Aug 8, 2022 - News

Iowa allocates $1 million for Choice Charter School's launch

Illustration of a computer with a chalkboard screen featuring dollar signs
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Iowa Board of Education allocated $1 million last week to help Choice Charter School pay startup costs.

Driving the news: Choice is the first charter school that will run independently of a public school district under a 2021 state law

Catch up fast: Choice Charter's director Cynthia Knight told Axios last week that the school was in jeopardy of closing due to an emergency rule linked with its state funding.

  • Public schools typically receive state money based on services they’ve already provided.
  • Choice — which currently has around 50 students — was asking that the school's future payments be based on the projections that it would have 300 students in the coming weeks.

State of play: The state board agreed to maintain its funding mechanism based on student counts. That means Choice would get about $2.9 million if it meets full enrollment.

  • The $1 million in startup money is additional funding and will come from the state education department’s discretionary funds as part of a pilot project to assist new charters.

By the numbers: At least 3.4 million students are now enrolled among 7, 700 charter schools in at least 44 states, according to the advocacy group National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. That's more than double from 2005.

  • Choice Charter and another school that is a part of the Hamburg district were approved by state officials in March.
  • Iowa had two charter schools that were associated with public districts prior to the 2021 law.

What they're saying: Choice Charter is a benefit to public education because it will offer an option to hundreds of students who have dropped out of school or struggle in traditional settings, Knight told us.

  • The startup allocation is critical, she said.

The other side: The new charter school law is "an unfortunate experiment," Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek warned last year.

  • The state teacher's union has argued that all educational resources should be allocated to public schools.
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