Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle says he’ll finance his plan to raise Iowa teacher pay above the national average by cutting the size of state government.
“I’m willing to look at all the bureaucracy of government,” Nussle says. Nussle, however, stops short of saying whether he’d fire state workers or cut state worker pay and redirect that money to teachers.
Nussle does cite a report concluding Iowa’s state government is sixth largest in the country when compared to the other 49 states on a per capita basis. “We’re sixth-highest in state bureaucracy and we’re 42nd in teachers (pay). I think that is a misapplication of the priority,” Nussle says. “I want education to be the top priority.” The just-concluded 2006 Iowa Legislature committed 210-million dollars over the next three years to raise teacher pay from 41st to 32nd in the country — if no other states take similar action to raise teacher salaries.
And Nussle’s Democratic rival, Chet Culver, has said getting teacher pay to the national average would be his goal. “I reject that Iowa, with our tradition and where we want to go, I totally and completely reject that all we can do is 42nd, 32nd (or) average,” Nussle says. “That’s not Iowa. I don’t want just an average teacher teaching my son and daughter in the classroom. I want an above average teacher. I want an excellent teacher and the only way we are going to get those excellent kind of teachers is to start making (teacher pay) a priority.”
Nussle has also pledged to abolish the Iowa Values Fund, the multi-million dollar state economic development program handing out grants to new and expanding Iowa businesses. But Nussle’s not ready yet to reveal all the details of his alternative economic development strategy.
“We’ll lay out all of these plans as we go. This is just — what is this — day three of the general election campaign? We’ve got a little bit of work to do,” Nussle says. “We’re not ready to show you all the cards today.” Also today, Nussle launched a new website to solicit proposals from Iowans that would “energize Iowa’s future. The address is www.99Iowaideas.com.