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Iowa Compulsory Education Laws

Iowa, like other states, wants its citizens to have at least a basic level of education. Local, state, and federal governments take school seriously and have enacted compulsory education laws requiring public school attendance for children of certain ages. Alternatives, such as private school, religious schools, or homeschooling are also viable educational options. Typically, basic reading, writing, math, civics, and other required subjects must be taught so children that attend these programs are on near equal educational footing as they become adults.

The following chart outlines the compulsory education laws in Iowa.

Code Sections Iowa Code Chapter 299 – Compulsory Education
Ages When School Attendance is Required Children in Iowa are required to attend school between the ages of 6 and 16 by September 15th of each year. If a child is at least 4 by September 15th and enrolled in a statewide preschool program, the attendance rules apply to the child.
Exceptions to Attendance Requirements The compulsory attendance laws don’t apply to children who:
  • Graduated from high school already or obtained a GED
  • Are attending an accredited nonpublic school, private college preparatory school, or competent private instruction
  • While attending religious services or are members of a religious group (such as Amish children) who have completed a basic level of education and are religious exempted from the remaining compulsory school years
  • Have physical or mental conditions that don’t permit school attendance (including deaf or blind children taught alternatively)
  • Are excused by a court order
Homeschooling Homeschooling in Iowa is referred to as “private instruction” and requires using a course of study that provides competent private instruction for a minimum of 148 days. Also, annual achievement evaluations must be reported to the local school district.
Penalties for Parents for Noncompliance School officers will use means available to keep a child in school. If a truancy problem persists, the case may be referred to county attorney for mediation or prosecution.

Violating the terms of the mediation agreement or referral to prosecution can result in a simple or serious misdemeanor. The penalties are:
  • First Offense: At most, 10 days in jail and a $100 fine or 40 hours of community service
  • Second Offense: Not more than 20 days jail and a $500 fine
  • Third or Subsequent Offense: Up to 30 days jail and $1,000 fine

If a parent can’t afford a fine, community service can be ordered instead.

If a parent fails to educate their blind, deaf, or severely disabled child, the state may seek a court order requiring the child attend the proper state-operated school.

Penalties for Students for Noncompliance Failure to attend school, be homeschooled, or attend an alternative or adult education program can result in the denial of an intermediate or full driver’s license until the age of 18.

Note: State laws are revised all the time, so it’s important to contact an experienced local education lawyer or conduct your own legal research to verify these or other Iowa educational laws.

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