Diedre DeJear.

Deidre DeJear, the Democratic candidate for governor, says it’s time for damage control to address the shortage of teachers, bus drivers and other staff in some Iowa schools.

“It’s not just our teachers,” DeJear said during a news conference on the Capitol grounds. “It’s everyone that’s making that education ecosystem work being impacted by our failure to fund education.”

DeJear said her opponent, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, chose to focus this year on state funding to send 10,000 students to private schools.

“Rather than meeting the needs of all of our public school students…she focused only on 2% of those students and so now is the opportunity for us to use this election cycle to put someone in office who truly believes in ensuring that every student throughout our state has access to a quality education,” DeJear said, “an education that’s preparing them for a limitless future.”

DeJear suggests things like retention bonuses could help some schools keep veteran teachers in the classroom. “We’ve got to get the workforce built back up,” DeJear said. “Part of that is not only investing in K-12, but part of that is also investing in our higher education institutions that have the ability to train the next teacher workforce, the next educators and that cost is getting more and more and more less affordable.”

Governor Reynolds used federal pandemic funds to provide one-time bonuses of $1000 to teachers and this spring she approved a 2.5% increase in per pupil funding for public schools. Reynolds and the Republican-led legislature also started a teacher apprenticeship program, but the state scholarships for private school students Reynolds proposed didn’t have enough support in the Iowa House. Reynolds has pledged to continue to press for the plan. Reynolds said last month that when it comes to education, “one size really doesn’t fit all” and some parents may want their children in a private school “that conforms to their faith and moral convictions.”

DeJear said Tuesday that Reynolds has yet to agree to debates. A spokesman for the governor’s campaign said Reynolds is happy to debate and details will be ironed out as fall approaches.