Iowa’s Attorney General issued an opinion today that says on-line schools are legal. Attorney General Tom Miller was asked by state Senator Thomas Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, to issue an opinion on the legality of on-line programs proposed by the CAM and Clayton Ridge school districts.
Miller’s opinion says the 1987 law gives the Board of Education the broad authority to allow schools to use “telecommunications” for teaching as long as a licensed teacher is used and the telecommunications learning is not the exclusive means for teaching students.
The A-G’s opinion notes the current rules were created before the idea of on-line learning had developed to its current level, and they have not been updated since 1990. The opinion suggests it would be wise for state officials to look at updating the rules with full public input.
See the complete opinion here: Online schools PDF.
Statement from Senator Courtney in response to the Attorney General’s opinion regarding online schools:
“Today’s opinion is a setback to our bipartisan efforts to support local schools and to increase student achievement and teacher quality in Iowa.
“This debate isn’t about whether there’s a place for technology in our classrooms to augment and improve learning opportunities that weren’t available in the past. There is bipartisan support for such innovation.
“This debate is about whether we want to hand over the education of thousands of Iowa children to for-profit, out-of-state companies that will rely on 100 percent online classes, without the need for students to ever set foot in a classroom with a teacher.
“In light of this opinion, I will continue to support legislation that embraces innovative, effective education reform. At the same time, I will work on pending legislation that would outlaw or restrict gimmicks like 100 percent online schools in Iowa. Iowa schoolchildren, parents, educators and other taxpayers deserve nothing less.”
The director of the Department of Education released this statement on the opinion:
DES MOINES, IA – An opinion from the Iowa Attorney General today validates the Iowa Department of Education’s finding that proposals for online education programs in the CAM and Clayton Ridge school districts meet state law, Director Jason Glass said today.
At the school districts’ request, the Department agreed to review the CAM and Clayton Ridge proposals with regard to state education law. The Department concluded that the proposals demonstrated in good faith that both districts intend to meet the requirements of Iowa Code Chapter 256.7, which provides the authority to deliver online education as long as it is not the exclusive means of delivery. The Department will closely monitor how these online programs are implemented in the 2012-13 school year to make sure they deliver as promised.
“I appreciate that the Attorney General has validated that these programs are within the law, and the Iowa Department of Education acted appropriately and within its legal authority,” Glass said.