On July 17 the Gladbrook-Reinbeck school board accepted the dissolution committee’s proposal on division of the district and set a vote for Sept. 12 concurrent with regular school board elections. A yes vote is to end the district; a no vote is to keep GR intact.
Approval of dissolution would require the residents of Reinbeck (and, by extension, Lincoln and Morrison) to voluntarily give up their school, and barring some sort of voter-impairing epidemic that stops at the county line, that is not going to happen.
A reader asked, why couldn’t part of the GR district be transferred? I thought I had an answer, and then after more study I think it is less a legal impossibility than a practical one. (But only very barely so.)
From this point on, remember this is a layman’s interpretation. IANAL, YMMV, etc. This is really a job for the Legislative Services Agency or possibly the Attorney General’s Office, but I don’t have that sort of pull.
Iowa Code Section 275 covers school reorganization. There are these passages:
The provisions of sections 275.1 to 275.5, relating to studies, surveys, hearings and adoption of plans shall constitute a mandatory prerequisite to the effectuation of any proposal for district boundary change.
A proposal for merger, consolidation, or boundary change [emphasis added] of local school districts shall first be submitted to the area education agency board following the procedure prescribed in this chapter.
That would seem to say that such an action is possible, but only after extensive studies and assessments of the potential new district. Who petitions?
The petition shall be signed by eligible electors residing in each existing school district or portion affected equal in number to at least twenty percent of the number of registered voters in the school district or portion affected, or four hundred eligible electors, whichever is the smaller number.
While a dissolution petition requires signatures from 20% of registered voters in the district affected (GR), a boundary-change petition would require signatures from other existing districts involved (GMG). Now, is it 20% of the GR area that would be detached plus 20% of the existing GMG district or 20% of the combined new area? I think it’s the latter but I’m not sure. Either way, residents of GMG would have to get involved.
The petition in question would have to spell out the boundaries of the new district and how school board members will be elected. No existing school board is going to touch this with a thousand-foot pole. Announcing you intend to destabilize your neighbors through poaching is uncouth, unfriendly, and reserved for commissioners of college conferences.
The Code goes into great detail on if a territory spreads across multiple AEAs (GR does, in fact, span the original Area 6 and Area 7, but that’s irrelevant). It appears silent on what recourses, if any, an existing K-12 district in good standing has against an external petition that involves but does not absorb the district. The rump Reinbeck district would need to have a certified enrollment above 300 to continue existing, but beyond that, I’m not sure. For that matter, it doesn’t talk about existing school corporations that would have to be superseded for control of the area.
Gladbrook residents who wanted to save their school failed in the courts and likely will fail in trying to dissolve the district entirely. If they want to keep trying, digging into the above strategy might be an option until someone says they can’t.