DeJear At Debate: No Iowa School Should Be Failing

Screenshot from Iowa Press

Monday’s gubernatorial debate between Gov. Kim Reynolds and small business owner Deidre DeJear emphasized how differently they view the status of education in Iowa.

Reynolds said the state is doing great with a mixture of apprenticeship and pilot programs for teachers and said parental choice should reign supreme while touting her voucher program. DeJear said Iowa schools are being asked to do more with less and all schools should be able to meet all students’ needs.

School Funding

The question of funding education was a big one, and it led directly to Reynolds’ unpopular proposal to use taxpayer money to pay for students to go to non-public schools if that’s what the parent chooses.

Her plan, contained in Senate File 2369, would have diverted $55 million from public school budgets for up to 10,000 scholarships to pay for students to attend private schools. Most Iowans oppose this proposal, regardless of party.

“There is an opportunity to help all kids and to make our schools stronger,” Reynolds said. “And I just fundamentally believe that that choice should not only go to kids and families that have the resources. If education truly is the great equalizer, then everybody should have that choice.”

She talked about how parents should be able to choose to remove their kids from a failing school to one that better suits them. She blamed a lot of those failures on the pandemic and online learning, despite also closing schools early in the pandemic.

DeJear said there shouldn’t be failing schools in Iowa.

“When it comes down to school choice, it shouldn’t be a matter of a parent choosing from an excelling school or failing school,” she said. “All of our schools throughout the state need to be set up for success in every single district.”

DeJear also said the vast majority of Iowa students are in the public school system, and they shouldn’t be abandoned because some families choose to enroll in private schools.

“It is very, very apparent that 100% of our students need the unyielding, undivided attention of our governor to ensure that they are able to compete. But this year we had schools opening that didn’t have science teachers. You know, we had schools opening that didn’t have Spanish teachers,” she said. “I want to make sure that our system gets back to that basic essential function because we owe it to our students and we should give them nothing less.”

DeJear called for a minimum 4% increase in state funding for schools so they can provide for the needs of students and no one is underserved.

Reynolds defended her administration’s level of funding for public schools.

“Since Republicans took control of the legislature and the governor’s office, over a billion dollars of new money has gone into K12 education,” she said.

A fact-check done by the Gazette found that isn’t quite true. And while the state legislature has technically increased the dollar amount going to schools, it hasn’t been enough to keep up with inflation over the years.

This year, public schools in Iowa said a 5% increase in state funding, around $300 million, was necessary, but Reynolds and Republican legislators passed a 2.5% rate this session, $150 million.

Student Loan Forgiveness

When talking about student loan forgiveness, Reynolds doubled down on insulting people who are eligible and criticizing the forgiveness as not fair.

Reynolds said it was different from using tax dollars to fund private school tuition because college loan borrowers signed a contract.

“It does nothing but encourage bad borrowing practices,” she said. “And if you’re that truck driver or machinists or a nurse that are a person that decided not to seek a college education, why should you be responsible in paying somebody else’s off, especially when they often make more than you do? It’s not right. It’s not fair.”

DeJear said all of the groups Reynolds mentioned include people with student loans.

“I know truck drivers with student loans. I know waitstaff with student loans. I know nurses with student loans,” she said. “The fact of the matter is the cap on this is about $20,000 at most. It will impact nearly 405,000 Iowans if they so choose to go through the process.”

According to the White House, the number is actually more than 408,000 Iowans or 13% of Iowa’s population. Federal data shows Iowa borrowers hold an average of $30,988 per person, but 95 percent of borrowers are eligible for relief.

However, DeJear did agree with Reynolds on the loan forgiveness not making college more affordable. She said Iowa needs to reinvest in post-secondary education by funding the regent universities more. At the University of Iowa, the state used to provide about 60% of the general fund, but over the last two decades students have taken on a heavier financial burden

“We know we have challenges with health care, we know we have challenges with education and mental health care and these are all roles that require a post-secondary degree,” DeJear said.  “And so I want to make college more affordable in this state. It used to be that we funded our Regents three-fourths of their budget, now we’re funding them a fourth of their budget.”


Nikoel Hytrek

Have a story idea or something I should know? Email me at You can also DM me on Twitter at @n_hytrek

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1 Comment on "DeJear At Debate: No Iowa School Should Be Failing"

  • There were failing schools under Culver and Vilsack also. Regardless of who is our governor is there will be failing schools. DeJear was our best candidate? She will be lucky to crack 40%.

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