic performance of students.

Existing state taxpayer funding for nonpublic schools, private instruction, or homeschools in Iowa

      • $26,500,000: Tax credits
      • $13,000,000: Preschool community partner funding
      • $8,560,931: Transportation
      • $2,000,000: Home school assistance
      • $1,600,000: Private school students taking classes at public schools
      • $650,214: Nonpublic textbooks
Iowa is one of only five states to provide BOTH private school scholarships AND a private school tuition/expenses tax credit. Now legislators want taxpayers to provide even more funding for non-public schools in the form of ESAs. If ESAs are implemented in Iowa, taxpayers will be supporting two education systems, one public and one private. Iowa taxpayers do not need this additional financial burden.

Who benefits from ESAs?

  • Families who are already enrolled in and able to afford private school. They are able to save ESA dollars and use them to fund post-secondary education—meaning your state dollars may pay for college or university assistance for these private school students.
  • Homeschool enrollees, who already receive taxpayer assistance but would receive additional state tax dollars to continue to homeschool their children.

REMEMBER: An ESA uses taxpayer funds to pay for private, religious, or homeschool education. Iowa ESA proponents want to keep current taxpayer assistance (totaling over $52 million) and receive additional state taxpayer dollars in the form of ESAs/vouchers to pay for private, religious, or homeschool education. No taxpayer dollars should fund nonpublic schools, private instruction, or homeschool education; it is parents’ choice for their child(ren) to receive non-public education and it should be their responsibility to bear these costs.