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Big Story: Why is local education group so far in debt?

Big Story: Why is local education group so far in debt?
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If state education leaders in Des Moines are the microscope, the Mississippi Bend Area Education Association is the slide.

It is no secret the Iowa Legislature has been slashing funds to the state’s nine AEAs. The agencies partner with most public schools and some private ones, helping them bolster their special-education programs and offering overall support for teachers and learning.

But AEAs fell on hard times about a half-dozen years ago when state lawmakers saw their fat financial reserves and concluded the agencies didn’t need quite so much money.

The Bettendorf-based AEA has had the hardest time rebounding from the cuts.

A knee-jerk reaction was to spend down the millions in reserves, so the agency looked more needy on paper. But it didn’t work. Then, tough times hit in other ways.

Now the state is moving in on Mississippi Bend, pushing its leadership to prove themselves capable of balancing a budget — sooner, rather than later.

In Sunday’s Big Story, columnist Barb Ickes investigates what happened at the local AEA.

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