Aug 2, 2022 - News

Iowa charter school says state rule could shutter it

Illustration of a person hanging onto a closing laptop.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The future of a new charter school that would serve the Des Moines metro is in jeopardy before this year's classes even begin.

What's happening: An emergency rule is being considered this week by the Iowa State Board of Education that would leave the school with little or no state funding, Choice Charter School director Cynthia Knight told Axios Monday.

Why it matters: The online school is an option for potentially hundreds of students who have dropped out or are struggling to complete their education in a traditional setting.

Catch up fast: Choice Charter is one of two new public schools formed under a 2021 state law that allows them to operate independently and request waivers to some state education requirements.

  • The other school is part of the Hamburg district, allowing the district to reopen its high school after low enrollment and financial problems shut it down in 2015.

Driving the news: Per-pupil funding for the Choice Charter's first year would be based on the number of students they have by Aug. 5.

  • So far it has around 50 — below its first-year estimate of 300. It's expected to pick up in coming weeks, Knight said.

Yes, but: Charter school enrollments might be reconciled later in the year, a decision that could be made during this week's rulemaking process, Margaret Buckton of the Urban Education Network told Axios.

  • If so, it means a charter school's payments could ultimately be caught up to reflect student numbers more accurately, Buckton said.
  • Officials from the Iowa Department of Education did not respond Monday to Axios' questions about the proposed rule.

Of note: Hamburg's charter school isn’t in the same situation as Choice because its enrollments are connected with district budgets, superintendent Mike Wells told Axios Monday.

What we're watching: Thursday's State Board of Education meeting starts at 9am at the Grimes State Office Building in DSM.

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