Collins Capitol Connection

To the People of House District 95


This week was longer than usual in the House as debate stretched into yesterday evening. After much debate, the House amended the AEA proposal that the Senate sent over earlier in the week, incorporating much of the initial proposal that the House passed a few weeks ago after working with AEA Chief Administrators from across the state.


House Sends AEA Reform Bill Back to the Senate with Amendment

I agree with the Governor that our special education students deserve the very best. As I’ve learned more about this topic this year, it’s become clear that we can do better. 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. The U.S. 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, where the money is automatically sent to the AEA’s, and the AEA’s having oversight of their own services, is unique to Iowa and leaves very little room for accountability. We know that the AEA’s are doing critical work for our schools, and we have no intention of leaving school districts high and dry without access to those services. However, we can make a few changes to improve the system.

Our plan will give school districts more flexibility, provide more accountability in the AEA system, and empowers a task force to study how to improve special education in Iowa. I voted yes on this bill because it contains some big wins for schools that the House has fought very hard for this year, and I will share many of those below.

This bill increases teacher salaries:

This bill increases the minimum teacher salary to $47,500 in the first year, and $50,000 in the second year. This will put Iowa’s minimum teacher salary at the 5th highest in the nation. When adjusted for cost of living, this puts Iowa’s beginning teachers in a great spot compared to their peers.

It also adds a second tier for minimum teacher pay. Teachers who have 12 years of experience can make no less than $60,000 in year one, and $62,000 in year two. The addition of this second tier means a lot of new money particularly for rural schools since the money it takes to get to that salary level will go to each school district accordingly.

The bill also allocates $22.3 million for the teacher salary supplemental pot of money for schools so they can increase veteran teacher pay and to help with the pay compaction concerns we have heard from some school districts as they redo their salary schedules to account for these new minimum salaries.

Most importantly, all of this money will be built into the base going forward, meaning it will increase with state supplemental aid in subsequent years.
This bill will incentivize retired teachers to help fill workforce gaps in schools:

This bill contains a policy that allows retired teachers to return to the classroom without affecting their IPERS benefits. These teachers would be able to return to schools in a limited capacity after just one month of retirement. This will incentivize experienced teachers to return and alleviate some of the workforce struggles facing our schools.

This bill raises pay for paraprofessionals:

This bill allocates $14 million to increase pay for educational support staff. The House fought tooth and nail to have this proposal included in this legislation to raise the pay for our paraprofessionals who do such important, difficult work.

This bill contains a significant amount of new money for schools:

In this bill, we set the Supplemental State Aid increase at 2.5% for this fiscal year. The House originally passed 3% SSA and that’s certainly what we would’ve preferred. However, the silver lining is that with a 2.5% SSA increase, the little over $110 Million increase to put toward salaries, and new funds we plan to allocate towards school safety, the new money for Iowa schools equates to the equivalent of more than 5% SSA for this fiscal year.

This bill creates a task force to study ways to improve special education:

The task force will review the current AEA system and look for areas for improvement. They will look for ways to improve services, consolidate buildings, provide effective oversight, eliminate redundancies, and ultimately achieve better outcomes for Iowa students.

This bill brings AEA Chief salaries more in line with Superintendents:

This bill states that the AEA Chief salaries cannot exceed 125% of the average superintendents’ salaries within their region. Currently, the 9 chiefs each make around $300,000 annually.

Wrapping Up:

There have been a lot of moving parts as this bill has morphed throughout the legislative process. I cannot blame you if you’ve had a hard time keeping track. I want to alleviate some of the concerns that have circulated around past proposals:

  • Because this bill requires school districts to use the AEA’s for special education services, there will not be any disruption to special education services.
  • Also, it does not put the AEA’s under the Department of Education which I had many concerns with.
  • Most importantly, this bill does not terminate any AEA employees.
  • Finally, this bill does not prohibit the AEA’s from performing any of the services they do now.

We took a lot of feedback from Iowans in the crafting of our original House bill, and the amendment we sent back to the Senate. We heard from parents, teachers, superintendents, and most importantly – the AEAs. I want to thank the many AEA employees in my district that have called, emailed, and attended my forums throughout this legislative session – your feedback helped in crafting this proposal, and your continued work serving Iowa’s students is greatly appreciated.