Iowa City School Board passes diversity policy despite criticism - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa City School Board passes diversity policy despite criticism, legal concerns

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

It's official. The Iowa City Community School District has a diversity policy.

"We've been talking about this as a community for a long time and I think it's time to move forward," said Sally Hoelscher, Iowa City School District.

Schools in the district must now have similar numbers of students on free and reduced lunch plans. The goal is to decrease disparities between schools and increase test scores.

The board passed the policy Tuesday night despite a warning last week from the Iowa Department of Education saying the policy violates federal law.

"The USDA told us that free and reduced price eligibility, meal eligibility information cannot be used to assign students to schools," said Staci Hupp, Iowa Department of Education.

That wasn't the first time the policy was criticized. It's been the center of a heated debate in Iowa City for months, drawing hundreds of parents to school board meetings.

"You guys are brave," said Julie VanDyke, parent. "I can't imagine what it's been like for the last few months."

"My kids are now a problem that needs to be solved," said Jessie Williams, parent. "That personally hurts my feelings."

Much of the debate centered over the lack of a plan on how to implement this policy. Board members say that's up to the superintendent. While he works to diversify schools, the policy will continue to be scrutinized. Officials with the Iowa Department of Education say they're going to have the United States Department of Agriculture review the policy to make sure it's legal.

The Iowa City School District attorney says he believes the policy follows federal law. But if the Department of Agriculture finds the policy illegal, the lawyer says the punishment could be a cut to funding for the free and reduced lunch program in Iowa City schools.

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