Republicans in the Iowa House have voted to make a $5 million reduction in state support of Iowa’s nine Area Education Agencies.
Representative Ken Rizer, a Republican from Cedar Rapids, explained the plan during House debate last night.
“Administrators for these AEAs are extremely capable, highly educated and very well compensated,” Rizer said. “I think they have all the capability in the world to decide how to interpret this…Special ed is the top priority of all the services AEAs provide.”
The Area Education Agencies help educate students with disabilities who require “special education” classes.
“That means that we’re talking about cuts to speech language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, social workers, special education consultants and other experts who support autism, challenging behaviors and reading instruction,” said Representative Chris Hall, a Democrat from Sioux City who opposes the GOP budget plan.
School districts forward local property taxes to the Area Education Agencies based on a “per pupil” formula and the state provides additional taxpayer support. Representative Patti Ruff, a Democrat from McGregor, suggested there will be staff layoffs soon as well as temporary closures at the Area Education Agencies this fall, due to the timing of when AEAs get property tax payments.
“Iowa’s future’s not going to be very bright if our children do not have the services that they need to be able to learn,” Ruff said, “and for some of our children those are services provided by our AEAs.”
In addition to “special education” services, AEAs provide technology assistance, like paying the licensing fees on computer software that is used by all schools in the area. AEAs also offer professional development for teachers. Rizer said the state has “sometimes” provided more and “sometimes” provided less to the AEAs.
“It’s actually been at this same level in the past and I was unaware that at that time that there were a high number of jobs that were lost,” Rizer said.
Rizer said legislators have limited resources and most of the “new” tax revenue coming into the state will be spent on the state’s K-12 schools.