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A new twist in the plan to reform Iowa’s Area Education Agencies

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(The Center Square) – The Iowa Senate must reconsider a bill that changes the state’s Area Education Agencies after the House of Representatives approved extensive changes.

House File 2612, as amended, requires school districts to use AEAs for special education. School districts can decide beginning on July 1, 2025 if they want to continue using AEAs for media services or go a different route.

Minimum teacher pay would increase to $50,000 over the next two years, making the starting salaries the fifth highest in the U.S., according to House Speaker Pat Grassley. The bill gradually bumps the pay for teachers with 12 years of experience to a minimum of $62,000 annually. The bill also sets aside $14 million that would give paraprofessionals a pay increase.

A task force to study special education is also part of the legislation.

Democrats accused Republicans of playing politics. Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said they received the bill two hours before the vote on Thursday evening.

“The one thing Iowans are asking us to do is protect AEAs,” Konfrst said at a news conference. “Iowans don’t want this.”

The bill passed 51-43 and now goes back to the Senate.

Sen. Lynn Evans, R-Aurelia, who presented the bill and amendments in the Senate on Monday, 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 Senate passed their version 28 to 22, with six Republicans voting against it.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds first proposed changes to AEAs in her Condition of the State address in January. She said the amended bill paves a path to strengthen Iowa’s education system.

“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,” Reynolds said. “They deserve nothing less. Equally important is ensuring our ability to attract and retain talented teachers for schools across our state. Raising minimum salaries for new and experienced teachers sends a strong message that Iowans value education and those who dedicate their careers to serving students.”

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