District 53 Newsletter: Feb. 15, 2024 Edition

Rep. Dean Fisher.

Last week was “Funnel Week”, wherein we must have all our individually filed bills through committee. Fortunately, I have been able to move the bills I need to through the process already, so my work this week was focused on the many other bills moving through the committees I sit on, which include Public Safety, Natural Resources, and Agriculture.

The House has been engaging in conversations with the AEAs, teachers’ union, superintendents, and parents to develop bills to improve special education outcomes and increase teacher pay. This week, we have introduced three bills as a result of these in-depth discussions. One on AEA reform, one on increasing teacher pay, and one on a 3% Supplemental State Aid (SSA) increase. These bills are not set in stone and discussions are ongoing. However, these will be the bills we work off of as we move forward.

We have taken feedback from the teachers’ union, superintendents and more as we crafted this legislation to responsibly raise teacher pay. Our bill increases the minimum teacher salary from the current amount of $33,500 to $47,500 beginning next year, and then bumps it up again to $50,000 the following year. This bill also increases the minimum wage for education support staff to $15/hour. Our teachers are doing essential, important work. We want our teachers to receive the compensation they deserve and incentivize more people to enter the profession. While some may say this bill may not directly address veteran teachers, our plan includes additional TSS money and increasing State Supplemental Aid by 3%, both of which would give schools additional money to spend on teacher salaries how they see fit.

While the Governor’s original AEA reform proposal has not passed committee, we have continued discussions with stakeholders to draft our own legislation to improve outcomes. The goal of our bill is to improve special education outcomes. We believe it does this by providing accountability over the AEA’s services, creating a task force to review the current system and look for areas for improvement, and giving more flexibility to the school districts on how to spend their money. There are important things to note about differences between our bill and the original proposal that has been broadly discussed over the last six weeks. In our new bill there is no disruption to special education services, there is no termination of any employees of the AEA’s, nor does it prohibit the AEAs ability to perform any of the services they do now.

What the bill does do is tie the salary of each AEA’s chief executive to the average salary of the superintendents of the districts they cover. Currently, the 9 chiefs each make around $300,000 annually. It also puts the Department of Education in charge of professional development and gives the DOE true oversight over the AEA’s budgets, providing more oversight. It also creates a legislative task force to review the AEA system and make recommendations.

Also, the money devoted to special education will stay with each school district, ending the mandated funding to the AEA, but school districts will be required to contract with the AEAs to provide those special ed services.

This bill will also give school districts more control of media services and education services money over time. Many districts may continue to use the AEAs for all services. However, if they can provide those same services for less money, or more effectively through other means, they will have that flexibility.

This is just a quick summary of this bill and we will continue to dig into the details as this bill works its way through the legislative process.

As always, I look forward to seeing you at the capitol, or in the district.

Dean Fisher, a Republican from Montour, represents District 53 in the Iowa House of Representatives including the communities of Clutier, Garwin, Gladbrook, and Lincoln.