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Iowa

Constitutional Provisions

Compelled Support Clause

“[N]or shall any person be compelled to attend any place of worship, pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing places of worship, or the maintenance of any minister, or ministry.” Iowa Const. Art. I, § 3.

Vouchers: Yes

Tax Credits: Yes


Existing Private School Choice Programs

Tax Credits for Educational Expenses
Iowa Code Section 422.9, .12

Educational Opportunities Act (Individual Tax Credit Scholarships)
Iowa Code Section 422.11M

Relevant Case Law

Luthens v. Bair, 788 F. Supp. 1032 (S.D. Iowa 1992)

A federal district court in Iowa held that a state tax deduction for school expenses, including private school tuition, does not violate the Establishment Clause because it is available to parents regardless of whether their child attends a public, private or religious school, neither advances nor inhibits religion, and does not entangle the state with religion. Additionally, the court held that the benefits stemming from the deduction go to the parents of the children, not the schools they choose.

Rudd v. Ray, 248 N.W.2d 125 (Iowa 1976)

The Iowa Supreme Court held that a law providing for chaplains and religious facilities at state penitentiaries does not violate Iowa’s Compelled Support Clause or the Free Exercise Clause of the federal Constitution because prisoners retain the ability to reasonably exercise their faith.

Knowlton v. Baumhover, 166 N.W. 202 (Iowa 1918) The Iowa Supreme Court held that although it was called a “public school,” educational instruction given in a church building by

a Catholic priest constitutes a “sectarian school” and Iowa’s Compelled Support Clause prohibits the local school board from supporting such a school with public funds.

Analysis and Recommendations

Both tax credit and voucher programs are school choice options for Iowa. Iowa’s constitution contains a Compelled Support Clause, which the Iowa Supreme Court has interpreted as prohibiting direct payment of public funds to religious schools. In general, however, the Court has noted that the Compelled Support Clause seeks to achieve the same end as the federal Establishment Clause and should be interpreted in line with federal Establishment Clause precedent. Therefore, a religiously neutral voucher program of true private choice that gives money directly to parents is likely to be upheld in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Zelman.

Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Universal Eligibility), Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Means-Tested Eligibility), Special Needs Scholarship Program, Foster Child Scholarship Program, Autism Scholarship, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program

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