Skip to main content
Official State of Iowa Website Here is how you know

About the Iowa Department of Education

On this page...

Through leadership and service to the state education system, the Iowa Department of Education (Department) works to ensure all learners are prepared for their future at every step of their educational journey. The Department provides oversight to the state education system that includes PK-12 public elementary and secondary schools, nonpublic schools that receive state accreditation, area education agencies, community colleges, and teacher preparation programs. Under the leadership of the Iowa Department of Education Director and in partnership with the State Board of Education, Department team members, in collaboration with a wide range of community partners, support schools and districts as they prepare students for college and career training and ensure they receive the support needed to succeed.

Vision and Mission


Iowa learners experience high levels of success and develop the capacity to continually grow as successful, healthy, and productive citizens in a global community.


Creating excellence in education through leadership and service.

Organization and Structure

The Department employs approximately 220. While the state libraries, vocational rehabilitation, and public television are affiliated with the Department, they operate as independent entities with independent boards.

Director of the Iowa Department of Education

The Department director is appointed by the Governor to serve a four-year term, subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate. The director's role is to provide leadership for the department as it carries out the policies and programs prescribed by state law and the State Board of Education; and to ensure department personnel are providing the necessary oversight and support for all schools, educators and students to meet their academic goals. The department director also serves as the executive officer of the State Board of Education, a nonvoting role.

"Director McKenzie Snow"Director McKenzie Snow

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed McKenzie Snow to lead the Iowa Department of Education beginning June 26, 2023.

Director Snow is committed to ensuring all children have access to a high-quality education that inspires them and prepares them for the future. As director, her work is grounded in high-quality teaching and learning, family and teacher empowerment, evidence-based innovation, college and career pathways, transparency and student-centered funding and supports.

Director Snow began her work in the classroom teaching remedial courses at the University of the Free State in South Africa. She served as Virginia Deputy Secretary of Education over early childhood education through postsecondary pathways and as New Hampshire Division Director of Academics and Assessment, Special Education, Career Development, Adult Education, Wellness and Nutrition following her confirmation.

She also served in the federal government as a special assistant to the President at the White House Domestic Policy Council, senior adviser at the Office of Management and Budget, and policy director at the U.S. Department of Education. Prior to government service, Snow was policy director at the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Snow has been named a Fulbright grantee, Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, and Bush Institute and Clinton Foundation Presidential Leadership Scholar. She is a proud fifth-generation Midwesterner.

Statements in support of Director Snow’s appointment

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin:

“The nation is watching what we’re doing in Virginia and McKenzie Snow knows first-hand what it takes to build a best-in-class education partnership with parents, families and educators. The incredible record Gov. Reynolds has amassed on education for all Iowans will be strengthened by McKenzie’s appointment and I am proud of what she will bring to the Reynolds Administration.”

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, founder and chair of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd):

“Congratulations to Gov. Kim Reynolds for selecting McKenzie Snow to lead the Iowa Department of Education. In her public service roles, McKenzie has proven time and again that she is committed to students, educators, and families, and she will be a strong leader as Iowa expands and implements a number of critical education policies championed by Gov. Reynolds.”

Aimee Rogstad Guidera, Virginia Secretary of Education:

“Director Snow is a national education leader who has demonstrated success in supporting public school innovation, strong teacher pipelines, literacy, postsecondary pathways, and transparency and accountability. Her work in Virginia was invaluable and I know her leadership will serve Iowa's students, parents, and teachers well.”

Andrew Rotherham, Virginia Board of Education Member:

“McKenzie spearheaded important work here in Virginia to address the impact of pandemic policies and learning loss and make sure public education works for every family. She's a tireless advocate for policies that work for students and never loses sight of what is most important in discussions about education: young people. Iowa is a great next step in her leadership and that state is lucky to have her in this role.” 

Patricia Levesque, CEO of ExcelinEd:

“McKenzie is a respected professional in the world of K-12 education policy, and we are excited for her to take on this new leadership role. I am confident that she will put Iowa families first and lead the department from a place of knowledge, compassion, and years of experience.”

Rick Hess, American Enterprise Institute Director of Education Policy Studies:

“McKenzie Snow is a terrific choice to lead Iowa’s schools. She’s a principled, savvy, and fearless champion of educational excellence and empowered families. Iowa’s students are in good hands.”


The Department was created by the 35th General Assembly in 1913 and was originally called the Department of Public Instruction. The current name was adopted in 1986.

In its early years, the Department was charged with working with the many small, isolated school buildings to build a formal system of public education that included organized districts with defined duties and boundaries, as well as specific qualifications for teachers. While the state department was established to provide oversight, local schools maintained the authority to set many of the rules and requirements for their own students. This system of "local responsibility" - based on the belief that local residents have the greatest interest in assuring their children's success - continues today. As Iowa progressed over the decades with greater diversity in business, industry, and population, the public education system evolved to reflect and encompass those changes. In the mid 1960s, a system of 15 public, two-year community colleges was established to provide more students the opportunity for continued education and training beyond high school. In the mid-1970s, the system of AEAs was developed to provide regional support for local schools and their teachers. Originally, the community colleges and the AEAs shared the same service area boundaries. In recent years, several AEAs have merged to provide greater efficiency in regions with declining populations.

Related story: A walk through Iowa’s one-room schoolhouses

Iowa Education System