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Happy Easter, Senate District 44!

Before I start with a rundown of the big debate at the Capitol this week, I want to state the most important thing, and that is Happy Easter to all of you and I hope you’re able to reflect on what Easter week is really about.

Much of the legislative session this year has been centered around the restructuring of the state’s AEAs and it’s nice to have that issue behind us. Some of you have shown interest in this issue, most have not. However for all of you, I will share with you what was passed. The changes absolutely will not be the death to AEAs as some have portrayed. Since the bill was passed, far more people have reached out to me with disappointment that not more restructuring to the AEAs was accomplished.

The VAST majority of the money that the AEAs have received for the past 50 years will continue to the AEAs, however there are a few areas where the local school districts will have some discretion as to how those monies will be used. One day after this bill was passed, many AEAs were already claiming that they will experience HUGE funding cuts from the schools that they provide services to.

Hearing these comments, I can only conclude that many of our 9 AEAs would rather continue with the disingenuous public scare tactics instead of taking the time before these changes go into place to reach out to the school districts that they serve, listen to the changes that the schools have been asking for, implement changes internally, and to “sell” their services to the schools. For many of the 9 AEAs to already expect that not a single school will continue these services is a sad admission to the lack of value in services that the AEAs have been providing to their school districts. If the AEAs choose to not take this time to understand how efficient or inefficient their education and media services have been perceived by the schools in their district and these schools choose to go in a different direction for those services, that’s on the AEA for not listening to their customers and implementing changes. This was an issue that was discovered in 2011 by a task force that was formed. Unfortunately at the time, the AEAs were not forced to implement any changes, the schools had no other options, thus status quo continued for another 13 years which is a large reason the issue was addressed this year.

In the event that an AEA may lose some customers in the process, the AEAs have a projected ending fund balance for FY2024 of $64 MILLION which they will be able to dip into to cover some costs to keep employees. Even with a FY2024 ending fund balance of $64 MILLION out of a $525 MILLION annual budget (that is a HALF OF A BILLION DOLLARS), Democrats in the Capitol continue to claim that the reason that our special education test scores are abysmal which has resulted in the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. to put our education system on notice, is because the AEAs don’t have enough funding!  Wow.

Even though the bulk of the control that is being given back to school districts has not taken place for over a year, there is nothing in the bill that says that the AEAs can’t start today to poll their school districts to (1) see what services their school districts plan to continue in the education/media areas and (2) the AEAs can immediately start to provide more transparency to school districts which should have been happening all along.

Included in the AEA bill was the LARGEST teacher pay increase in Iowa history! New teachers in Iowa will now be making a minimum of $47,500 this year and $50,000 next year and after 12 years of experience they will be making a minimum of $60,000 this year and $62,000 next year! This pay package moves Iowa to 5th highest in the country for teacher salaries! This is HUGE for rural Iowa schools! In fact, the AEA bill included an increase of $172 million in funding for public K-12 schools and $51 million in new money for ESAs. This $223 million in new money for K-12 education added to the current $3.8 BILLION Iowa public school budget simply demonstrates just how absurd Democrats sound when they claim that we are “underfunding education”.

I was very blessed to take part in this year’s candlelight legislative memorial service in the Capitol. Once every 2 years the Senate Chamber is opened to the public for the bi-annual memorial service. This memorial service honors all of the former Senators and Representatives who had passed away by welcoming their family members to the Senate Chamber for a special service, which is a very touching event for these families.

As the session continues to wind down, hopefully just three more weeks to go, I continue to focus on doing GREAT things for SD 44. I hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Author: Adrian Dickey


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