Greetings from the Statehouse: Constituent concerns HSB 542

By Michael Bergan, Iowa House District 55

Michael Bergan

The second week of session has been shorter than usual with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and winter weather influencing travel and scheduling. The workload has ramped up for me with the release of the Governor’s recommended budget. As a member of the Appropriations Committee and chair of the Administration and Regulation Appropriations Subcommittee, I have begun a series of meetings with department directors, commissioners and state-wide elected officials covering thirteen budgets. Our initial meeting included presentations by IPERS Chief Executive Officer Gregory Samorajski and Secretary of State Paul Pate on their budget requests for FY 2025.

HSB 542

The filing of several bills also affected the workload, as the bills are assigned to committees and subcommittees are assigned. A bill that has generated a lot of attention is HSB 542, assigned to the Education Committee. The bill increases starting teacher pay by 50 percent to $50,000 annually. The bill also restructures regional Area Education Agencies and delivery of Special Education and other services, providing individual school districts more flexibility in their own role in meeting educational needs in their districts.

Constituent concerns: HSB 542

I have received dozens of emails and phone calls from constituents with concerns over the proposed changes to AEAs and the disruption that is anticipated and feared. Many of the emails share information on Keystone AEA, their services, and testimony to the value of the services received by area schools, teachers, and students. 

These comments only affirm what I already know from my own experience. I have had many positive relationships with Keystone staff and administrators over the past 20 years with my work in early childhood. These relationships included extending and expanding media services to preschools through the area; continuing education to teaching staff in preschool standards, curriculum, assessment, and Early Childhood-Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (EC-PBIS]; and referrals and services to Early ACCESS, serving children (age 0-3) and their families with coordinated services through Special Education Part C funding. Additionally, I currently serve on the Iowa Council for Early ACCESS, involved in making recommendations to early childhood special education services.

I treat this bill, as I do every other bill, by evaluating the bill, gathering more information to identify potential impacts (both intended and unintentional or adverse consequences), and looking for and evaluating amendments to a bill. I understand that significant changes to the bill will be proposed to address many apparent shortcomings. Other amendments will likely come during floor debate. At this point, I am working with colleagues to support changes to the bill that protect early intervention services to children with disabilities and learning delays and help our local schools meet their obligations in educating our children.

Guests

The State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council visited the capital as they advocated for numerous issues including increased mental health resources for students and families. 

I also had the opportunity to meet with Mallory Hanson, who was visiting on behalf of Fayette County Economic Development and Tourism. 

Additionally, Senator Klimesh and I were able to meet with Keystone AEA Administrator Stan Rheingans. And lastly, I was privileged enough to give an extended dome tour with Representative Bloomingdale to members of the Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Visiting the Capital?

It is always an honor to meet with constituents. If you are visiting the capital, kindly notify me at michael.bergan@legis.iowa.gov. This will greatly assist me in the scheduling process.

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