Regents prepare for governor’s reorganization goals

By: - March 2, 2023 6:39 pm

(Photo illustration using images courtesy of the Iowa Board of Regents, Iowa State University, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa)

The Iowa Board of Regents is preparing for some changes if Gov. Kim Reynolds’s proposed state government reorganization bill is passed.

Regents President Mike Richards discussed the two shifts the regents will see if Senate Study Bill 1123 moves forward.

Department of Education to oversee schools for the deaf, blind

The Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Iowa School of the Deaf will move from the purview of the regents to the state Department of Education. Richards voiced support for the moving of oversight during the board’s Feb. 22 meeting.

“The governor’s proposals streamline administrative efforts to make decisions for K-12 students within one department,” he said. He said the state Department of Education already oversees K-12 education statewide, including for students with disabilities, and has “expertise and background” to add oversight of the two special schools.

Richards said the special schools are already working closely with the department and the Iowa Area Education Agencies staff.

“This alignment makes sense and will serve our Deaf and hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired students, well,” Richards said. “The Board of Regents wants what’s best for the students and families that receive services through ISH and IESBVI. Everyone should know that existing programs and services will continue. There is no plan to cut services or plan to reduce employees … because of this realignment.”

Iowa Capital Dispatch previously reported that blind and Deaf Iowans oppose some of the changes Reynolds’s bill suggests, criticizing the governor’s decision to change and expand her appointment power over the Department for the Blind. 

The changes to the schools are imminent, Richards said, and the legislative process will take time. He said the regents will ensure a “smooth transition.”

Iowa School of the Deaf Interim Superintendent John Cool said he appreciated the regents’ proactive approach to communicating changes so he could effectively communicate with the Iowa School of the Deaf community.

“I want to thank the board, both the Board of Regents and the board office staff, who have worked diligently and been proactive with this proposed bill by the governor, and helping the special schools and helping me and being behind me and providing support and communicating to all the stakeholders, to our staff and students, to quell the anxiety, reduce the amount of anxiety, because change is difficult.”

Cool also mentioned multiple vacant positions for deaf educators at the school. He said Iowa is not alone, as schools in Alaska, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Washington D.C. are also struggling to find teachers. 

Richards said there will be a pause on the search to find a permanent superintendent of the School of the Deaf until governance and oversight are addressed by the Legislature. He said the board has full confidence in Cool and his ability to assist with the transition.

Iowa’s STEM Council moves

Richards also addressed the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council being moved from the University of Northern Iowa to the state’s Department of Education under the proposed legislation. Reynolds is a co-chair on the committee. 

Then-Gov. Terry Branstad created the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) advisory council by executive order in 2011 to “strengthen and expand the STEM Council,” according to the state’s website. “The STEM Council is Iowa’s edu-nomic development initiative to invigorate the PreK-12 talent pipeline toward STEM careers.”

“This program continues to build a strong STEM education foundation,” Richards said. “UNI has done an amazing job in building this capacity for the state of Iowa. Changes to funding, programming and operations are not expected. In fact, we are hopeful that programming may expand the responsive STEM programming for young people and in local communities will continue.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Eleanor Hildebrandt
Eleanor Hildebrandt

Eleanor Hildebrandt is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and mass communication and global health studies, with a minor in German. She is a managing editor at the university newspaper, the Daily Iowan, and has served as an reporter intern at Iowa Capital Dispatch.