April 17, 2024

Legislators answer questions in Orient

State Senator Amy Sinclair and State Representative Ray "Bubba" Sorensen talk with constituents Saturday, March 23 at The Dugout Cafe in Orient.

Senator Amy Sinclair and Representative Ray Sorensen each heard feedback of varying degrees from constituents at a legislative forum held Saturday, March 23 at The Dugout Cafe in Orient.

To no surprise, a great deal of the conversation included recent movement on hopes Governor Kim Reynolds and others have for Area Education Agency reform.

While the Senate had not voted on the latest version of the proposal as of Saturday, the House had, and Sorensen was a “no” vote. The Senate passed it Tuesday and it was on the way to Reynolds’ desk Wednesday.

Visitors to the forum had multiple questions regarding the proposal — about how it will impact jobs, services offered to students, the quick time in which it is supposed to be implemented, the efficiency of said changes, proper oversight of all aspects of services and the agencies giving them, and more.

Sinclair said the current proposal includes goals of eliminating an achievement gap, streamlining services to kids and making sure teachers are well-compensated.

“Some of you will disagree with me, but at this point, in my opinion, we have a bill that does that,” Sinclair stated.

Sorensen said he was a “no” vote when it went through the House because he likes the teacher compensation piece but didn’t like that that part was put together with the AEA part into one vote.

Sinclair said that when she was first chair of the Senate’s education committee in 2017, she began doing research to look into achievement gaps the federal government said Iowa had, and she didn’t get the follow through that she wished for from AEA leaders at that time. The pandemic happened, and then Reynolds rolled out this proposal at the beginning of this session on the topic. She commented that nobody liked how Reynolds rolled it out.

A part of the proposal discussed Saturday was a 2.5% raise in state supplemental aid (SSA), the per-pupil amount schools get from the state government. That is lower than the 3% the House hoped for.

Some associated with local schools are afraid for current AEA staff because reforms happening like some think they could mean people would be out of jobs.

According to the bill, there would be no changes to the AEAs this school year, but then changes to funding and services would roll out the following school year. There is also a step up program for starting teacher salaries over the first two years of the new plan, and $14 million in standing appropriatations for paraprofessionals.

Other questions were allowed at the end because of time constraints. These topics included last year’s educational savings account bill, eminent domain relating to carbon capture pipelines and the road use tax.

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.