School district home rule bill passes

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Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed Senate bill HF573, the school district home rule, into law last week. The bill gives school districts in Iowa statutory home rule, as opposed to constitutional home rule, as cities and counties have. This establishes broad power of local school boards in statute, but provides that any adopted regulations cannot supersede state, county, or city laws and regulations. It also establishes that a school board cannot levy any tax not authorized by the state.

The legislature believes this will provide school districts with flexibility in areas not addressed by current law. For example, online education would fall into this category. When the state constitution was written, online education didn’t exist. This does not authorize schools to conduct activities that are prohibited under current code. The law requires schools to conduct activities as mandated under current code.

Cities and counties have constitutional home rule due to the fact that they pay for their activities through the use of local property taxes. School funding comes from the state; therefore, it would be expected that schools should be subject to greater regulation than cities and counties. This law accomplishes this regulation by providing statutory home rule.

“This maintains greater regulatory authority over schools while providing more opportunities for students and for local districts to be innovative in their approach to education,” said Senator Mark Lofgren, R-Muscatine. “This is about local control. This will allow school districts and school boards the ability to have more flexibility in their decision making.”