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

Iowa Republicans plan to reform Area Education Agencies passes House vote

Nine Republicans join all Democrats in opposing the bill.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Lawmakers sit in the house chamber during the first day of the 2024 Iowa legislative session at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

After killing Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ plan to reform Iowa’s nine Area Education Agencies earlier this session, Iowa House Republicans passed a House vote Thursday afternoon. 

The bill, House File 2612, comes almost two months after Reynolds unveiled her plan in her annual Condition of the State Address. Reynolds’ sweeping reforms still partially live on in the heavily-amended version of her bill, however, the House Republicans did away with Reynolds’ key priority that would allow schools to decide what to do with special education funding. 

Instead, the proposal retains Iowa’s AEAs as the sole provider of services for students who have disabilities and allows districts to contract for general education and media services currently provided by AEAs. 

The proposal would also push back the timeline for implementation to allow school districts to plan and would create a task force to provide recommendations on the role and future of the AEAs. 

The proposal passed the House, 53-41, with nine Republicans and all Democrats voting to oppose the bill. 

Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, led the bill through the legislative process and said the bill keeps services intact for children with disabilities and gives school districts the flexibility with funding that some school districts have been asking for. 

The bill would give funding to schools but would still require schools to use AEAs for special education services. 

“Anytime you deal with services for students with disabilities it should be looked at heavily and it has — we’re not changing any of that,” Wheeler said. “This bill simply empowers your schools to make sure that they can get the services they need in their particular schools.” 

Democrats said the bill is still unnecessary, and that anything further than a task force to provide recommendations — which the bill includes — is too far. 

Rep. Sharon Sue Steckman, D-Mason City, introduced an amendment to change the bill to just a task force designed to provide recommendations to the governor, the legislature, and the Iowa Department of Education. 

However, the amendment was struck down on party lines, 34-61, with all Republicans voting against the amendment. 

“Let’s slow this process down — let’s have some people get together that know about the AEAs, know about special education, care about our kids — and have a good conversation about what the AEAs are doing,” Steckman said.

The Iowa Department of Education would also take on more oversight of AEAs under the bill. The proposal, however, would severely reduce the number of employees in the new Department of Special Education Services from the governor’s proposal. 

Reynolds thanked House leadership on Thursday for their work on the legislation.

“Improving student outcomes has always been at the forefront,” Reynolds said in the release. “The system must provide transparency and accountability to school districts, those closest to our students, and drive consistency across the AEA regions to improve services for students with disabilities.” 

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About the Contributors
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.
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.