Senate Passes Its Version Of AEA Bill

Des Moines, Iowa — The Iowa Senate has voted to give school officials the option of bypassing Area Education Agencies and providing services to students with disabilities by hiring private contractors or district staff.

Senator Lynn Evans of Aurelia, a retired superintendent who represents all of Osceola, O’Brien, and Buena Vista counties and parts of Clay and Cherokee counties, is among the 28 Republicans in the senate who voted for the bill.

Iowa is the only state where state and federal funds for special education services, like speech therapy, are sent directly to Area Education Agencies. Evans says schools have never seen a bill of sale for what they’re getting from the AEAs.

Governor Reynolds has called for similar changes. Evans says putting the Iowa Department of Education in charge and giving schools control over 90 percent of the state and federal funds set aside for special education will force AEAs to show how much each service costs.

Six Republicans joined all the Democrats in the Senate in opposing the bill. Among them was the other senator representing our area, Jeff Taylor, who represents all of Lyon and Sioux counties and part of Plymouth County.

Senator Janet Petersen, a Democrat from Des Moines, says Republicans who back the bill are following the governor over a cliff.

Senator Molly Donahue, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, has been a special education teacher for 33 years. She says the bill will destabilize the AEA system.

Senate Democratic Leader Pam Jochum of Dubuque spoke emotionally of her late daughter, Sarah, who had an intellectual disability and received AEA services.

HOUSE Republicans passed their own plan at the end of February that calls for a study of the AEA system and maintains AEA services for students with disabilities for at least a couple of years. Governor Reynolds issued a written statement thanking the Senate for acknowledging the AEA system needs reform. She pledged to work with GOP leaders in the House and Senate to find a compromise plan.


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