(The Center Square) – The Iowa Department of Education said Friday that 16,757 students used the Students First Educational Savings Accounts to enroll in accredited nonpublic schools.
This is the first school year families could use the ESAs. Families had until Oct. 1 to apply, but not everyone was approved, and some chose not to use them after they were approved, the department said.
The accounts provide eligible kindergarten through 12th-grade students funding if they forgo public school and attend an accredited nonpublic school. The money they receive in the accounts is equivalent to the “per pupil” funds that public schools receive each year, which is $7,635 for the 2023-2024 school year.
Only 11.7% of school districts had more than 100 ESA students. No ESA students lived in 19.7% of the state’s school districts.
Enrollment in Iowa’s nonpublic schools is up 7.4% from 33,692 last year to 36,195 this year.
Enrollment in the state’s public schools dropped 0.57% to 483,699 for the 2023-2024 school year, according to numbers released by the department. The number is just over 2,000 less than projections made in May 2022, before the ESAs were passed by the Legislature last year.
Thirty-three percent of ESA recipients attending accredited nonpublic schools for the 2023-2024 school year attended nonpublic schools last year, according to the education department, with 67% of those receiving ESA already enrolled in private schools. Almost 21% of the students using ESAs were kindergarteners, according to the education department data.
Public school enrollment is expected to decrease, according to the May 2022 report. The projected number of students in Iowa’s public schools during the 2026-2027 school year is 476,842.
The numbers are based on enrollment on the first school day in October.