This past week we’ve heard loudly from our partners in education — our teachers, principals, caregivers and even some students- that the Governor’s proposal to change AEA services would reduce the AEAs to a shell of a system that would be inadequate to support our children, families and especially our smaller school districts. At the heart of this discussion are critically important services that students, families and educators rely on every day. Families, school districts, and AEA staff are, understandably, very concerned about what these proposed changes mean.
Special Education, Media Services and Education Services have all been a part of the AEA’s mission since the AEA was created. Every district, every child supported by our AEA has access to interconnected services designed to support the needs of a district, or a building, a classroom or even an individual student. I strongly believe that any plan that intends to isolate one service from the others moves away from supporting the whole child, including those who benefit most from special education services.
It would be a disservice to our partnering schools and our families we’ve worked with to discount our organizational successes by quickly dissolving the AEA system. Our AEA staff are humbly proud of their work, and we’ve summarized just a few ways they support our students and districts in those areas that appear to be most at risk:
We have a responsibility to those we serve to press forward and advocate for a system that retains the services that children, educators and families deserve. We haven’t yet seen a plan that improves upon the system we already have in place, and we need everyone to continue engaging and asking to learn more about what needs to be fixed- and how a new system will provide solutions that are not already available.
Iowa AEAs have never been adverse to change or improvement. We continue to be open to conversation that leads us to better outcomes for all Iowans and encourage everyone to speak up and partner with policymakers in meaningful conversations that unite us.
About the Author
Dr. John Speer has served as the Chief Administrator at Grant Wood Area Education Agency since 2017. Dr. Speer leads an organization that includes more than 500 employees who provide special education, media and technology, and general education services in Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn and Washington counties, supporting a combined student enrollment of 74,000 Iowa children.