The two major party candidates for governor touted their education plans before the state Board of Education today (Thursday). Democrat Chet Culver used part of his time to attack his Republican rival, Jim Nussle, for suggesting he’d find money to raise teacher salaries by streamlining administrative duties in schools.
“He proposes massive administrative cuts which could result in forcing school districts to consolidate,” Culver told the board. “…You and I know eliminating administrators across the state would not produce the kind of savings that my opponent has talked about. It would only make it harder I believe for schools to succeed.”
Culver made his comments this morning. Early this afternoon, Nussle had his turn before the board and spoke with the group by phone from Washington, D.C. “I really believe that we should continue the task for streamlining our administration and bureaucracy in order to do a better job of getting resources to instruction. This is not forced consolidation. I know there’s a lot of people when you’ve got 50 days before an election they’ll say all sorts of crazy things. This is not forced consolidation. That just tries to scare people,” Nussle said. “We can always do a better job of getting resources to the classroom and I believe that’s a goal that many people share.”
Culver, the Democrat, also blasted Nussle for failing as chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee to provide enough money to schools to meet the requirements of the “No Child Left Behind” Act which set national standards for schools. “This giant federal mandate is underfunded by $50 billion dollars, $12 billion this year that is not being funded that our teachers and our schools desperately need,” Culver said. “We cannot afford these unfunded mandates.”
Nussle defended his record on federal education spending. “We have in the last six years doubled the overall general education budget and tripled the overall special education budget which…is not ever going to be enough but I’m proud of that effort,” Nussle said. “We could always do more but it’s at least a good start.” Nussle said as governor, he would focus on improving the state’s education system partly because he believes it’s tied to increasing the state’s population as parents in big cities out-of-state look for safer places with good schools to raise their children.
Culver stressed his time as a high school teacher and coach as giving him insight into what should be done to improve Iowa schools.