On a campaign swing through western Iowa Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker met with students and teachers in Sergeant Bluff. Booker said he wants to prioritize public and special needs education.
At a roundtable discussion at Sergeant Bluff-Luton Senior High School, the New Jersey senator pledged to work to increase salaries for teachers and other school employees, like health care professionals and school counselors. He said the nation’s tax code should reflect education priorities.
“We live in a country right now where we have people that work for a hedge fund, they pay a lower percentage of their salary in taxes than people who work in public education fields,” Booker said. “And that doesn’t reflect either our values and priorities, nor does it reflect the impact people are making on the economy.”
Booker said he will be working on a debt forgiveness program “to hopefully incentivize more people to work in our schools.”
Booker said he is a proponent of equity and inclusion for all children. He criticized U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s support of education proposals and her rollback of protections for LGBTQ and African American students.
“To me, these are the ways that are ultimately going to undermine the very idea of public education being the way democracies create strong schools for everyone,” Booker said.
Booker also told teachers during the discussion that special needs education should be federally funded at 40 percent.
“Right now we’re funding it at about 18 percent,” Booker said. “And for communities that have high levels of special needs kids, this is often something that is putting the biggest burden on their budgets.”
More federal funding would make a difference for districts like Sergeant Bluff-Luton, he said.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton Community Schools Superintendent Rod Earleywine, says the school district had a special education deficit of $250-thousand-dollars last year. If special education were funded at 40 percent, the district wouldn’t need to rely as much on local property taxes to recover that deficit.
Booker also campaigned in Sioux City, Carroll, Nevada and Des Moines on this trip.