Senate GOP Plan For AEA’s ‘Vastly Different’ From Others

Des Moines, Iowa — A key lawmaker says the Senate may soon debate what has turned out to be the central issue of the 2024 legislative session.

Three weeks ago, the Iowa House passed a bill to maintain Area Education Agency special education services for students with disabilities, but make changes in other AEA functions. The governor has called for giving schools the option of keeping AEA services for students with disabilities or, instead, hiring private companies or local staff to do it. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver says Senate Republicans are close to unveiling their own plan.

The plan House Republicans passed calls for a study of the AEAs. That’s not part of the plan Senate Republicans are developing.

Whitver says Senate Republicans will draft a bill about AEA changes that includes an increase in the minimum salary for first-year teachers. That was the governor’s approach. Last month, a House bill raising teacher salaries and pay for other school staff passed 93-to-one. House Speaker Pat Grassley says because of budget implications, the decisions on teacher pay and the general level of state spending on public and private schools as well as the future of AEAs are all related.

A recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom “Iowa Poll” found that 56 percent of Iowans have a favorable view of Area Education Agencies. That rating goes a bit higher — to 59 percent — among Iowa parents with school-aged children.