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Listen: With a big education package signed, lawmakers look to speed up eminent domain court decisions

After months of negotiations, Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a plan into law that shakes up funding for the state’s nine Area Education Agencies. The law also sets a new minimum teacher salary that will be implemented over the next two school years and sets the annual K-12 funding increase for the 2024-2025 school year.

Changes to Iowa’s special education system

Reynolds first proposed overhauling the state’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs) in her Condition of the State Address. The final package is more reserved than her initial proposal.

In the final bill, districts must use the AEAs for special education services, as they do now, but by the second year, only 90% of that state funding must go to the AEAs. The other 10% stays with the school districts to be spent on special education providers of their choice.

The legislation also creates a task force that will study outcomes for students in special education.

School funding for 2024-2025 school year 

State funding for K-12 schools in the 2024-2025 school year will increase by 2.5%, which is about $119 million.

Education savings accounts, the state-funded accounts that help cover the cost of private school tuition, will also increase by 2.5%.

An individual ESA will be worth $7,826 next year. The ESA program is estimated to cost $179.2 million, an increase of $51.3 million.

Pay bump for Iowa teachers

The new law increases the minimum salary for teachers in Iowa, which will be implemented over the next two years. Starting in July, teachers will earn a minimum of $47,500. The following year, that minimum will increase to $50,000.

A licensed teacher of 12 years will earn a minimum salary of $60,000 next fiscal year, and $62,000 the year after that.

Other school staff, including paraeducators, will also see a raise.

House passes bill that could speed up eminent domain court decisions

A bill that advanced out of the House with bipartisan support is the latest effort by some lawmakers to respond to landowners’ concerns about proposed carbon dioxide capture pipelines crossing their land.

Under the bill, Iowa landowners in the path of a proposed pipeline could seek a court decision more quickly on whether the use of their land against their will is legal.

Supporters of the legislation say that, without this change, it could take several more years for the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline and landowners in its path to have a final decision. The Iowa Utilities Board is currently considering Summit’s eminent domain request.

Limits on pesticide lawsuits

Lawmakers have revived a proposal that would limit Iowans’ ability to sue pesticide companies for pesticide-related illnesses. The bill was proposed by Bayer, the manufacturer behind the weed killer RoundUp.

To read more about what happened this week at the Iowa Capitol, follow our liveblog and sign up for IPR’s weekly newsletter, Political Sense, for Statehouse updates sent directly to your inbox. 

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Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter