DES MOINES — Governor Kim Reynolds says Iowans would still get a small property tax break under her updated proposal for Area Education Agencies.
Earlier this month Reynolds called for AEAs to focus solely on services for students with disabilities. Reynolds originally proposed doing away with the property tax levies that support the educational and media services AEAs provide for all students and staff. She’s now proposing property taxes be retained for educational services, like curriculum for math, science and reading classes as well as for talented and gifted programs, but Reynolds says the property tax levy for AEA media services should be repealed.
“That was designed in the ’70s and we’re using property tax dollars for it and a lot of it was like printing and laminating and some of those things and a lot of these schools have a business on Main Street that does it or they can form a coop and joint purchase some of these,” Reynolds says. “…It’s kind of weird, I think, that it’s being funded by property taxes. That’s inappropriate. It’s 2024. It’s not 1970 and we have access to a lot of resources that we didn’t have before.”
Under current law, state and federal funds and local property taxes for AEA services go directly to the AEAs. Reynolds wants all of that money to go directly to school districts instead, then local school officials will decide whether to use an AEA, a private contractor or hire staff to provide the services. “Rural school districts out there or urban or anybody that’s using AEA services bottom line is if they like what they’re getting right now they can on day one transfer those funds to the AEA or they can find out what the cost of some of those services are,” Reynolds says. “Right now they don’t know what they’re paying for.”
School districts that wish to use an AEA digital lending library or other AEA media services would have to use money from the education services account to pay for it under the governor’s latest plan. Reynolds says her overarched goal is to improve test scores among Iowa students with disabilities, scores which have been well below the national average for years.
Advocates for AEAs say the governor’s plan poses a significant threat to the quality of education Iowa children receive and a reduction in the resources and learning tools currently available to students.