The Iowa Legislature established Iowa’s Area Education Agencies in 1974 to be an effective, efficient and economical means of identifying and serving children from birth to age 21 who require special education services. This decision was a result of the federal law mandating a free, appropriate, public education for children with disabilities. The Iowa legislature was also plagued with complaints about inequitable services from district to district across Iowa.
At that time, 25 percent of students in need of special education were receiving the needed special services and special, segregated schools for children with behavior disorders had been closed. AEAs remain responsible in ensuring that all children with disabilities receive the assistance they need to be successful.
The original 15 AEAs followed the boundaries of the community college system. In 2000, the AEAs asked for legislation allowing for voluntary mergers of AEAs. Since that time, several AEA mergers have taken place and there are now nine AEAs due to mergers across the state.
Iowa’s Area Education Agencies continue to work as partners with children, families, and educators to ensure equitable, efficient, and effective educational services that prepare all Iowa children for a life well-lived.