DES MOINES, Iowa — Weeks after the governor’s education bill was released and two weeks since she teased AEA changes, lawmakers and families are still waiting to see the final proposal from Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The governor tweeted out on Monday a chart of the changes she is making to the bill. There is not an official amendment filed on the House or Senate version of the bill. But there are subcommittees on the legislation taking place on Wednesday in both chambers.
“Listen, we’re going to let the legislative process work out. I’ve done my own homework on this, I believe, in the last few months prepared for this discussion,” said Iowa State Senator Ken Rozenboom, (R) District 19, Oskaloosa. “I continue to believe and I’m convinced the governor was on track in the sense that the process, the system, which is 50-years-old, is administratively heavy and performance light. That’s been the premise I’ve worked from and I think we’re largely in agreement with the governor on that.”
Rozenboom said he is ready to see the amendment and continue his work on the education committee. He also said that at a school board meeting he attended in his home district, a lot of people were speaking and begging for AEA special education funding to not be taken away. Rozenboom reiterated that those funds will not or have not ever been an option to take away.
Holly Messenger, a mother who lives in West Des Moines, shared with WHO 13 News her story about how AEAs have been critical in helping her second grade son Kiran.
“The early access services with the AEA was instrumental,” said Messenger. “…Birth to three (years old) for us was a really challenging time. The only diagnosis…the AEA had the support when he was weeks old. We had a physical therapist, occupational therapist, an early access education consultant and a service coordinator, all provided by the AEA that were coming into our home and supporting us.”
Kiran was born with heart defects. As the early years went by, multiple diagnoses were added. He suffers from a rare genetic disorder that requires him to use a wheelchair and a specific type of feeding tube. Kiran is also intellectually disabled. He is non-speaking so he uses an Eyegaze communication device. And his heart defects have required open heart surgery and will require more in the future.
Messenger is all for making programs better for students and families, as she has seen how important AEAs were for her. But she is wary about the proposal from the governor that would give dollars back to school districts and the districts would decide what service they opt in to.
“I think my concern in that realm is more like is it going to be about the money or is it going to be about providing the best service for my child,” said Messenger. “And is there going to be that continuity of care, that collaboration, that support that exists now?”
Messenger also is concerned about some services that were in other “buckets” of AEAs capabilities. Not just the services listed under “special education.”
“I always like to say, special education students are general education students first. He’s in the classroom with his peers for the majority of the day. And a lot of that is because of the supports that are put in place by those professionals.”