Learn about AEA before changing it

To the Editor;

Even though I’ve lived out of state for several years I still keep tabs on happenings in my home state and home town (Webster City).

Having worked for the local Area Education Agency (5) in the past, I was troubled to learn of the proposed legislation to (basically) decimate that agency system and the quality services it provides to the education community in the state, including Hamilton County.

The best argument I’ve seen in opposition to that was recently written by a professional colleague of mine, Randy Allison, who worked for AEA 11 in Johnston. As Randy articulates in the text below, such legislation is ill-conceived and may significantly affect the quality services provided to all Iowans:

Randy Allison:

“I worked in education across Iowa for 40-plus years. I have been on staff with three different AEAs, worked for the Department of Education, and worked as a private consultant.

I can appreciate the sentiment that AEAs have changed over the last 50 years. Change has been required to be timely and responsive to changing needs within education and to changing state and federal requirements. There is always room for improvement and reconsideration of how AEAs operate.

However, in thinking through those issues and considering future needs there seems to be little, if anything, to gain from what is a decimation of the existing system with this proposed AEA bill before the Iowa Legislature. This is a high stakes decision that will have short- and long-term consequences at the individual, family, school, district, and state level.

A serious concern I have is that no one seems to have taken the time to truly consider the issues this bill presents in comparison to the presumed concerns it is said to solve. This seems to be a clear case of overreaction. If there are problems to be solved, we must clearly articulate them, analyze them for probable cause, and determine meaningful and valid methods to address them. Methods of determining the success, or lack thereof, must be in place. I fear that without deep knowledge of the interconnections of Iowa’s educational system at the state, AEA, and LEA level this AEA bill, as currently conceived, will quickly create a level of dysfunction across the state that our educational system has never considered or experienced.

There are funding issues, cost issues around economy of scale, inefficiencies and redundancies across districts in production and service offerings, issues with recruiting/hiring/training/retaining professional staff, challenges finding and keeping low incidence staff, insensitivity to local needs, a lack of on-ground flexibility, inability to meet state and federal rules and regulations in general and special education, timelines for implementation, poor continuity of services and service provision, questions about Early Access and Early Childhood programming, student data management and IEP data systems, mental health services and resources, behavioral programming, autism training and support, consistency of messaging and services for parents, vocational programming for students with disabilities, knowledge of and linking to community resources …and so many more.

The point is, there has been no information provided in conjunction with this AEA bill to suggest any consideration of these kinds of things. I have not met with or heard from anyone that can answer questions about how these types of issues will be addressed in a comprehensive and cohesive manner.

I honestly wonder if anyone behind this bill has deep knowledge of these issues and/or has attempted to figure them out. For this bill to be meaningfully considered, answers to these matters are imperative for any success, both immediate and long-term.”

I hope Hamilton County residents will contact their state legislators Sen. Dennis Guth and Rep Shannon Latham to voice objection to this legislation.

Bill Matthew

Los Osos, California

Bill Matthew is a Webster City native and a former school psychologist (AEA5 & CA) and professor of school psychology and applied behavior analysis.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $3.46/week.

Subscribe Today