(The Center Square) – Iowa legislators granted charter school founders additional options with the passage of HF813 this spring.
One change in particular allows bypassing public school boards when establishing new charter schools.
Gov. Kim Reynolds, a charter schools advocate, signed the bill May 19. According to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll, 55% of Iowans oppose the change in the law regarding the establishment of charter schools without approval from the local school board.
Iowa Department of Education spokesperson Jim Flansburg told The Center Square the Department and State Board of Education is required to adopt rules for charter school application timelines and deadlines ((Iowa Code §§ 256E.4(2) and 256E.5(2)) by the end of the calendar year.
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees told The Center Square the organization expects applications will come in upon the state’s publication of an application process and rules.
The State Board’s next meeting is set for Aug. 5.
So far, the Department of Education has issued guidance regarding establishing charter schools.
The application review would include an evaluation of the written application, an in-person interview with the applicant and an opportunity for residents to learn about and provide input on applications in a public forum (Iowa Code §§ 256E.4(6) and 256E.5(5)), the department said in the document published July 2.
The State Board could only approve an application “if the applicant has demonstrated competence in each element of the approval criteria and if the applicant is likely to open and operate a successful charter school.” It would need to approve or deny an application within 75 days of receiving it. It would then have 30 days to inform the application in writing of the decision and the reasons for any denial, with supporting documentation.
Applicants would need to demonstrate their academic and operational vision and plans for the charter school and the founding group's capacity to execute them. It would also need to provide the State Board “a clear basis” for assessing the plans and capacity (Iowa Code §§ 256E.4(1) and 256E.5(1)).
The school district a charter school student lives in must pay the charter the state cost per pupil for the previous school year, the teacher leadership supplement state cost per pupil for the previous fiscal year, and any monies received for the student because of the non-English speaking weighting for the previous school year multiplied by the state cost per pupil for the previous year. Funding for a charter school’s first school year must be based on enrollment estimates in the school’s contract, and the funding must be reconciled during subsequent payments based on the actual enrollment.
State Board President Brooke Axiotis and Vice President Bettie Bolar did not respond to The Center Square’s request for information.