HIAWATHA — A wintry storm may have prevented Gov. Kim Reynolds from bringing her “Opportunity Unleashed” tour to the Cedar Rapids area Thursday, but ice and snow didn’t stop Iowa Democrats.
“We’re here to make sure people are hearing the reality on the ground,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price told a couple of dozen people at Karma Coffee Cafe in Hiawatha.
Reynolds’ Condition of the State speech Tuesday, he said, “lacked a sense of what’s really happening in Iowa.”
Price and local Democrats raised warning flags on the governor’s plans for K-12 education, Medicaid managed care and a host of issues.
“When I see what’s happening, it makes me angry,” said Cindy Garlock, who taught in Cedar Rapids public schools for 33 years. Reynolds is continuing to starve public education by proposing only a 1.5 percent, or $54 million, increase in state aid to Iowa’s schools, she said. That’s 43 percent of her proposed $7.444 billion budget.
Even though teachers are carrying heavier workloads and support staff have been cut, Iowa has the highest graduation rate in the nation and ranks among the top state for ACT scores.
“But how long can we ask them to do more with less?” she said.
In seven of the past eight years, Garlock said, the increase in state aid — sometimes called allowable growth — has been the smallest increase in history. In 10 years, state aid to schools has increased 49 percent, from $2.15 billion to $3.19 billion, which is 44 percent of the state general fund budget.
Jeffrey Garcia who attends Coe College, a private school, also expressed concern about public school funding. Reynolds talked about what the state can do to improve the business climate, he said, “but at the end of the day, politicians should be doing things for the benefit of people, not business.”
Brad Colton, who worked 38 years as a teacher and principal, warned the group about the danger of Senate File 45 that would end public employee enrollment in IPERS, the state retirement plan. Future employees would be part of a defined contribution plan.
The bill’s prospects are uncertain as House Republicans have indicated they have no interest in the bill.
Michael Culver, a correctional officer — “the whipping boy for Republicans” — said a $300,000 cut Reynolds proposed for the Anamosa State Penitentiary where he works is unsustainable. He thinks it is part of Republicans’ plan to privatize prisons.
Although 93 percent of eligible Iowans are registered to vote and 72 percent of them voted in 2016, Coe student Sean Caldwell said the state voter ID law that begins to go into effect this year, will prevent many Iowans — the disabled, the elderly and people of color — from voting.
Democrats are not trying to score political points with their “Iowans Deserve Better” tour, Price said.
“We’re talking about real lives, about people suffering,” he said.
As they visit the same communities as Reynolds, Price said the party wants “to make sure Iowans hear the problems and make sure they know we’re fighting for them.”
“We want to make sure they know what we’re for and what Republicans are for, and the difference between what they’re doing and what we’re doing,” Price said.
The Democrats postponed their event in Muscatine later Thursday because of the weather.
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