Iowa Lawmaker Pushes for “Home Rule” for Local Schools

I reported at Caffeinated Thoughts last week about different education bills impacting K-12 education that has been filed in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate. Here are a few of the bills that concern our issues.

House Joint Resolution 3 – This bill filed by State Representative Jake Highfill (R-Johnston) proposes a constitutional amendment “to provide home rule powers and authority for school districts.”

It also adds, “The home rule powers cannot be inconsistent with state law and the power to levy  any tax is limited to those taxes expressly authorized by the general assembly. If the power or authority of a school district conflicts with the power and authority of a municipal corporation, county, or joint county-municipal corporation government, the power and authority exercised by a municipal corporation, county, or joint county-municipal corporation government shall prevail within the jurisdiction of the municipal corporation, county, or joint county-municipal corporation government.”

So it returns a lot of power over education policy back to school districts. If passed it will have to be passed again during the 88th General Assembly before Iowans can vote on it.

I have to say I very, very jazzed about this bill. This, if passed into Iowa’s Constitution, could be a game changer in truly returning control of education policy back to duly elected school boards.

House File 26 – This bill was also filed by Highfill and it also deals with home rule, but it does it in the Iowa Code, not the state constitution. The bill authorizes a school board to exercise any broad or implied power, not inconsistent with the laws of the general assembly, related to the operation, control, and supervision of the public schools located within its district boundaries. However, the authority does not encompass the power to levy any tax unless expressly authorized by the general assembly. Statutes relating to school boards and school districts shall be liberally construed to effectuate the authority granted under the bill.

Again, this is a great bill.

Senate File 30 – This was filed by State Senator Brad Zaun. This bill eliminates references and requirements to the Iowa Common Core or core curriculum or core content standards in the Iowa Code, but continues to direct the state board of education to adopt high school graduation requirements and assessment standards. It also creates a new task force for the development of a new assessment.

This bill was assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Senator Craig Johnson (R-Independence), Rita Hart (D-Wheatland), and Tim Kraayanbrink (R-Ft. Dodge). The Iowa Department of Education, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, Iowa Association of School Boards, and Iowa State Education Association have registered against the bill.

Zaun also filed another bill of concern, Senate File 29, which eliminates the Iowa Department of Education, and creates an education savings account. Our readership has varied opinions on school choice measures, but it’s not likely the Iowa Senate will pass a bill eliminating the state department of education – especially when the Iowa Constitution does give the state a role in providing public education.

I know with certainty there will be additional bills forthcoming including a stronger Common Core repeal bill so stay tuned.

One thought on “Iowa Lawmaker Pushes for “Home Rule” for Local Schools

  1. I would respectfully disagree with you about providing home rule authority for school districts in Iowa. Currently, Iowa schools must follow Dillon’s Rule. On the surface, a switch to home rule might sound attractive; however, this is one of those be careful of what you wish for situations. For example, what happens if a school board delegates its powers (or abdicates its duties) to the board president so that one board member, instead of including all elected board members in the decision making process, is making decisions that the entire board should be acting upon instead. I’ve written about Dillon’s rule in this post. https://marymurphyiowa.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/the-proper-role-of-an-iowa-school-board-president/

    A situation could arise where a district has a superintendent who works closely with the board president and not the entire board. This situation shouldn’t take place under Dillon’s rule (or if it does, it is objectionable) because the Iowa Code states: “The affairs of each school corporation shall be conducted by a board of directors [noticeably, not just the board president]….” Iowa Code 274.7. The situation might be more murky under home rule, and that would not be good because the community elects a board. This is just one example, there are undoubtedly others.

    I suspect that Iowa superintendents like (although perhaps silently) Dillon’s rule because when they are asked to do something by their board and don’t want to, they could cite Dillon’s rule as the reason not to and so few people understand Dillon’s rule that the board might back off its request.

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