The Iowa Department of Education is changing its rules to add in the “Innovation Zone Schools” that were created by lawmakers in the last session. The new schools would expand on the charter schools concept, which are free from many of the state regulations that apply to other public schools, allowing them to try new educational approaches.

The “Innovation Zone School” zone allows at least two schools to work together on charter school, but Iowa Department of Education lawyer Carol Greta says no school districts have been willing to try it. “How that’s going to work in practice, we don’t know. We don’t have any schools stepping forward to say they would like to pilot one,” Gretta says.

Legislators thought the addition of “Innovation Schools” would make Iowa’s application for federal “Race to the Top” education funds more attractive. But the state’s bid for the federal money was rejected. Before the change, only one school district could create a charter school.

Greta says they need districts to step forward before they can see if the new idea holds up. “The innovation zone schools law is still a good one….since we don’t have any applicants for it so far, we don’t know how its going to work in practice yet. We haven’t been able to kick the tires on it yet.”

Innovation zone schools, like charter schools, would be administered by public school boards, not private corporations.There are currently fewer than 10 charter schools in Iowa.