Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle says this week’s report showing Iowa students were not tops in the nation on college entrance exams is unacceptable. The average score of this year’s Iowa high school graduates who took the ACT ranked behind the average score for students in two other Midwestern states.
Nussle says that shows Iowa’s education system isn’t world class. “It was trumpeted by our leaders in Iowa that Iowa’s number three in ACT test scores, behind Minnesota and behind Wisconsin,” Nussle says. “I don’t think that’s setting the standard.”
Nussle, who has promised to raise Iowa teacher salaries above the national average, says “throwing” more money into the system isn’t the answer. “We have to get the resources out of the bureaucracy, get them down to the classroom where the teachers can actually do the job of teaching,” Nussle says.
Nussle is also accusing out-going Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack of engaging in a “cover-up” when it comes to the performance of Iowa’s economy. “We’ve been covering up the fact that our property taxes for commercial property are the third-highest in the nation. We’ve been covering up the fact that our business taxes rank us as a state as a good place to do business 48th in the nation and that we have the lowest amount of small business and new business and entrepreneurial starts of any state in the country,” Nussle says.
Nussle ridicules Vilsack’s economic development strategy as mainly a plan to pass out huge grants to businesses in the hope that some “big fish” will land in Iowa and create jobs. Nussle says that strategy hasn’t worked. “Ask the folks at Blue Bird. Ask the folks at Rubbermaid. Ask the folks at Maytag. Ask the folks at Electrolux,” Nussle says. “Ask the folks who have not been able to find jobs in our state and have moved to other places to seek their fortune.”
Nussle made his comments Thursday night in Dubuque at a fundraiser that yieled about $50,000 for the Nussle campaign. The keynote speaker was Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican who painted the same dim picture of Iowa’s economy that Nussle sketched. “These are challenging times for Iowa. You’ve figured that out. Jobs are leaving Iowa,” Romney said.
Romney told the crowd the Republican Governors Association, which Romney now leads, was contributing half a million dollars to Nussle’s campaign. “There’s no state that’s got more than that,” Romney said. “We’re going to continue to work…and do everything in our power as Republican governors. We’re out raising money everywhere we can to support races that are critical and this is a critical race.”
Nussle faces Democrat Chet Culver in November.