116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Iowa’s public school and mental health systems are in crisis because of the leadership of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, Democrat Deidre DeJear said Saturday while campaigning at the Iowa State Fair.
DeJear, who is challenging Reynolds for governor this fall, said Reynolds is neglecting and underfunding critical services.
Reynolds and legislative Republicans boosted public K-12 education funding by 2.5 percent in 2022, which was less than the rate of record-high inflation. DeJear said not prioritizing public education has led Iowa to fall in its education standards.
“The leadership that exists right now at Terrace Hill is starving our systems,” DeJear said in a speech at the Des Moines Register Soapbox at the fair. “Literally starving our systems. She only gave our education budget a 2 percent increase. Inflation is at 8 percent. Meanwhile, our teachers, our educators, our bus drivers, our custodians, are walking away from the profession.”
DeJear said she wanted to provide education to 3- and 4-year-olds, and make sure high school graduates are prepared to go to college or technical schools.
DeJear also said there’s a crisis in access to health care and mental health care in the state. She cited Iowa’s low supply of psychiatric care and infrastructure. According to a March 2021 report, Iowa had 712 psychiatric inpatient beds.
The state should spend some of its $1.24 billion budget surplus on funding these initiatives, DeJear said, and she criticized Republican leadership in the state for not doing enough with the money.
The surplus was one justification Republicans in the Iowa Legislature gave earlier this year to pass a sweeping tax rework, which will lower several of the state’s tax brackets and set a flat tax rate of 3.9 percent by 2026.
“That’s Iowa’s rainy day fund, and it’s raining in our state,” DeJear said. “On mental health care, on education, on health care, on child care. We have to have leadership that’s going to put your resources to work.”
The Iowa governor's seat is rated firmly Republican by several election rating outlets. In the July Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, Reynolds led DeJear by 17 points, with 48 percent saying they would vote for Reynolds and 31 percent saying they would vote for DeJear.
“DeJear is a radical Democrat who stands for defunding the police, reckless spending and restricting freedom,” Iowa Republican Party spokesperson Kollin Crompton said. “While DeJear has spent her time tweeting, Kim Reynolds has been meeting with thousands of Iowans every day at the Iowa State Fair.”
DeJear has not called for defunding the police, and told Axios in January that law enforcement officers "deserve more than a pat on the back and a one-time $1,000 bonus."
The Register extended invitations to the Soapbox to all candidates seeking federal and statewide office, and Reynolds is not scheduled to make a speech.
Earlier this week, DeJear challenged Reynolds to three televised debates, and said they would give voters a better picture of the candidates and the issues they represent. The governor’s campaign told The Gazette they’d be happy to debate and are working out the details.