The school closure decision is one of the most difficult a school board must make. Both economic and non-economic factors must be considered and extensive community participation must be achieved. The Barker Guidelines were laid down by the State Board of Education in the Case of Norman Barker, et al., 1 D.P.I. App. Dec. 145 (1977).
On July 31, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court decided that the Barker rules (281-chapter 19) are void.
What does this mean?
The seven procedural steps that a school board may take when acting to close an attendance center are still a good idea, but are not required by law.
Those steps are:
- The board shall establish a timeline in advance for carrying out the procedures involved in making the decision on the matter, focusing all aspects of the timeline upon the anticipated date that the board will make its final decision.
- The board shall inform segments of the community within its district that the matter is under consideration by the board. This shall be done in a manner reasonably calculated to apprise the public of that information.
- The board shall seek public input in all study and planning steps involved in making the decision.
- The board and groups and individuals selected by the board shall carry out sufficient research, study, and planning. The research, study, and planning shall include consideration of, at a minimum, student enrollment statistics, transportation costs, financial gains and losses, program offerings, plant facilities, and staff assignment.
- The board shall promote open and frank public discussion of the facts and issues involved.
- The board shall make a proper record of all steps taken in the making of the decision.
- The board shall make its final decision in an open meeting with record made thereof.
Appeals to the State Board from these decisions will no longer be reviewed for compliance with the above steps, but, as directed by the Iowa Supreme Court, using the "abuse of discretion" review standard. Under that standard, if a reasonable person could have found credible evidence supporting the school district's decision, the decision must be affirmed.
The full decision may be read online at:
Supreme Court Opinion - Closing Schools