Your Capitol Voice (2/8/24)


This week I will explain my continued opposition to the AEA bill.  Before I get into the why I oppose it, I want to acknowledge an opinion that has been nearly unanimous – there is room for improvement in our AEA system.  Our test scores continue to go down even with higher funding.  Parents of kids who receive services, AEA employees, and teachers who work with AEA employees have nearly unanimously told me there is room for improvement.  My goal is to have the best services possible for the kids that need them.  That being said, the proposal before us is NOT the answer.  I was a NO on the original bill but held out hope that the 174-page amendment would have some good policy in it.  While there were certainly some good ideas in the amendment – they did not come close to outweighing the bad.  Here are my reasons for my opposition to the amendment:

1) The AEAs were not involved in the crafting of either the bill or the amendment.  This is unacceptable for me.  Stakeholders, employees, and parents should have all been asked for input.  Even if they did not like every idea being talked about, they should have at least had the chance to weigh in.  

2) Department of Education.  Both the amendment and the bill place the Department of Education in charge of administering the AEA system. This is a big change from how things are now and I would prefer local boards and parents make those decisions – not Des Moines.  Furthermore – I have heard from countless people in the education system, both Republicans and Democrats, that the Department of Education is an underachieving bureaucracy who all-too-often push a one-size-fits all approach regardless of school size.  What works in large urban centers is not always what works in our small towns.  Giving the DE hundreds of millions of dollars to administer the AEA services is a nonstarter for me.  

3) Speed – Some bills can move very quickly in Des Moines because it is either the right thing to do or there is a consensus. This is not one of those times.  Any changes of any magnitude when it comes to services provided to our most vulnerable kids must be thoughtful, deliberate, and approached with caution.  

I will not support any legislation this Session regarding the AEAs unless two things happen: the AEAs and other stakeholders are involved and agree the proposal is needed or a study to get all the stakeholders in the room to recommend changes for next year. 

I do not disagree that improvements can be made, that some salaries are exorbitant for the personnel at the top, and that some system changes need to be made to address shortfalls in testing and other deficiencies.  The approach taken this year simply did not solve any of those problems. 

Thank-you to everyone who called, emailed, and came to the forums.  Your input helped me arrive at this decision. I have enjoyed my three Listening Posts so far and have two more scheduled this week. Look forward to seeing you there.

Visitors to the Capitol: Detective Matt Jackson, Tipton; Sheriff Quinn Riess, Muscatine. 

Listening Posts (February 10):

9:30 AM Mechanicsville Library

11 AM-West Branch Fire Station

Contact Representative Kaufmann:


Phone: 563-260-3355

Mail: 1527 330th Street, Wilton IA 52778