Limited home rule
Published June 2017
In the 2017 Legislative session, the General Assembly passed House File 573, which was signed by Governor Branstad on May 10, and created limited home rule for school districts.
This new section of Iowa Code chapter 274, Iowa Code section 274.3, provides more flexibility for school districts in their exercise of powers where the law or administrative rule does not already prescribe or prohibit action. However, a school district’s home rule power may not be inconsistent with the state or federal law.
School districts should consider the following when analyzing potential opportunities for increased local flexibility:
- If there is a state statute or state administrative rule, then that authority is controlling and a district’s actions must be consistent with that authority.
- If there is an Iowa Supreme Court or Iowa Court of Appeals case, that case is controlling and a district’s actions must be consistent with that ruling.
- If there is a declaratory order or contested case interpreting a state statute or rule, the order or case is controlling on the question to the extent that order or contested case is an authorized interpretation of the statute or rule under the Administrative Procedure Act or the Iowa Department of Education Director’s power to interpret the school laws and school rules of the state of Iowa.
- If there is a federal statute, regulation, or case on point, then that authority is controlling.
- If there is an area of ambiguity in the law, the Department will liberally construe the statute or rule in favor of the district’s broad exercise of power.
- If there is no statute, case law, declaratory order, contested case, rule or guidance that covers the issue, then the district may exercise any broad and implied power, not inconsistent with or rule related to the operation, control, and supervision of the school unless one of the exceptions in Iowa Code 274.3 applies.
Under those exceptions the district shall not have the power to do any of the following:
- Levy any tax unless expressly authorized by the General Assembly.
- Charge elementary and secondary school students or the students’ families a mandatory fee except as expressly authorized by the General Assembly.
- Adopt or enforce a policy that would unreasonably interfere with the duties and responsibilities of a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency.