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### Reforming Iowa’s Area Education Agencies: Public Hearing on House Proposal

DES MOINES, Iowa — A public hearing was conducted by House lawmakers on Wednesday at the Iowa Capitol to gather input from Iowans regarding the proposed reform of Iowa’s Area Education Agencies.

Governor Kim Reynolds has placed significant emphasis on this initiative. Nevertheless, House Republicans decided to abandon her restructuring bill following negative feedback from stakeholders and community members.

Supporters of the reform argue that adjustments are necessary to prevent Iowa students from being left behind. Conversely, opponents of the bill view it as a solution in search of a problem.

Esther Huston from West Des Moines, an opponent of the bill, questioned, “Why are we trying to fix something that’s not broken?” She emphasized, “It’s not broken. If anything, you need to address the funding issues that prevent my kids from accessing services easily.”

The House’s proposal maintains AEAs’ responsibility for delivering all special education services, while granting districts the flexibility to choose from any of the nine AEAs statewide.

Numerous Iowa superintendents expressed support for the bill, citing concerns that the current system is outdated.

Todd Abrahamson, the superintendent of the Okoboji Community School District, highlighted the necessity of reassessing the current structure to enhance resource utilization and student outcomes. He stated, “AEAs play a vital role in supporting schools and educators, but there is a growing consensus that the existing model may not be the most efficient or cost-effective.”

According to the bill, districts could opt for alternative private companies over AEAs for media and general education services.

Stacey Warren, an employee of One Heartland AEA representing herself, provided services to Perry High School during a challenging period. She emphasized the calming effect their resources had amidst the turmoil. Warren pointed out the unique challenges that specialized providers like herself address in schools.

Angela Olsen, the teacher and learning director for Spirit Lake Community School District, emphasized the importance of utilizing funds efficiently to meet students’ diverse needs. The bill includes provisions for directing some funds directly to school districts.

GOP Rep. Skyler Wheeler mentioned that with the additional feedback received, further revisions to the bill are anticipated.