Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law Iowa’s school choice bill, the Students First Act, on Jan. 24 and expanded school choice for all of Iowa’s children and families.

As someone who grew up in rural Iowa and attended public elementary school, I was thrilled to see my home state make the right choice for Iowa’s students. I live far away now, but many of my friends and my extended family live in Iowa. Prior to the bill passing, school choice debates heated up, and like with all policy debates, myths were being spread. Now that the bill passed and was signed into law, I want to debunk three harmful myths about Iowa’s Students First Act.

The first myth is that the bill “destroys rural schools” because rural areas often don’t have private schools, and rural schools could lose funding. First, this is in and of itself a contradiction. The rural areas either have private schools and risk losing students, or they have no private schools for students to attend. Fortunately, under Iowa’s Students First Act, neither of these scenarios are likely. Iowa’s school choice bill leaves money for public schools. The bill proposes $7,630 of per-student funds for private schools, home schools, micro-schools, instructional materials, and online learning — many of which are accessible from all rural areas. And estimates suggest that public schools will keep about $1,205 per pupil for each student who resides in their district but attends a private school. In sum, the Students First Act gives rural families more education freedom and ensures that rural schools will continue to receive taxpayer-funded financial support.

The second myth is that school choice benefits only the rich. The opposite is true; preventing low-income families from accessing the best schools is classist and unnecessarily holds low-income children back. Economically advantaged families often already live in high-performing school districts and likely can afford private schools. Iowa’s school choice bill addresses this disparity by targeting lower-income families. In the first year, the plan targets families whose income does not exceed 300% of the federal poverty line. This would include, for example, a family of three whose total household income is $69,000 or below — hardly the trappings of a policy that benefits only the rich.

Similar programs have worked well in other parts of the country. In Florida, the average household income of families using the state’s largest private school choice program is $37,730 per year. Iowans should applaud a program that expands opportunity for all Iowa’s kids, irrespective of their ZIP code or parents’ income.

School choice is available to all, which leads to the last and ugliest myth: that school choice foments discrimination and nefariously uses public money for religious activities.

First, federal law forbids private schools from engaging in racial discrimination. Additionally, a Google search of Iowa private schools reveals that one of Iowa’s largest private schools has a population of 25% minority students, offers ESL classes, and has generous scholarship programs and tuition discounts. This is hardly an example of a racially and ethnically monolith, elitist private school.

Moreover, Iowa’s Latino population has grown by 161% in the past 20 years. Meanwhile, a 2015 EdChoice study shows that support for school choice is higher among Latinos than the national average. The Students First Act supports educational freedom for families of all ethnic groups and skin colors.

Anecdotally, my Iowa public elementary school had no racial, ethnic, or religious minorities, but my private high school had many. At this point, it bears mentioning that I’m an adopted Jew and would never support a piece of legislation that didn’t help children from all walks of life. This brings me to part two of the school choice discrimination myth: that school choice conflicts with the principle of separation of church and state.

The Supreme Court has long held that school vouchers are consistent with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which both protects the free exercise of religion and prohibits the government from establishing a state religion. In Zelman vs. Harris (2002), the Court upheld an Ohio voucher program that provided benefits directly to individuals, allowing them to choose from schools that are public or private, secular or religious. The court reasoned that including religious schools, among others, does not amount to an unconstitutional “establishment of religion.” More recently, in Carson v. Makin (2021), the court held that a Maine voucher program, which prohibited religious schools from accessing state funds, discriminated against religion in violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. In short, the Court has been clear that under the First Amendment, states are not only permitted to include religious schools in their voucher programs, they are, in fact, constitutionally required to allow parents the choice of a religious school.

The bottom line: School choice does not violate the separation of church and state. Iowa’s school choice bill lets parents use their hard-earned tax dollars to fund education that works best for their children.

I live in Paris, France, now, and I heard the good news that the bill was quickly signed into law. Even from all the way across the world, I couldn’t be prouder to see my home state ensuring that all children — black, white, poor, rich, urban, and rural — have access to the best education possible.