Open Enrollment Policies: State Profile

Open Enrollment Policies: State Profile - Iowa

Last updated: October 2018

Open enrollment policies allow a student to transfer to a public school of his or her choice. There are two basic types of open enrollment policies.

  • Intradistrict: Students transfer to another school within their resident school district.
  • Interdistrict: Students transfer a school outside of their resident district.

Depending on the state, open-enrollment policies are mandatory, voluntary, or both. 

  • Mandatory policies require districts to participate in the program.
  • Voluntary policies allow districts to choose whether to participate in open enrollment, often allowing districts the discretion to enter into transfer agreements with other districts.
  • States with both mandatory and voluntary policies usually require mandatory open enrollment in low-performing schools or districts, in defined regions of the state or in other specific circumstances while allowing voluntary open enrollment in the rest of the state.

View the full open enrollment database here.  


Open Enrollment Survey 2018
Does the state have open enrollment programs? Yes, mandatory interdistrict with some limitations. Parents may request open enrollment to another district and may request a preferred school within that district, but the receiving district has authority to determine what school the child will attend.

Districts may opt out because of space availability and districts must have a policy defining "insufficient classroom space." Districts that cannot grant open enrollment requests must create a waiting list. District policies for accepting or denying transfers may include multiple components, such as the availability of instructional staff, student-teacher ratios, finances, and board-adopted district goals and objectives.

Citations: Iowa Code Ann. § 282.18
Iowa Admin. Code r. 281-17.6 through r. 281-17.14

Do desegregation provisions impact open enrollment programs? Sending districts that are subject to voluntary or court-ordered desegregation plans may deny transfer requests if the transfers would affect plan implementation. Districts must give priority to transfer requests that would facilitate implementation of a voluntary or court-ordered desegregation plan. School boards may adopt and implement a voluntary diversity plan that affects open enrollment transfers, although the following student groups are granted an exception to the diversity plan: 
  • Siblings of currently enrolled students.
  • Students who have moved out of the resident district but wish to remain in the district as an open enrollment student.
  • Students transferring due to harassment.
  • Students transferring for health reasons that cannot be adequately addressed by the resident district.

Citations: Iowa Code Ann. § 282.18

Iowa Admin. Code r. 281-17.3, r. 281-17.6, r. 281-17.14

Does the state set priorities for districts to follow when accepting students for open enrollment? Yes. Receiving districts may not deny enrollment to must give priority to requests that would facilitate a court-ordered desegregation plan or voluntary diversity plan. A student who has been suspended or expelled may not transfer to another district until the student is reinstated by the resident district.

Citations: Iowa Code Ann. § 282.18
Iowa Admin. Code r. 281-17.6, r. 281-17.8

Who is responsible for student transportation? Parents are responsible to transport students to a designated bus stop in the receiving district. School districts with open enrollment agreements may make transportation arrangements. Open enrollment students meeting certain income guidelines must receive transportation assistance from the sending district. The district may reimburse parents or provide transportation to a bus stop, but only for students enrolled in a receiving school district adjacent to the sending district.

Citations: Iowa Code Ann. § 282.18
Iowa Admin. Code r. 281-17.9


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