Measuring Up

 



Iowa

TOTAL SCORE:
63 out of 228

Rank: 41 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  2002
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  3
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  315

Iowa did not pass any legislation in 2013 that affected its score and ranking.

Iowa’s score decreased from 71 points in 2013 to 63 points this year.  The score changed because of further clarification about the specific policies for Component #6 (Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes) and Component #7 (Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required). Its ranking went from #38 to #41.

Iowa’s law needs improvement across the board.  Potential starting points include expanding authorizing options, beefing up the law in relation to the model law’s four quality control components (Components #6 through #9), increasing operational autonomy, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Iowa's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Iowa's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Iowa law does not place any caps on charter school growth.

12

1A. No limits are placed on the number of public charter schools or students (and no geographic limits).

1B. If caps exist, adequate room for growth.

N/A

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Iowa law allows applications for converting an existing building or creating a new building for a charter school (which is interpreted as a new start-up). The law is silent on virtual schools, but state department staff indicates there is nothing in code to prevent a virtual school to be created as a charter.

8

2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Iowa law requires charter applicants to first be approved by the local school board and then by the state board of education. Those denied at the local level may appeal to the state board, which can overturn the local school board’s decision. There are three charter schools open in the state.

0

3A. The state allows two or more authorizing options (e.g., school districts and a state charter schools commission) for each applicant with direct application to each authorizer.

4. Authorizer & Overall Program Accountability System Required

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Iowa law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for authorizer and overall program accountability. Iowa law requires the state board of education to annually submit a comprehensive report, with findings and recommendations, to the senate and house standing committees on education. However, it does not require at least a registration process for school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state, authorizer submission of an annual report that summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio, a regular review process by authorizer oversight body, and an authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

3

4A. At least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state.

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities.

N/A

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report, which summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

4D. A regular review process by authorizer oversight body.

4E. Authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

4F. Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Iowa law includes none of the model law's provisions for adequate authorizer funding.

0

5A. Adequate funding from authorizing fees (or other sources).

5B. Guaranteed funding from authorizing fees (or from sources not subject to annual legislative appropriations).

5C. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

5D. Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.

5E. Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

6. Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Iowa law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for transparent charter application, review, and decision-making processes.

There is no detail in statute regarding the application content for submission to the local school board, but once approved by a local board, statute contains a listing of items that must be included within the application to the state board of education. The law does not contain elements specific to virtual schools, educational service providers, and replications.

While Iowa law does not require authorizers to issue a request for proposals, Iowa regulations require each local school board to develop and adopt application requirements, procedures, and criteria, as well as weights for the criteria to determine whether an application is approved or denied at that level. They also include a detailed review process at the state department of education level, including a point system for ranking applications.

Iowa law does not require the review of each application to include an in-person interview and a public meeting.
Iowa law requires all decisions to be made by the boards in public meetings, but there are no regulatory requirements to place reasons for denial in writing.

4

6A. Application elements for all schools.

6B. Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

6C. Additional application elements specific to virtual schools.

6D. Additional application elements specific when using educational service providers.

6E. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6F. Authorizer-issued request for proposals (including application requirements and approval criteria).

6G. Thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6H. All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

7. Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Iowa law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for performance-based charter contracts. Instead of requiring that a charter contract be created as a separate document from the application, Iowa law indicates that the charter school application constitutes a contract agreement between the local school board and the state board of education. Such applications must detail the operations of the school, but are not required to contain details regarding the role and responsibility of the authorizer (other than the provision of school facilities and the support services the school district will provide).

Regulations further add that an approved application must be part of the contract for the operation of the charter school, and that the terms of the contract must also outline the reasons for revocation or nonrenewal of the school.

Iowa law requires the application/contact to include performance goals and objectives by which the school’s student achievement will be judged, the measures to be used to assess progress, and the current baseline status with respect to the goals.

At a minimum, Iowa law requires the terms of the contracts to be for four years.

4

7A. Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.

7B. Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. Defining academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged, based on a performance framework that includes measures and metrics for, at a minimum, student academic proficiency and growth, achievement gaps, attendance, recurrent enrollment, postsecondary readiness (high schools), financial performance, and board stewardship (including compliance).

7D. Providing an initial term of five operating years (or a longer term with periodic high-stakes reviews.

7E. Including requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools, if applicable.

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Iowa law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes.

Iowa law requires charter schools to be subject to the same financial audits as a school district.

Regulations require that the state department of education must periodically review charter schools to ensure continuing compliance with the school’s contract, and that they may schedule mandatory meetings with such schools at the department’s sole discretion.

Iowa law requires charter schools to submit a report at least annually to the local school board, advisory council, and state board of education containing the information required by those entities (with such reports being public). However, there is no requirement for authorizers to produce and publish annual school performance reports aligned with the performance framework set forth in each charter as provided in the model law.

Statute and regulation only require authorizer notification of any problems as part of revocation processes, but there are no formal provisions for corrective action processes.

4

8A. The collection and analysis of student outcome data at least annually by authorizers (consistent with performance framework outlined in the contract).

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct or require oversight activities.

8D. Annual school performance reports which are made public.

8E. Authorizer notification to their schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

8F. Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

9. Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal, and Revocation Decisions

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

In reference to renewal criteria, regulations simply state that in the absence of revoking the charter, it must be renewed at the time of renewal as part of a public hearing on the issue.

Iowa law allows a charter school to be renewed for up to four years.

Iowa law specifies that either the local or state board may revoke a charter for material violations or for not meeting the performance goals and objectives identified in the contract. It requires a local school board considering revocation or nonrenewal to provide timely notification to the advisory council, parents, and teachers, although written reasons are not required by statute. Iowa law permits appeal of any such action to the state board.

If the state board is considering revocation, Iowa law requires it to state the grounds for such action in writing and allow for an informal hearing.

Iowa law contains some details for student placement following revocation. In addition, it requires the charter application to contain a plan of operation to be implemented if the charter school is revoked or fails to renew its contract.
Iowa law does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year, schools seeking renewal must apply for it, authorizers to issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans, and authorizers to ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract (in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract).

8

9A. Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

9B. Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.

9C. Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

9D. Clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9E. Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract (in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract).

9F. Authorizer authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9G. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

9H. Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).

9I. All charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

9J. Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

10. Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Iowa law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for educational service providers. However, Iowa law indicates that a charter school may enter into contracts.

2

10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and non-profit) explicitly allowed to operate all or parts of schools.

10B. The charter application requires 1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, including documentation of academic achievement and (if applicable) school management success; and 2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.

10C. A performance contract is required between the independent public charter school board and the ESP, setting forth material terms including but not limited to: performance evaluation measures; methods of contract oversight and enforcement by the charter school board; compensation structure and all fees to be paid to the ESP; and conditions for contract renewal and termination.

10D. The material terms of the ESP performance contract must be approved by the authorizer prior to charter approval.

10E. School governing boards operating as entities completely independent of any educational service provider (e.g., must retain independent oversight authority of their charter schools, and cannot give away their authority via contract).

10F. Existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Public Charter School Boards

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Iowa law does not include any of the model law’s provisions for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent public charter school boards. Iowa law requires charter schools to remain a legal part of the local school district, with the charter schools having only an advisory council.

0

11A. Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds, incur debt, and pledge, assign or encumber assets as collateral).

11B. Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).

11C. School governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Iowa law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for clear student recruitment, enrollment, and lottery procedures. However, Iowa law requires charter schools to enroll all eligible resident students unless the number of applications exceeds capacity, and then students must be accepted by lot. It allows charter schools to enroll eligible nonresident students, but there is no requirement for schools to be open to any student in the state.

Iowa law requires charter schools to give priority to the siblings of students enrolled in the school.

2

12A. Open enrollment to any student in the state.

12B. Lottery requirements.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, siblings of enrolled students enrolled at a charter school.

12D. Optional enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.

13. Automatic Exemptions from Many State and District Laws and Regulations

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

By statute, a charter school is automatically exempt from most laws, but a charter school must place within its application the specific statutes, administrative rules, and school board policies with which it does not intend to comply.

Iowa law requires all charter school teachers to be certified.

3

13A. Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.

13B. Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

14. Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Iowa law requires charter schools to be part of their district’s collective bargaining agreements.

0

14A. Charter schools authorized by non-local board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.

N/A

14B. Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

15. Multischool Charter Contracts and/or Multicharter Contract Boards Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Iowa law does not permit multi-school charter contracts in that only one charter school is allowed per school district, as overseen by the local school board.

0

15A. Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

Iowa law is silent about charter eligibility and access.

1

16A. Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs available to non-charter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extra-curricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at non-charter public schools for a fee by a mutual agreement.

17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Iowa law requires charter schools to remain part of the district LEA, so the school district is responsible for special education services. It also requires the funding to flow to the district (part of which also flows through to the Area Education Agency, which has the responsibility for providing special education services and technical assistance).

8

17A. Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.

17B. Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).

18. Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Iowa law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for equitable operational and categorical funding, and there is no evidence of the amount of funds charters receive versus districts.

Iowa law provides that a charter school receives its funding from the school district that authorized it. There are no specifics in statute as to what the charter schools are to receive, leaving all details are to be worked out with the local school board as part of the charter.

Iowa law requires charter schools to comply with the same provisions for transportation as all public schools and receive funding for it as per all public schools. Also, it requires a charter application to include the means, costs, and plan for providing transportation for students attending the charter school.

0

18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

18B. Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding, and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Iowa law includes none of the model law's provisions for equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

0

19A. A per-pupil facilities allowance which annually reflects actual average district capital costs.

19B. A state grant program for charter school facilities.

19C. A state loan program for charter school facilities.

19D. Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allow charter schools to have their own bonding authority.

19E. A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for public charter school facilities.

19F. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to non-charter public schools.

19G. Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.

19H. Prohibition of facility-related requirements stricter than those applied to traditional public schools.

20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Iowa law requires participation in the relevant employee retirement systems.

4

20A. Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.

20B. Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).