State Departments of Education Should Explain Legal Basis for Mandates on Schools

A bill in the Iowa Senate would require the Iowa Department of Education to identify their statutory or regulatory authority for any request for reports made of school districts. Photo Credit: Ashton B. Crew (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Iowa State Senator Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton), chair of the Iowa Senate Education Committee, told me in an email, “I’ve had several superintendents and principals asking me why they are completing so many reports, especially after we passed school district home rule last year.”

The home rule act, HF 573, passed the Iowa House and Senate last session and was signed into law by former Governor Terry Branstad. It simply reads:

The board of directors of a school district shall operate, control, and supervise all public schools located within its district boundaries and may exercise any broad and implied power, not inconsistent with the laws of the general assembly and administrative rules adopted by state agencies pursuant thereto, related to the operation, control, and supervision of those public schools.

The new law really isn’t a boon for local control, in my opinion, because there is still so much the state dictates to local school districts. This does mean, however, that the Iowa Department of Education can’t keep piling on mandated reports, etc. without specific law or an administrative rule giving them that authority. Which, apparently, they are still doing.

So the question that State Senator Sinclair kept getting from school administrators is eye-opening.

So she offered a bill. ” I figured requiring the DE to cite the legal authority for gathering the information wasn’t too much to ask. And if there is no legal authority, then maybe they won’t require the report,” she told me in an email.

They may still try to require it, but without specific authority, a school could politely ignore the request.

The bill she offered is SSB 3001. It requires the director of the department of education to cite the state or federal statute, rule, or regulation necessitating the inclusion of information in any report which the department requires a school district, area education agency, and accredited nonpublic school, or the officers or employees of such entities to submit.

The bill that was introduced by Sinclair in the Senate Education Committee was assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Senators Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), Jeff Elder (R-State Center), and Robert Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids).

I think it’s safe to say this bill should pass, and frankly, it is common sense. State Departments of Education should have to cite the law or regulation whether state or federal that gives them the authority to require anything from a local school district.

One thought on “State Departments of Education Should Explain Legal Basis for Mandates on Schools

  1. The problem with this paragraph is the statement (not inconsistent with the laws of the general assembly and ADMINiSTRATIVE RULES ADOPTED BY STATE AGENCIES PURSUANT THERETO) In the case where a State Board has unbridled constitutional authority, such as is the case in WV, there is nothing even the Legislature can do to reign in the overbearing State Board. I am almost convinced that even if we are successful in passing an Amendment to the WV Constitution to give the Legislature review and “APPROVAL” of Board policies and regulations it will still be difficult to impact public education. The problem is the overwhelming apathy of the people and their Legislators. They follow the pied piper rather than become educated on the issues and act accordingly to demand their lawmakers do the same.

    The board of directors of a school district shall operate, control, and supervise all public schools located within its district boundaries and may exercise any broad and implied power, not inconsistent with the laws of the general assembly and administrative rules adopted by state agencies pursuant thereto, related to the operation, control, and supervision of those public schools.

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