Private School Regulation


Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: By definition, "nonpublic school" means any school not directly supported by taxation that is accredited or which uses licensed practitioners as instructors. Iowa Code § 280.2.

The Iowa Board of Education has established rules and procedures for accrediting all nonpublic schools offering instruction in levels K-12. Iowa Code § 256.11. Iowa Admin. Code r. 281-12.1 through 12.5; 12.8.

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that "The state has a clear right to set minimum educational standards [including instruction by a certified teacher] for all its children and a corresponding responsibility to see to it that those standards are honored." Johnson v. Charles City Community Schools, 368 N.W.2d 74 (1975).

Recordkeeping/Reports: The principal of an accredited nonpublic school must furnish, when requested by the secretary of the local public school district, a report of the names, ages, number of days in attendance, and course of study of each pupil at the school. The School District provides the necessary forms. The general request may be made once during each school year and at any time for individual cases. Iowa Code § 299.3.

The governing authorities of nonpublic schools must submit the names, addresses, and dates of birth of currently enrolled students who have attained age 18 or will be 18 within six months to the County Commissioner of Elections. The list must be submitted on September 30 and March 30 of each year. The Commissioner may use this list to send voter registration forms to the student. Iowa Code § 280.9A.2.

Length of School Year/Days: Nonpublic schools must prescribe an attendance policy which requires student attendance for at least 148 days, i.e. at least 37 days each school quarter. Iowa Code § 280.3.

Teacher Certification: By definition, nonpublic schools must be accredited or employ licensed practitioners as instructors. Iowa Code § 280.2. Accredited nonpublic schools must employ certified teachers. Iowa Admin. Code r. 281-12.4(8).

Instruction in English: The medium of instruction in all secular subjects taught in nonpublic schools must be the English language except when a foreign language is deemed appropriate or when the student is non-English-speaking. A nonpublic school must provide special instruction for non English-speaking students until the child demonstrates a functional ability to speak, write, read and understand the English language. Nonpublic school students may attend transitional bilingual or other special instruction programs supported by state funds that are offered at public schools. Iowa Code § 280.4.

Curriculum: Iowa State Board of Education rules require that a multicultural, nonsexist approach be used by state accredited nonpublic schools and that global perspectives be incorporated into all levels of the educational program. Iowa Code § 256.11.

State accredited nonpublic schools must prescribe a minimum educational program as defined under § 256.11 unless otherwise provided by law or granted an exemption by the Iowa Board of Education. The section outlines a comprehensive curriculum for grades K-6, 7-8 and 9-12 from traditional course offerings to instruction in acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Iowa Code §§ 256.11, 280.3.

As a condition of graduation, state accredited nonpublic schools must require private school students (grades 9-12) to complete one unit of U.S. History and one-half unit of U.S. government which shall include a study of the constitution, and relevant voting statutes and procedures. Iowa Code § 256.11(5b).

Nonpublic schools must incorporate career education into the curricular and co-curricular education experience from grades PK-12. The essential elements of career education must include: 1) awareness of self in relation to others and the needs of society; 2) exploration of employment opportunities and experience in personal decision making; and 3) experiences which will help students to integrate work values and work skills into their lives. Iowa Code § 280.9.

Nonpublic schools serving grades 9-12 must provide 5 units of occupational education subjects e.g. business/office occupations, trade and industrial occupations, consumer and family sciences or home economics occupations, agriculture occupations, marketing and health occupations. Instruction must be competency-based, articulated with postsecondary programs of study, and may include field, laboratory, or on-the-job training. Iowa Code § 256.11b.

Every public school district makes available an approved driver education course to all resident students, including students attending nonpublic schools. The courses may be offered at the public school or at the nonpublic school facilities. Iowa Code § 321.178.

Private schools may participate in Iowa's Community-based Workplace Learning Program (Workstart). Workstart is a voluntary collaborative program between business and Iowa's secondary and postsecondary education system designed to provide high school students the academic and job-specific skills needed to enter the workforce. Iowa Code § 258.17.

Eligible students attending Iowa's accredited private schools may enroll in postsecondary institutions for courses not offered at the private school or at the public school district in which the private school is located and receive credit towards their high school diploma. The nonpublic school determines the number of high school credits to be granted upon successful completion of the course. Iowa Code § 261C.3-5.

Health: Nonpublic schools cannot require non-administrative personnel to perform any special health services or intrusive non-emergency medical services for students unless the personnel are licensed or otherwise qualified and have consented to perform the services. Iowa Code § 280.23.

It is a misdemeanor to possess or consume alcoholic liquors, wine, or beer while attending a private school-related function. Iowa Code § 123.46.

Safety: Nonpublic schools must prescribe procedures for handling child abuse reports alleged against an employee or agent of the school in accordance with state guidelines. Iowa Code § 280.17. Private schools must cooperate with investigations of child abuse conducted by the Department of Human Services. The school must provide confidential access to the child alleged to be abused and to other children to obtain relevant information. The investigator may observe the child but a witness must be present. Any child age 10 or older can terminate contact with the investigator by stating his desire to do so. Iowa Code § 232.71.6.

Nonpublic schools must provide eye and ear-protective devices for students and teachers participating in shop or laboratory courses that pose a potential hazard. Iowa Code § 280.10, 11.

Private schools must conduct two fire drills and two tornado drills between July 1 and December 31 of each year and again between January 1 and June 30 of each year. Doors and exits of all rooms and buildings must be unlocked when occupied. Fire/tornado warning systems must be installed and first-aid fire extinguishers available. Private schools are inspected by the state fire marshall's office or the local city fire department at least once every two years to assess compliance with the fire safety standards and to identify potential fire hazards. Iowa Code § 100.31.

Transportation: Iowa students attending accredited nonpublic schools are entitled to transportation on the same basis as provided public school students. Parents may be reimbursed for some transportation costs. Iowa Code § 285.1-3, 10.1, 16.

School bus drivers must meet statutory qualifications, e.g. 18 years of age, physically and mentally competent. Nonpublic schools may immediately suspend a driver, pending a hearing, for the use of nonprescription controlled substances or alcoholic beverages during work hours. (See statute for other grounds for immediate dismissal.) Iowa Code § 321.375.

Private school buses are registered without charge upon application to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Department issues a registration certificate and plates which are imprinted "Private School Bus" to be attached to the front and rear of each bus. Iowa Code § 321.18.

Home Schooling: A parent or legal guardian must file a report with the resident district by the first day of school or within 14 days of beginning home schooling if begun mid-school year. The report must include name and address of parent or guardian; name and birth date of the child; number of days of instruction (minimum of 148); name and address of the person providing the instruction and an indication of whether or not the instructor holds a valid Iowa practitioner license or teaching certificate appropriate to the age and grade level of the child; outline of the courses of study; texts to be used; evidence of immunization; indication of whether dual enrollment is being sought; whether or not the child is currently identified as a child needing special education; and an indication of which form of annual assessment is being administered. Iowa Code § 281. 31.2.1.

A parent or legal guardian desiring dual enrollment must notify the district of residence not later than September 15. A child under dual enrollment may participate in academic or instructional programs or any extra-curricular activities in the district on the same basis as any regularly enrolled student. Iowa Code § 281.31.5

When a parent or legal guardian provides private instruction without the assistance or supervision of a validly licensed Iowa practitioner, the child is subject to initial baseline testing and an annual evaluation. Standardized testing or portfolio assessment may be chosen. Dual enrolled students may be tested as part of the public school testing program. Iowa Code § 281.31.7 Evaluations must be reported to the school district of residence and the department of education on later than June 30. Iowa Code § 299A.3 If the results of the evaluations indicate that the student has failed to make adequate progress, the parent or legal guardian must enroll the child in an accredited public or nonpublic school at the beginning of the next school year and shall continue attendance at an accredited public or nonpublic school until adequate progress is achieved. Iowa Code § 299A.6

When a child has been identified as currently requiring special education, the child is eligible to receive home instruction with the written approval of the director of special education of the area education agency of the child?s district of residence. Iowa Code § 281.31.9.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: School Districts may make textbooks available to pupils attending accredited nonpublic schools upon request of the pupil or the pupil's parent. Availability is comparable as to public schools, limited only to the extent funds are appropriated by the general assembly. (The Iowa General Assembly allocated $616,000 for this purpose in 1994-95 and set a limit of $20 per pupil.) Iowa Code § 301.1, 29-30.

Private school students may enroll in public schools for courses not offered at the private school. Private schools may comply with state standards for required courses in this manner. Iowa Code § 256.12.1. Iowa Admin. Code r. 281-14.

School districts and area education agency boards may provide public school services, e.g. health services; special education services; diagnostic services for speech, hearing and psychological purposes; remedial education programs; guidance services; and school testing to children attending nonpublic schools in the same manner and to the same extent provided to public school students. Iowa Code § 256.12.2.

State accredited private school students may be served with media and educational services through Iowa's area 15 education agencies. Iowa Code §§ 273.2, 273.3.19, 257.37.

Nonpublic schools may operate school lunch programs with appropriated state funds but are not required. Meals served under the program must be nutritionally adequate. Iowa Code § 283A.10. Iowa Admin. Code r. 281-58.1

Accredited or approved nonpublic schools are included in Iowa's Board of Education plans for the use of telecommunications as an instructional tool. Representatives of nonpublic schools serve on an advisory committee to make recommendations to the state board. Iowa Code § 256.7.9.

The County Auditor will make voting machines or sample ballots used within the county available for instruction in the schools. Iowa Code § 256.11.5.b.

Miscellaneous: By statute, Iowa has established a nonpublic school advisory committee to advise the Iowa Board of Education on matters affecting nonpublic schools including standards for teacher certification and approval of nonpublic schools. Iowa Code § 256.15.

Iowa serves pupils enrolled in public and nonpublic schools through its new computer initiative launched by the Educational Technology Consortium. The consortium develops plans for computer hardware and software, ensures equal access to educational technology, and makes recommendations for school and home use. Iowa Code § 301A.1 et seq.

Nonpublic schools may adopt policies regarding valid reasons for excused absences from school. Iowa Code § 299.1. The authorities in charge of an accredited nonpublic school must prescribe reasonable rules for the punishment of truants. Iowa Code § 299.9.

As part of Iowa's uniform school requirements, nonpublic schools must appoint an advisory committee to develop goals and plans to meet the major educational needs of their students and to evaluate and report on the school's progress annually. Iowa Code § 280.12.

A nonpublic school superintendent may serve as an elementary school principal in that school provided that the Superintendent holds the proper licensure/certification but cannot also serve as a high school principal in that school. Iowa Admin. Code r. 281-12.4(4).

Nonpublic schools must maintain a suitable flagstaff and raise the United States flag and the Iowa state banner on all school days when weather conditions permit. Iowa Code § 280.5.

Nonpublic schools may obtain licenses to conduct games of skill, games of chance, bingo and raffles at bona fide school functions, such as carnivals, fall festivals, bazaars and similar events. Iowa Code ? 99B.7. One or more game nights can be held using play money for student participation without a license if the accredited nonpublic school approves. Iowa Code § 99B.8.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 1999 - This information is presented for research use only and should not be construed as legal advice.  Please consult an attorney for further information.