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Good morning. We have just wrapped up Week Two of the 2024 Legislative Session. Since it’s still early in session, there weren’t any bills ready for floor action this week. However, we did pass a resolution.

House Resolution 101: Iowa’s Support for Israel

On Thursday, we passed a resolution to affirm the State of Iowa’s support for Israel. The resolution also condemned the brutal attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians on October 7th, 2023, that resulted in the death of approximately 1,200 Israelis. We took a strong stand against the terrorist group Hamas, and the support and funding they received from Iran.  With this resolution, the Iowa House confirmed its unwavering support for the State of Israel and its right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens and pursue the elimination of Hamas and any other affiliated terrorist groups.

AEA Bill Update

The bill that has garnered the most attention from the Governor’s Condition of the State address is the bill reforming Area Education Agencies.  I’ve heard from many constituents with concerns about the original draft of the bill. I appreciate all the feedback I have received and am actively engaging in conversations on how we can make this bill better.  This week, the Governor announced that she will be introducing an amendment to the bill after hearing from Iowans and legislators.  The biggest change you’ll notice from the original draft is that the AEAs will continue to provide the general education and media services they currently provide if the school requests them.

We will continue to seek feedback as the bill works its way through the legislative process with subcommittee and committee meetings still to come.

Why This Is a Discussion Worth Having

Our students with disabilities deserve the very best.  Despite Iowa spending over $5,300 more per pupil on special education funding than the national average, we’ve ranked 30th or worse in 9 of the 12 national assessments on special education performance. Additionally, The US Department of Education has categorized Iowa as “Needs Assistance” in providing quality education to students with disabilities, with the risk of falling to “Needs Intervention” next year.  Our system is broken, and if we don’t fix it ourselves, the Biden Administration could determine our course of action as soon as this fall.

It’s worth noting that Iowa is the only state that requires school districts to send money straight to the AEAs. This system – where the money is automatic and the AEAs handle oversight of their own services – leaves very little room for accountability.

How would the current proposal improve outcomes?

Under this proposal, the money wouldn’t flow automatically to the AEAs. It would go to the school district to determine how best to meet the needs of their students.  If a school district is happy with the services they currently receive from their AEA, they can continue to go to the AEA for those services. However, if they have a better idea, they can opt for a different option instead.  And, they only have to pay for the services they actually use.

This proposal gives school districts the power. And since the AEAs aren’t getting the money automatically, they will be incentivized to improve the quality of their services. The amount of money each district would have discretion over is significant.  Here’s how much money will go directly to the school districts under this current proposal for the schools in House District 57. Under the current system, these school districts have no control over this money.

Aplington-Parkersburg – $487,573
Clarksville – $185,732
Denver – $479,075
Dike-New Hartford – $507,773
Hampton-Dumont – $666,501
Janesville – $254,006
Nashua-Plainfield – $341,611
North Butler – $315,794
Waverly-Shell Rock – $1,293,515

Thank you to everyone who has reached out on this matter. We will continue to work on this bill to determine how best to improve Iowa’s special education outcomes.

Author: Pat Grassley


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