“What’s an AEA, anyway? Is that like Alcoholics Anonymous?”

Did that headline catch your attention? Many of us have laughed over the years about the lack of understanding people still have about what the AEA system is and does. We have been confused with many groups–including “AA” or Alcoholics Anonymous”. The next time someone asks you, “what’s an AEA?” here are some helpful words to use in your response!

Congress enacted the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) in 1974, and Iowa developed Area Education Agencies (AEAs) to provide support services required by the act. Though 75 percent of the AEA budget is tied to special education, the Iowa legislature assigned many other responsibilities to the AEA to provide support to schools. Some of the most frequently used of these services include:

  • Media (books, videos, on-line Websites and curriculum materials)
  • Professional Development
  • Technology (email and access to the Internet)

The AEA system assures families that each child will receive quality educational services and materials regardless of where they live – in a large district or a small one.

The AEA provides specialists who work in the schools in support of teachers and students. These special roles include, but are not limited to:

  • Speech-language pathologists
  • School Social workers
  • Physical and occupational therapists
  • School psychologists
  • Audiologists
  • Special Education Consultants

In smaller districts, the student caseload may require less than a full-time person. AEAs hire these specialists and provide these services to multiple schools and districts.

In larger districts, the AEA provides many behind-the-scene services in addition to providing these same services. The AEA helps districts meet the requirements of public mandates such as No Child Left Behind, the Individuals with Disability Education Act, Common Core, and the Iowa Teacher Quality Initiative.

Currently, Iowa is divided into nine service areas with each one served by an AEA. All public and accredited nonpublic schools receive AEA support services. State law also requires the AEAs to provide services to parents home-schooling their children.

Iowa’s AEAs are impacting lives. Visit http://aeas4iowa.wordpress.com/ to read the “Impacting Lives” blog newsletter, which is a statewide effort to communicate AEA success stories and services across the state. If you have a story to share, contact Beth Strike, Site Superintendent/Director of Communications or Lori Thomas, Secretary to Site Superintendent/Director of Communications.


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