Since the Governor’s bill was introduced last week, we’ve heard loudly from our partners in education — teachers, school administrators, parents and even students — that the proposal to change AEA services would reduce AEAs to a shell of a system of services and supports – a framework that would be inadequate to support children, families and especially smaller school districts.
Since their inception, Iowa’s AEAs were charged with providing special education, media and educational services to public and nonpublic students. Over 70 percent of our overall budget is spent supporting special education services. Our current programs and services reflect the changing needs of our families and partnering school districts, and those services are provided economically, using only a small portion of our overall budget.
To close the achievement gap, we start by ensuring quality universal instruction in general education classrooms. Services for ALL students, including those who receive special education services, need to include support in general education classrooms.
We have a responsibility to those we serve to press forward in advocating for a system that retains the services that children, educators and families deserve. We haven’t yet seen the proposed changes to the bill. We need everyone to continue engaging and asking to learn more about what needs to be changed and how a new system will provide solutions that are not already available. We need impacted stakeholders to be allowed to have input into the solutions.
Iowa’s AEAs have never been averse to change or improvement. We need to continue to inform others about the phenomenal work we do and participate in meaningful conversations with policymakers that lead us to better outcomes for all Iowans.
– Cindy Yelick, Chief Administrator, Heartland AEA
Cindy Yelick, Ed.D. is chief administrator of Heartland AEA. In this role, she serves as the Agency’s chief executive officer with responsibility for overseeing the Agency’s day-to-day operation and strategic planning in conjunction with the Board of Directors. Dr. Yelick leads an organization of 750 staff members who serve 53 public school districts, 32 accredited non-public schools and 1 charter school across Audubon, Boone, Carroll, Dallas, Guthrie, Jasper, Madison, Marion, Polk, Story and Warren counties. Heartland AEA serves 148,942 children/students birth to age 21.