Roxanne Conlin, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, says it’s time to expand the number of low-income parents who can send their preschoolers to the government’s Head Start program. 

“It is a great investment. I mean, there is no doubt about it,” Conlin says. “It is a lifetime investment, so the advantages far outweigh, by about 17 times, every dollar that we spend.” 

Conlin held a news conference this morning to outline her education agenda. She criticized Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, her opponent, for voting against expanding Head Start “at least 14 times.”

Grassley communications director Eric Woolson says Grassley has vote to increase Head Start voting 23 times since 1989.  “For the last 10 years, and most likely back to 1989, there have been no separate votes on whether or not to fund Head Start, so it is not accurate to say that Grassley voted against Head Start funding specifically,” Woolson said. 

Conlin today said she supports a tax break that would allow teachers to deduct the cost of the supplies they buy for their classrooms. According to Conlin’s campaign staff, teachers nationwide spend more than $800 million out of their own pockets. “To buy pencils and paper and school supplies for their own students in their own classroom and that’s bad enough,” Conlin said, “but then for Senator Grassley to vote not even to let those dedicated teachers to take the money they spend on behalf of their students off their incomes taxes is just despicable.”

Conlin is also calling for a new financial break for new college graduates who agree to teach in a troubled school. She’d have the government write off their student loan payments for every year they work in a “low achieving” school.

Conlin favors tougher national standards for preschool through 12th grade as well. “I think that abolishing the Department of Education is an extreme idea and one most people don’t support. People are jealous of keeping control of the education of their own children, but everybody expects standards,” Conlin said. “Everybody expects their child to be taught to read. Everyone expects them to learn how to count, and to add and subtract. That’s the kind of standards that I’m talking about.”

Listen to Conlin’s news conference: capRCed

(This story was updated at 3:06 p.m.)