The Area Education Agency is a valuable tool for local school districts to utilize. The agency provides a number of services that actually keep costs down for both the local school districts they serve and the property taxpayers of the districts. Without them, according to local superintendents, costs would dramatically rise.
West Hancock Community School District Superintendent Wayne Kronemann is glad to see that the Iowa Legislature has all but scraped plans to pass legislation which would affect the AEA locally. That legislation brought forward by Governor Reynolds has proposed giving each Iowa school districts the option to use AEA services or find another way to provide those services to students and staff. Richer districts could opt out leaving the AEA budgets severely depleted and impacting local districts.
The AEA system is built on an economy of scale model much like a “co-op”. At any given time, a school district may be using more or less than the amount of flow through dollars they contribute to the overall AEA budget, They work with disabled students and those with autism, speech and language needs among others. Kronemann admits this would be very costly to provide these services in-house.
Kronemann is not alone in saying that recruitment and retention of specialized instructors is very difficult to do locally. If the AEA were not able to service the area districts because of depleted budgets, schools may be hard pressed to fully serve and educate students with disabilities.
To handle and educate those with special needs takes a level of expertise that is unique in the educational system. It is also not something that is common because of the passion that is involved in entering into the field. This is why Kronemann and other area superintendents are so appreciative of having a local AEA branch to help them.
Local Iowa legislators such as Senator Dennis Guth, Representative Henry Stone, and Senator Mark Thompson were recently involved in local legislative forums where the issue was heavily discussed with area school superintendents. Following that, the Governors legislation stalled in the Iowa Legislature.