AEAs cutting workers in wake of Republican legislation

Sen. Charlie McClintock, a Republican from Alburnett, speaks out against the AEA bill. He was one two Republicans who joined Senate Democrats in voting against the legislation, which passed 30-18 on Tuesday. Photo by Ty Rushing/Starting Line

By Amie Rivers

April 19, 2024

Iowa legislators said a new bill cutting money for agencies that help students with disabilities wouldn’t affect services.

But area education agencies (AEAs) across the state are now beginning to cut their budgets, and staff, because of it.

“This is a day of grieving,” one staffer at the Green Hills AEA wrote on Facebook last week. “We have lost 49 members of our team from the ‘we are not trying to dismantle the AEAs’ legislation. This is now an official Reduction in Force. That is 49 out of 320 positions to date. That is 15% of our team.”

Reached for comment, Green Hills AEA—which covers the area around Council Bluffs in western Iowa—said the truth was now worse.

“We currently are sitting at just under a 20% turnover rate for next year, with 59 staff either resigning, retiring, or included in our recent reduction in force,” Green Hills AEA spokesperson Devin Harrick said. Nineteen of those, he added, were layoffs “due to budget constraints from the recent AEA legislation.”

At Heartland AEA, in central Iowa’s Indianola and Knoxville, 70 staff out of 740, or just under 10%, are leaving. Fifty of those were resignations, with the rest retirements, according to spokesperson Julie McCarty, who noted it was an increase “influenced by the uncertainty” stemming from the new law.

“Some employees are choosing early retirement due to this uncertainty, while others perceive a decline in support for public education in Iowa,” McCarty said. “A portion of our workforce is relocating to states where they believe public education receives greater priority.”

The problem is squarely with recent legislation, signed and championed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, that guts the agencies known for helping school districts with special education for students with disabilities, professional development for teachers, and more.

The legislation was so unpopular with Iowans, who are familiar with and appreciate the services AEAs provide, that at least a couple of Republicans broke party ranks and voted against it.

@iowastartingline Senator Charlie McClintock (R-Alburnett) went against the grain of his party and stood for the thousands of Iowans speaking out against the AEA overhaul bill, declaring his “no” vote. “Although I know this bill is going to pass today,” he said. “I’m still going to hold out in hopes that we’ll show Iowa we actually listen.” #iowa #iowanews #iowalife #specialeducation #publiceducation ♬ original sound – Iowa Starting Line

In order to face voters in November, party leaders inserted a teacher pay increase into the AEA funding cut bill, and plan to claim Democrats are anti-teacher for voting against it.

  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.

CATEGORIES: POLITICS | RURAL

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