Democrat Deidre DeJear says if she’s elected governor, she’ll push for an immediate $300 million cash “infusion” for Iowa’s public K-12 schools. DeJear says schools are “grossly underfunded” and earlier this year her fellow Democrats in the legislature proposed that amount be withdrawn from the state surplus.

“It was based on the response that they were getting from school districts all over the state,” DeJear says, “…to really kind of mitigate the damage that’s been caused, as much as possible, related to the consistent underfunding by this current administration.”

For the next school year, DeJear would propose that public schools get at least a 4% annual increase in general state support. She says that will help schools deal with rising expenses, address unpredictable enrollment numbers and address gaps in student achievement.

“I think that is a good baseline and our students are worth that,” DeJear says, “and if we’re going to think seriously about how we’re going to restore the vitality of our system, then we have to use our resources.”

DeJear describes the state’s public education system as the “bedrock of our communities” and she says it needs real investment.

“Our students are in really good hands,” DeJear says. “Their administrators and their teachers know what’s good for their students and what’s good for their districts, they just need leadership who’s willing to identify that part, that they do know best and that they’re making do with what they have and they need a partner, too, that’s willing to fund this stuff that’s going o be good for everybody in the long run.”

DeJear is also proposing that public sector workers in Iowa regain the right to bargain over things like benefits and working conditions. A state law enacted in 2017 limits contract negotiations for educators and other public employees to a discussion of wages. DeJear says contract talks should give “everyone supporting the education ecosystem” a chance to suggest improvements.

“We have to hear the voice of the worker who’s embedded in this work,” DeJear says.

DeJear’s Republican opponent Governor Kim Reynolds was lieutenant governor when public sector bargaining rights were limited. Reynolds called the changes “long overdue” and said they gave taxpayers a seat at the bargaining table.

In a written statement, Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann dismissed DeJear’s plan as “false promises” and Kaufmann said Kim Reynolds had put more money toward public education every year she’s been governor.

Early this morning, DeJear joined the line of cheering faculty and staff at Capital View Elementary in Des Moines as parents dropped their kids off for the first day of school. She also met with the student and staff at Des Moines Roosevelt as part of her weekly “Workday Wednesday.”