Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver’s in western Iowa today (Thursday), outlining what he calls his “Education for a Lifetime” plan. If elected, Culver proposes spending 60-million more state taxdollars on education initiatives, like seven-and-a-half million dollars to expand preschool programs. He’d try to get the private sector to match that amount.

“We want to expand early childhood educational opportunities to every school district in the state,” Culver says. According to Culver, fewer than 60 percent of Iowa kids have access to an accredited preschool program today. Culver also proposes new state benefits for new teachers in Iowa — such as having the state help pay off college loans and provide home buying assistance for rookie teachers.

Culver says those programs will help young teachers move into a community and buy a home. “We have got to take action quickly to recruit the best and the brightest young teachers graduating from our Iowa colleges,” Culver says. “Too many of them are going elsewhere.”

Culver promises to raise teacher salaries “to the national average or better.” He proposes an immediate infusion of 20-million dollars over and above the two-hundred-10 million increase outgoing Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack and legislators laid out for the next three years. “I commend Governor Vilsack for taking a step in the right direction, however we have to go further,” Culver says.

Two months ago, Culver and his Republican rival, Jim Nussle, started trading barbs over teacher pay. In early June, Nussle ridiculed Culver for promising to raise teacher pay to the national average and Nussle himself promised to raise Iowa teacher pay to “better” than average.

Culver, meanwhile, said Nussle’s proposal wasn’t possible within the Iowa constitution’s edict that the state budget not dip into the red. Culver, a former teacher who was elected Iowa Secretary of State in 1998, held news conferences today with teachers in Sioux City and Council Bluffs.