They’ll Remember in November: Iowans Share how AEAs have Changed Their Lives

Stories from the constituents that Iowa Republicans ignored in passing Governor Reynolds’ plan to defund AEAs

Iowa Republicans are ignoring Iowa voters. Yesterday, Republicans passed a partisan bill that guts essential services provided by our Area Education Agencies (AEAs).

Constituents rebuked their plan time and time again, from the hearing rooms of the state capitol to the editorial page of their local paper. The Iowa Democratic Party asked Iowans to share how AEAs have affected them and received hundreds of responses. Here are just some of their stories:

Michelle and Tommy S.

Michelle wrote to us about her son Tommy, who was born with microcephaly. AEAs provided Tommy with the assistance he needed to be as successful as he is today.

“Should how he was born be the circumstances that deny his educational [and] vocational needs? How can the state of Iowa claim a vested interest in a child, when a child like Tommy is exactly who they must be fully invested in providing for?” Michelle wrote.

Lisa R.

Lisa R.’s journey with AEAs started in 1991. Her adoptive son and daughter both suffered severe developmental and physical delays resulting from prior abuse and neglect. For Lisa, AEAs were a “huge help,” assisting with classroom accommodations, speech therapy, and behavioral therapy.

“[The help provided by AEAs] has been above exceptional…Without [it], my daughter would not be reading at an 8th-grade reading level,” Lisa wrote.

Bennett and Makenna B.

Bennett was born with Down syndrome, beginning AEA in-home services at just 7 months old. At that time, Bennett was on a feeding tube and had very low muscle tone. Bennett’s mother, Makenna, wrote to IDP describing how “not only did the AEA work with Bennett,” but they worked with her on things they could do with Bennett between visits. Thanks to their support, Bennett qualified for his school’s Head Start program at 3 years old.

“If the AEA needs improvement in any area, it would be MORE funding. These individuals care about our kids. Their services go so far beyond just in the classroom. They offer support and guidance to parents who may not know what to do — I know this because I was (and still am!) one of them,” Makenna wrote.

Makenna described how Bennett knows each of his AEA support staff by name and the trust he has with them thanks to their positive influence on his life.

“As parents, we need the AEA to bridge the gap at school when we cannot be there for our kids to give instruction or ask questions. They are the advocates for our children when we cannot be. THAT is worth all the money in the world to a parent of a child with a disability.   Thank you for your time and I hope that you will do the right thing in continuing to fight for these services that our kids deserve.”

Dana T.

Dana, a former special education teacher from Pleasantville who taught for 33 years, worked directly with AEA consultants ranging from school psychologists to speech therapists, to occupational therapists, to audiologists, and to vision specialists. This support team helped Dana ensure that she could provide the best educational practices and resources available to her students.

“The expertise of these AEA professionals was invaluable,” Dana wrote.

When Dana moved into the regular classroom where she taught kindergarten, 3rd, and 4th grade, the AEA  provided numerous opportunities for her to improve her instruction through professional development, resources, and technology. Heartland AEA provided her with books, materials, school psychologists, behavioral specialists, audiologists, vision specialists and consultants, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and more.

“ALL of this was available to me through Heartland AEA,” Dana continued. “There is no reason to overhaul or fix a system that is not broken. We need AEAs and schools to continue to work together to provide quality education to the students in Iowa. Our teachers and students need more support, not less. We need AEAs and ALL of the services these professionals provide!”

These stories are just a few of the many stories submitted to us from Iowans who know that AEAs are a critical service for those who need them most. They serve as evidence that  Iowans don’t need us to tell them how to respond to Republicans’ blatant disregard for the voices of their constituents.

“Voters will remember that Republican lawmakers ignored their pleas and gutted essential AEA services at the ballot box this November,” said IDP Chair Rita Hart. “This is one more example of why we need to elect new representatives and bring balance back to the statehouse.”