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AEA reform: Iowa House, Senate continue to amend education bill

Republicans at the Iowa statehouse are working towards an agreement regarding AEA reform, with a 49-page amendment passing through the House on Thursday.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Reforms to Iowa’s Area Education Agencies are one step closer to becoming law after the House passed a new, amended version of the Senate’s bill. 

The Iowa House passed HF 2612 on Thursday, 51-43. Nine Republicans voted against the bill and its lengthy 49-page amendment.

The Senate previously did a complete strikethrough of the House’s bill, sending it back to the House for further discussion. Thursday’s vote will once again send the legislation back to the Senate floor and, possibly, on to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk. 

Thursday’s amendment combines AEA reform, state supplemental aid and teacher pay, with parts of the bill requiring funding changes. 

Special Education Support Services

  • First Year: No change, AEA’s will be in control. 
  • Second Year: All funds go to the districts, 90% must be used on services directly from AEAs, the other 10% is up to the districts to spend
  • First Year: Districts receive 60% of the funds, AEAs get the other 40%
  • Second Year: Districts get 100% of the funds and can do what they want with it

General Education Services

  • First Year: Districts receive 60% of the funds, AEAs get the other 40%
  • Second Year: Districts get 100% of the funds and can do what they want with it

House Republicans said this new amendment is a “win” for them, and they have continued to send a message that they don’t want to reform anything surrounding special education services. 

“How, if at all, does this improve special education?” said Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Sioux. “I would argue that giving schools more control of their money where they know what’s best to fit their students’ needs, is a win.”

House Democrats argued that Republicans are playing politics. 

“AEA legislation, teacher pay, supplemental state aid is not a game,” said Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, D-Polk. “I don’t care if they win or we win. Kids lose, families lose, parents lose. Don’t call this a game.”

The bill still contains oversight from the Department of Education. 

Teacher pay increases in Iowa

Previously, the House passed a separate bill surrounding changes to teacher pay, but they combined it back with AEA reform legislation. 

The House’s amendment would make the minimum salary for teachers $47,500 in the first year, and increase that to $50,000 in the second year. 

The amendment also adds $14 million in funds for education support personnel. 

State Supplemental Aid (SSA) reforms

Another piece of legislation that was previously passed by the House regarded State Supplemental Aid funding. The House proposed and passed legislation that would increase the SSA to 3%. In the combined bill and amendment, it brought SSA funding down to 2.5%.

House Democrats did not see the amendment until 4 p.m. this evening, a delay they shared frustration over. 

“To imagine that, on Thursday of this week, with no necessary deadline — there’s no reason this has to go out today — they are dropping a 45, a 49-page amendment with the three most important issues to educators and kids in this state, and expecting us to vote on it in a couple hours,” said Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, D-Polk. 

Democrats also said lawmakers are playing with the most vulnerable people in Iowa: kids with special needs.

“You have 30,000 people back at home watching you and wondering ‘What are you doing?” said Rep. Sharon Steckman, R-Cerro Gordo. “Forty-nine pages. [It] hasn’t even been an hour, and we’re going to vote on it. Great way to do legislation.”

House Republicans released a statement following the Democrats’ comments, saying: “Nothing in the amendment to the AEA bill is new policy … We have worked hard to take feedback so we can continue with the rest of the priorities that remain this session.” 

Reynolds, who proposed the first version of AEA reform back in January, shared support for the Thursday decision.

“Today’s vote by the House paves a path forward to further strengthen Iowa’s education system in meaningful ways. Every student deserves a quality education that helps them reach their potential. By reforming the AEA system, empowering school districts, and improving oversight and transparency, we are committing to better outcomes and brighter futures for Iowa’s students with disabilities. They deserve nothing less,” Reynolds said in a statement. 

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