AG Opinion on Online Learning

There has been a bit of controversy in recent weeks about two Iowa school districts offering online education this fall.  The online education will be provided in partnership with out-of-state, for-profit corporations.  See Iowa Connections Academy here and Iowa Virtual Academy here.

The Office of the Attorney General has issued an opinion finding that “Dillon’s Rule would not prohibit the use of telecommunications for private companies to deliver educational courses to studnts [sic] open-enrolled from other school districts as long as all statutory requirements are met.”

This opinion is based on a finding that the legislature has granted broad authority to the State Board of Education to grant authority to school districts to use telecommunications to instruct students and a finding that there is not “an impermissible delegation of a governmental function where the use of telecommunications as an instructional tool is authorized by statute, the instruction is carried out by licensed teachers, the courses meet the standards for accreditation in the school districts, and the program is subject to audit by the Department.”

Statutory requirements include instruction and supervision by an appropriately licensed teacher, the licensed teacher is accessible to the students, and that telecommunications shall not be used as the exclusive means to provide any course required for accreditation.

The opinion notes that the State Board of Education has not updated the telecommunication rules since 1990 and encourages the Board to engage in the rule-making process including public comment.  The opinion also notes that it is possible that the Department may conclude that online schools are appropriately funded at the HSAP level (0.30 funding) rather than receiving full funding.

Hat tip: Director Glass.