Notwithstanding open enrollment, every Iowa resident between the ages of 5 and 21 who has not yet met high school graduation requirements may access a tuition-free education from one and only one school district, that being the school district in which the student is a resident. Iowa Code sections 282.1 and 282.6 provide a definition of resident.
“Resident” means a child who is physically present in a district, whose residence has not been established in another district by operation of law, and who is in the district for the purpose of making a home and not solely for school purposes, or is homeless or lives in a juvenile detention center or correctional facility in the district.
The majority of the time, decisions regarding residency depend on the phrase “is in the district for the purpose of making a home and not solely for school purposes.” With that in mind, here is a matrix regarding common residency issues that face districts. The purpose of the matrix is to assist districts in making residency determinations.
Note: Iowa Code section 282.1 gives local school boards authority to declare students “temporary residents” of the district. This does not allow a district to count the “temporary” resident for state aid. But if a local board uses the option to declare one or more students “temporary residents,” the Department does not mandate that the district charge tuition of the students.
|Situation||Resident? Enroll?||Other remarks|
|Student lives with someone other than parent/guardian because of family problems or personal problems – not for school reasons.||Yes – student is a resident and must be enrolled tuition-free, without requiring guardianship papers.||Emergency contact – must be someone who can make a decision about the student (parent or court-appointed guardian, e.g.) OR who can quickly contact the decision-maker.
Report cards, communiqués from school still go to parent, unless parent gives written permission to school to send documents to person with whom student resides.
|Same as above, but student is in district for school purposes (athletics, other extracurriculars, not doing well in former school).||Not a resident; per Iowa Code section 282.6 the district must charge tuition and may not include student on certified enrollment.||Same comments as above.|
|Same as first row, but student is in district neither for school purposes nor because of personal or family problems (e.g., student is playing in a hockey league).||Depends.
Factors to consider include:
Most of the time, these students are not going to be residents and must be charged tuition. An exception may exist for a student who is 18 or older and who sets up his/her own household (all above questions would have to be answered in the negative).
|Same comments as previously.
Creating a legal guardianship does not affect whether the student is a resident. It merely clarifies who gets information from the district and who can make decisions for a minor child
|Student lives with parent(s) in District A, but is with a relative (not a parent) before and/or after school in District B.||This does not establish residency in District B.||If parents want student to attend District B, they must file an open enrollment request.|
|Student resides with court-appointed guardian.||Doesn’t automatically make the student a resident for purposes of Iowa Code section 282.6; still need to determine WHY the student is in the district.||The rights of a court-appointed guardian are superior to those of the parents; guardian is emergency contact and is the recipient of all documents from school.
Therefore, make sure this is a legal guardianship (as evidenced by a court order signed by a judge or by “letters of appointment” signed by clerk of court with seal of court).
|Student splits time equally between parents who live in different districts.||Student is a resident of both districts, but only one district gets to include the student in its September count. It’s permissible for the districts to determine which one will count the student and that district can reimburse the other.||This really gets fun when the child needs special education.|
|Family moves into district from another country.||Children in the family are residents of district, regardless of whether they are aliens and even regardless of whether the family’s presence in the U.S. is legal.||U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that a free education must be provided to resident children, even if they are illegal aliens.
A district cannot require any documents from this family that it would/could not request from any other family. That is, you may ask for proofs of birthdates and relevant health information. Period.
|Student with dual citizenship (of which U.S. citizenship is included) moves into district.||Whether this student is a “resident” depends on why the student is in the district. If living with a parent for purposes of making a home, the student is a resident. If living with another relative or even a guardian for purposes of going to school, the student is not a resident.||This student will not have a visa, because the student is a citizen. But remember that citizenship is not relevant to the issue of who is a resident.|
|Family refuses to give street address, just gives P.O. box.||Iowa Code section 282.6 requires district to charge tuition; without proof of residency (P.O. Box is NOT proof of residency in district), charge tuition and hope that gets the parents’ attention.||There are legitimate reasons why a family would want its street address kept confidential; however, districts must have proof of residency and can still take measures to protect this information.|
|Student lives with a foster family.||Is a resident of the district for purposes of receiving a tuition-free education.||Under Iowa law, foster parents are not guardians (unless there is a separate order). DHS is custodian for placement in foster care; unless parental rights have been terminated by a court, the natural parents still have right to participate in meetings and receive reports.
Call local DHS office (the one that made the placement) to get some guidance in writing.