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 signs Area Education Agency, teacher pay increase bill into law

The reforms were paired with increased teacher pay, school funding.
Isabella Tisdale
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds opens the Faith and Freedom Presidential Town Hall at the Iowa Events Center on Sept. 16, 2023. The event had ten Republican candidates speak for a crowd of over 1,000. Reynolds spoke to the audience about her work on changing laws around abortion and gender-affirming care.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed House File 2612 — a bill that would reform Iowa’s Area Education Agencies, raise teacher pay, and increase school funding — into law on Wednesday afternoon. 

The bill brings sweeping reforms to Iowa’s AEAs a proposal that Reynolds earmarked as her top legislative priority this session during her annual Condition of the State Address in January. However, the bill was met with opposition from House Republicans and thousands of Iowans who feared the sweeping reforms would disrupt the special education services that AEAs provide. 

“I’m proud to sign legislation that further strengthens Iowa’s commitment to students, parents, teachers, and schools,” Reynolds said in a news release Wednesday. “High-quality teachers and instruction unlock the potential for student success, and this legislation delivers both.”

The bill got final approval in the Senate on Tuesday in a 30-18 vote, with three Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition. 

The law would give the school district the power to decide where the majority of their special education dollars are by allowing school districts to contract with a third party, continue using AEAs, or provide the services themselves.  

Under the bill school districts would receive 90 percent of state and local special education funding earmarked for their school and 10 percent would still go to AEAs. AEAs would also receive all federal special education funding. These changes wouldn’t take place until the 2025-26 school year. 

AEAs also provide media and general education services. Under the bill for the 2024-25 school year school districts will receive 60 percent of their media services funding, and AEAs will receive 40 percent. 

In the following school year, all media services funding will go to school districts. 

The bill will also: 

  • Raise teacher pay to $50,000 in two years and provide millions in funding to up the pay for teachers and paraprofessionals and other educational support professionals.
  • Increase state funding to Iowa’s public schools, or Supplemental State Aid by 2.5 percent. This is half a percent less than House Republicans’ original proposal and in line with the governor’s budget.
  • Expand oversight of AEAs by the Iowa Department of Education by creating a new division of special education in the department.

The bill also does not include a $15 per hour minimum wage for paraeducators and other educational support personnel, which is currently $7.25 or Iowa’s standard minimum wage, that was proposed in the original House bill.

Democrats: “No one wanted” AEA bill

Iowa Senate Democrats leader Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, said she was thankful for the Iowans who advocated for AEAs. She expressed disappointment in Republican lawmakers and the governor.

“Gov. Reynolds demanded an attack on Iowa’s Area Education Agencies that no one asked for and no one wanted,” Jochum said in a news release. “She bullied it through the Republican-led legislature, and today she signed it into law.”

Jochum expressed concern over how fast the reforms were moved through the legislature. Although the bill passed 11 weeks after introduction, Jochum argued that Republicans should engage a task force to study AEAs before the massive change.

“Every step of the way, Iowans told her to stop, to slow down, to engage stakeholders, and collaborate on real improvements to special education in Iowa,” Jochum said in a news release. “She never listened, and now parents and children will face the consequences.”

More to Discover
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.
Isabella Tisdale, Photojournalist
Isabella Tisdale is a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan and is a senior at West High school. In her free time, she stage manages for the theater program at West High. She plans to double major in political science and journalism.