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The Supreme Court throws out a Trump-era ban on gun bump stocks; a look at how social media algorithms and Shakespearian villains have in common; and states receive federal funding to clean up legacy mine pollution.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

IA cuts historical rural school groups

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Thursday, April 18, 2024   

Educators and public school advocates are pushing back on a measure which would consolidate state-funded services that have been an important part of schools in rural Iowa for generations. Some state lawmakers said the funding could be used more efficiently.

Area Education Agencies have been the go-to place for educators in rural Iowa when they need state services at the local level, in all 99 Iowa counties. House Bill 2612 would consolidate the agencies, outsource some of their services and give the state oversight of them.

Mike Owen, deputy director of the group Common Good Iowa, said the agencies have been critical resources for generations.

"The Area Education Agencies have been a very valuable regional system that helps school districts, large and small, with various services that they can't really do on their own," Owen explained. "From special education to media services, to professional development of teachers."

Gov. Kim Reynolds, who signed the measure, said it will provide a more efficient way to spend the state's education dollars. It is scheduled to take effect July 1.

The battle over public school funding has been playing out on a variety of fronts in Iowa, which enjoys a reputation for some of the best-quality public education in the nation. The state recently enacted a private school voucher program, paid for with state dollars.

Owen sees consolidating the Area Education Agencies and outsourcing some of the services they provide as another step in the wrong direction for Iowa's K-12 classrooms.

"It's total disrespect to locally elected decision-makers for schools," Owen contended. "One more example of how education, unfortunately, is being used to pit people against one another, when it is really a unifying value for Iowans."

There are nine Area Education Agencies in Iowa. The State Department of Education will assume oversight of all of them.


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