The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Reynolds pushes amended bill as hearing on AEA overhaul scheduled

School Administrators of Iowa published a copy of the amendment on Monday.
Jordan Barry
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during Reynolds’ annual Harvest Festival at the Elwell Family Food Center on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has doubled down on her proposal to overhaul Iowa’s Area Education Agencies despite concerns from Iowans that benefit from Iowa’s nine AEAs. 

Reynolds pledged to amend her bill that overhauled Iowa’s AEAs after a deluge of negative comments on the bill. The amendment has yet to be filed in the Iowa Legislature but has been distributed to lawmakers and published by the School Administrators of Iowa

Hearings on the House and Senate versions of the bill were scheduled on Monday and House lawmakers are scheduled to consider the bill on Wednesday at noon and Senate lawmakers will later consider their version of the bill at 2 p.m. 

Reynolds said after meeting with legislators, teachers, parents, and school superintendents, she found that changes still need to be made. Reynolds said the amendment made “significant changes” to support teachers and staff, without compromising services to students with disabilities.

“From the start, my focus has been on improving special education for Iowa’s students with disabilities,” Reynolds said in a statement provided to The Daily Iowan from a spokesman for the governor. “While we agreed changes to the AEA system are necessary, our amendment allows us to address some of the issues schools raised.” 

Reynolds’ original proposal limited Iowa’s AEAs to only providing special education services. However, the amended proposal would allow school districts to contract with an AEA for general education and media services. 

The amendment made some other substantial changes to the bill including: 

  • Keep property tax levies for general AEA education services, but would still eliminate almost $33 million in media services funding. 
  • Give all state and federal special education funding earmarked for school districts directly to school districts. 
  • Allow districts to request AEAs provide general education and media services by contracting with them. 
  • Allows school districts to keep funding or contract with private companies for services. 

Iowa Sen. Molly Donahue, D-Cedar Rapids, said the bill hasn’t changed much since Reynolds’ initial proposal. Donahue sits on the panel of Senators that will consider the bill on Wednesday. 

Donahue said the bill was brought on by low test scores but she has yet to see something that would change low testing scores in this bill. Instead, it aims more at removing local control, Donahue said. 

“​​We need to keep working to try to make [testing scores] better, but this is a country-wide issue,” Donahue said. “And there is nothing in this bill that says anything about how it’s going to improve those scores.” 

Reynolds said during her Condition of the State Address, where she pitched her overhaul of AEAs, that the plan would give school districts more autonomy with their special education funding instead of dedicating it to the AEAs automatically. 

However, Iowa Rep. Sharon Sue Steckman, D-Mason City, said districts wouldn’t be able to provide the same level of services on their own and the system only works because AEAs pool resources from dozens of districts to provide services. 

“AEAs manage to do everything on a grand scale because they cover the whole state,” Steckman said. “So they can save districts an incredible amount of money, especially the rural districts. That’s who it’s really gonna hurt.” 

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About the Contributor
Liam Halawith
Liam Halawith, Politics Editor
Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Public Policy. Before his role as Politics Editor Liam was a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.