Tom Moore

State Representative Tom Moore

(Griswold) -- At least one KMAland lawmaker isn't surprised by the number of students and families across the state utilizing a new program allocating state dollars to private school education.

Early in the 2023 Legislative Session, Iowa lawmakers passed a bill signed by Governor Kim Reynolds creating educational savings accounts, which allocate just over $7,600 per student to attend a private school. According to a release from the Governor's Office last month, over 29,000 students applied for an account, with just over 18,000 already accepted. Speaking on KMA's "Morning Line" program Monday morning, Iowa State Representative Tom Moore says he wasn't shocked by the number of families seeking the state funding.

"I expected it to be more than the (estimated) $106 million and the projections are up to about $150 million is what I've heard, but the number of applicants doesn't surprise me," said Moore. "Especially when we talk about the major cities and the number of students that are wanting to go from the public schools there to a private school."

Moore was one of several KMAland lawmakers that voted against the legislation in the Iowa House of Representatives. Saying he had multiple reservations regarding the bill, the Griswold Republican says one concern already coming to fruition is private schools raising their tuition costs.

"I think we've seen private school costs increase to that amount that the state is now going to give to students to attend a private school," he said. "Some elementary and middle schools of private school education were charging much less than the over $7,000 that the state is going to give and they've now increased their tuition to that amount. I expected that to happen."

During the 2023-2024 school year, private school students with household incomes at or below 300% of the federal poverty, currently $90,000 or less for a family of four, are eligible. Also, per the Governor's release, 60% of the students that financially qualify and have been accepted were already attending a private school, with the remaining 40% planning to move from a public to a private school.

Moore says he also has some concerns over private schools losing their autonomy.

"Once money starts flowing from the government to an entity, strings become attached," Moore emphasized. "We haven't seen anything yet, but even as late as the end of the session we were seeing talks of bills and things to affect private schools and their autonomy that they had to start with."

Moore adds he will also be curious to see how many applicants are accepted by a private school due to student capacity at the institutions.

"I don't think all those students that have applied will be able to get to a private school or be accepted by a private school because many private schools are not going to have the availability to handle the influx," said Moore. "But, we'll just have to see how that shakes out."

While acknowledging the costs will likely be over the $106 million estimate, Moore says the state should be able to comfortably finance the program, which he speculates won't be going anywhere soon. Supporters of the legislation, including Governor Reynolds, have touted the provisions as an opportunity for parents to have a say and choice in their child's education while also providing some incentives for public schools. You can hear the full interview with Moore below:

Iowa State Representative Tom Moore joins the "Morning Line" to give his thoughts on the implementation of educational savings accounts and future talks of eminent domain legislation.

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