CLEAR LAKE — Nine Area Education Agencies cover the state of Iowa and their administrators are hoping lawmakers will help plug a $15 million dollar budget shortfall to address pressing needs.
One area the agencies want to work on is special education programs. Another, according to Central Rivers Area Education Agency spokesperson Beth Strike, is to help school districts with mental health support. “Every school district we work with is telling us that they have more and more students with mental healths needs. And often times, communities may or may not have the resources to help in that case — depending on whether its in rural Iowa and so on. We all know we’ve got more work to do to provide those supports,” Strike says.
Strike says a third area is to help special needs students better transition from high school to the next steps in their lives. “So, we want to increase that likelihood that when those kiddos leave the K-12 system, they are fully prepared to make a positive contribution in their community, and also in their workforce,” Strike says. “And we think we have quite a bit of help we can be providing in that area.”
Strike says the AEA’s cannot take any more budget hits. “We’re not filling positions often times, we’re trying to reduce through attrition. That’s been going on for several years,” according to Strike. “And just like local schools — you can only do that for so long before it begins to be a situation where you feel like you’re just not at the highest level you could be. We do feel ware are at the point where it just can’t get any lower.” Area Education Agencies have been in Iowa since 1974.