Congress enacted the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975, and Iowa developed Area Education Agencies (AEAs) to provide support services required by the Act. Though 75 percent of each AEA’s budget is tied to special education, the Iowa legislature assigned many other responsibilities to the AEAs to provide support to schools. Some of the most frequently used of these services include:
- Media including books, videos and online resources
- Professional Development
- 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 with young children and in schools to support students, families and teachers. These special roles include:
- Speech-language pathologists
- Social workers
- Physical and occupational therapists
- School psychologists
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. AEAs assist districts to meet the requirements of mandates such as No Child Left Behind, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Iowa Core and the Iowa Teacher Quality Initiatives.
Currently, Iowa has nine AEAs. All public and accredited non-public schools receive AEA support services. State law also requires the AEAs to provide services to parents who home-school their children.