New Report Shows Iowa Charter School Law Remains Stagnant Among State Rankings

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Upcoming Legislative Session Creates Opportunity for Lawmakers to Affect Meaningful Change

Des Moines, IA — Today, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released its annual state-by-state ranking of public charter school laws, Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws, Tenth Edition. Iowa’s charter school law remains one of the weakest in the nation, but legislative action to overhaul the bill has the potential to greatly improve the state’s national standing.

While Iowa’s law does not cap public charter school growth, it allows only district authorizers and provides little autonomy, insufficient accountability, and inequitable funding to charter schools—all reasons the state legislature and Governor Reynolds should make improving the statute a top priority for 2019.

Iowa’s law needs improvement across the board. Potential starting points include expanding authorizing options, strengthening the law in relation to the model law’s four quality-control components, increasing operational autonomy, ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities, ensuring transparency regarding educational service providers and strengthening accountability.

“Meeting current and future workforce needs has become one of the highest priorities in the state of Iowa. At the same time, Iowa has lost its leadership position in K-12 student outcomes,” said Mark Jacobs, Founder and President of Reaching Higher Iowa. “Public charter schools have been one tool other states have used to meet unmet needs in their education system and improve outcomes across the board, something that Iowa has struggled to do. Preparing the future workforce of Iowa requires strengthening our K-12 public school system and rewriting our public charter school legislation is one step towards meeting that goal.”

The National Alliance’s 2019 rankings measure each state’s charter school law against the “gold standard” model charter school law, A Model Law for Supporting the Growth of High-Quality Charter Schools: Second Edition, released in October 2016. The Tenth Edition of Measuring Up to the Model ranks public charter school laws in 44 states and the District of Columbia. Each law receives a score based on 21 essential metrics, including accountability, flexibility, and funding equity.

“As we begin National School Choice Week, the timing is right to recognize the role charter schools play in strengthening the public education system as a whole,” said National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees. “As the report shows, many states are improving the quality of their charter school laws. At the same time, we recognize that until every state has a high-quality law—and every student who wants to attend a charter school is able to—our work is not done. We look forward to working alongside policymakers, school leaders, and education advocates to ensure every state creates an environment for all students to succeed.”

For additional key findings from the report, please view the press release from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.