AEA, Teacher Pay, and School Funding Agreed On

The Iowa House has narrowly passed a package to hike teacher pay, increase general state support for schools AND keep Area Education Agencies as the main provider of experts who assist schools with special education needs for students. House Speaker Pat Grassley of New Hartford says it provides certainty for students with disabilities and their parents and, in total, amounts to a five percent increase in state support of schools.

House Republican Leader Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley says it sends a clear and concise message to the Senate.

Under the plan, AEAs would continue to get 90 percent of state funding for special education services. School districts would be able to spend the remaining 10 percent on district employees, private contractor or continue to use AEA staff. The plan passed with the support of 51 of the 60 House Republicans present last Thursday night and is similar to three bills that passed the House in February. House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst says adjustments in the package appear to be concessions to Governor Kim Reynolds. who called for a major overhaul of AEAs in January.

Democrats argued the package falls far short of the state financial support schools need. Representative Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City who’s a retired teacher, says the plan weakens the AEA system because it reduces funding for other AEA services, like teacher training and bulk purchasing of school supplies.

Representative Chad Ingels, a Republican from Randalia who voted for the bill, says as the father of two children with Down Syndrome, he fought to get more pay for paraeducators in the package.

Republican Representative Skyler Wheeler of Hull, the bill’s floor manager, has a daughter who’s been diagnosed with autism and he also emphasized the importance of paraeducators and keeping AEAs directly involved in special education services.

A few weeks ago, the House took separate votes on general state aid for schools and on teacher pay. The package that cleared the House last Thursday night includes the governor’s call for raise salaries for beginning teachers to $50,000, plus money to raise the pay of veteran teachers and hourly staff. In a written statement, Governor Reynolds said the House plan paves a path forward to further strengthen Iowa’s education system in meaningful ways. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said Senate Republicans will discuss the House package next week and he looks forward to a resolution on education funding, raising starting teacher pay and AEA reform.

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