DES MOINES, Iowa — Will Keeps is a Des Moines musician who started a non-profit to promote opportunities for disadvantaged youth. He now hopes a new law will lead him to open a charter school.
“I’m not afraid of change,” Keeps said Wednesday as he stood alongside Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds in a bill-signing ceremony at Starts Right Here, the Des Moines non-profit that Keeps founded.
“Be mad at me, if you want,” Keeps said about opponents of the effort to make it easier to start charter schools. “If it’s for the kids, that’s what I’m for.”
Keeps envisions a charter school that would begin in downtown Des Moines with 50-100 high school students. Students would have the option to live on campus.
“If there’s one thing that the pandemic taught us, it is that parents should have the opportunity to choose what’s best for their children,” the governor said moments before signing the bill into law.
Iowa has two charter schools in operation (Storm Lake and Maynard). Expanding charter schools was a priority for the governor this year. The new law no longer requires groups to get support from local school boards before opening a charter school. Groups can now appeal directly to the state department of education.
The leader of the state teachers’ union, Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek, sent out a statement opposing charter schools.
“The new charter school law is an unfortunate experiment when we should be investing all of our education resources in the innovative and creative programs in our public schools. Additionally, we have grave concerns about the lack of oversight, transparency and accountability in the new law. Iowa families should accept nothing less than the high standards and scrutiny with which our public schools are measured. Our students and school employees are worth it.”