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DeJear releases an education plan focused on more funding for Iowa's public schools

deidre dejear meets with teachers
Katarina Sostaric
Deidre DeJear met with educators Wednesday at Capitol View Elementary School in Des Moines.

Democratic candidate for Iowa governor Deidre DeJear released her education plan Wednesday—the first day of school for many students—that proposes quickly increasing funding for public schools.

“We have more than 95 percent of our students in the state, in a public school system,” she said. “And we have to make sure that the system is functioning in such a way that it’s preparing them for a limitless future.”

DeJear said she chose hereducation plan to be her first policy announcement “because it’s pivotal.”

She is proposing immediately sending $300 million to public schools from the state’s projected budget surplus of more than $1 billion to help make up for what she said has been a shortfall in K-12 funding the past few years. DeJear is also proposing a minimum 4 percent annual increase in base per-student public school funding.

“Our governor is defunding those systems and starving those systems in such a way that folks are raising their hand saying, ‘So we just have to consistently make do with what we have? Is this not critically important to the success of the state and the future of the state?’” she said.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed a 2.5 percent increase in per-student funding for the current school year.

DeJear said her education plan includes all Iowans, and she said that sets her apart from Reynolds. She said focusing on public schools, which educate the vast majority of Iowans, differs from Reynolds’ push to divert public school funding to pay for up to 10,000 students to go to private schools.

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann released a statement accusing Democrats of supporting reckless spending and criticizing them for opposing Reynolds’ move to require schools to offer in-person classes full-time before COVID-19 vaccines were widely available.

“Under Gov. Reynolds’ leadership, Iowa’s students are on a better path,” Kaufmann said. “Iowa’s students were allowed in the classroom to learn and work alongside their peers—instead of falling behind like students across the country. With a strong budget surplus, historic tax cuts, and more money going toward public education every year, Iowans should vote on the facts, not Democrats’ false promises.”

DeJear met with educators Wednesday morning at Capitol View Elementary School in Des Moines. She asked them questions about early childhood education, mental health support for students, and what needs they see.

She said she wants to focus on helping not just students, but their families, too.

“I love that you see families and parents as a critical part of that process, too,” said Adriyel Mondloch, community school coordinator at Capitol View Elementary. “…It really takes everyone working together, but we need that common vision, we need that common goal.”

DeJear is also proposing increasing compensation for public school teachers, support staff and administrators to retain and attract workers. She wants to restore and enhance collective bargaining rights, protect the public employee pension fund, and reinstate a loan forgiveness program for teachers.

She said she wants to work toward establishing at least 30 hours per week of pre-K for every 3- and 4-year-old child to prepare them for school and help parents stay in the workforce. DeJear’s plan also includes ensuring there are mental health counselors in every school and reinvesting in trade programs in public schools.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter