The Appellants argue that "the Barker rules," which were formally codified as 281---IAC Chapter 19, are the standard to be applied in appeals of this nature. However, in 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court in Wallace v. Iowa State Board of Education invalided "the Barker rules." The Court in Wallace held that a District's decision to close an attendance center entailed discretion of the district and as such the proper standard of review by the State Board is for abuse of discretion. The Appellants are required to show that the GRCSD Board abused its discretion when it decided to close the Gladbrook attendance center. However, no evidence has been offered to support this finding. Under the abuse of discretion standard, a reasonable person could find substantial evidence supporting GRCSD's decision in this case.
The Appellants argument centers on the District's reliance on financial projections they believe are based on inaccurate input. Both parties agree if you change a budget scenario in any way it creates a new budget projection. At best, budget projections are based on the best information the District has available to them at the time of the projection. Everyone understands these projections are just estimates that can change. One cannot determine with an absolute degree of certainty what the actual numbers will be in five years. However, these projections are the District's best estimate of what the District's financial position might be, and the Appellants failed to prove the methodology and assumptions employed were beyond the bounds of reason. The law does not require the Board and the District to employ the best possible methodology or assumptions; it merely requires that they not be an abuse of discretion. Here, the District could not ignore budget projections showing it would have a significant negative unspent balance if it did not make additional cuts. To ignore negative projections would be unreasonable.
The State Board's role here is not to determine which of the two options is the best option for the District. Nor is it our role to determine whether or not closing an attendance center was the best option for savings. The record shows substantial credible evidence existed to choose any one of the four options put before the Board. There may be options that the Appellants like better than the option the Board chose, but that is not a reason to overturn the local Board.
The abuse of discretion standard requires us to uphold the decision of the local Board if it is based on substantial credible evidence. It is irrelevant that the Appellants believe one option was better than another option. It is irrelevant that they believed the Board should have considered other costs saving options. Even in reviewing these facts in a light most favorable to the Appellants, we must conclude that a reasonable person could reach the same decision as the majority of the GRCSD Board.
We understand this issue has been very emotional and divisive for the Gladbrook- Reinbeck Community. We understand the decision is not the outcome the Appellants would choose. However, there are no legal grounds to reverse the decision. We can find no abuse of discretion here. The GRCSD Board studied the issue at length and did not act in an arbitrary, unreasonable, irrational manner. Although, the Appellants disagree with the Board's decision it was the Board's decision to make.
The decision of Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community School District Board made on February 25, 2015, to close the Gladbrook attendance center effective for the fall of 2015 is hereby AFFIRMED.