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Senate passes bill giving school districts control of Area Education Agencies

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(The Center Square) – The Iowa Senate passed a bill that would give school districts control of money used to provide special education and other services.

House File 2612 would give school districts the option to no longer contract with Area Education Agencies who currently receive the funding. The districts could have their own in-house special education department, contract with another service or still use an AEA.

The bill drew heated comments from Democrats who said no one wanted the change. Sen. Molly Donahue, D-Cedar Rapids, proposed an amendment that would have created a task force to look at AEAs.

“They asked us to slow down,” Donahue said. “Let’s give this a year with a task force to really look at the AEAs and to make a better decision about what’s needed if anything is needed.”

The amendment failed 17-33.

Sen. Lynn Evans, R-Aurelia, who presented the bill, said it is about giving children with disabilities the best service and education.

“Iowa is the only state that requires school to pay into an education support agency and then mandates that the schools use it,” Evans said. “The schools deserve to have more transparency and accountability for how their special education funding is spent. This bill provides them with more local control to base their spending on the unique needs of students in their districts.”

The bill passed 28 to 22, with six Republicans voting against it.

Since the bill was amended, it goes back to the House for consideration.

“I now look forward to working with the House and Senate to reach a compromise that will bring transparency, accountability, and consistency to the AEA system while most importantly improving outcomes for students with disabilities,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said after the Senate vote. “At the same time we must recognize the important role of teachers in the classroom by increasing minimum salaries for both starting and experienced teachers.”

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