DES MOINES — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell said Monday he is gathering Iowans’ input on how best to improve education, health care and incomes for Iowans while his opponent issues misleading attack ads to distract voters from her dismal record.
Hubbell told 10 educators at a roundtable discussion he wants to grow yearly state funding for schools by at least the rate of inflation to make sure teachers have the resources they need to deal with the challenging needs of students faced with issues affecting their learning abilities.
“Funding is paramount,” said Jolene Teske, a former school board member who now supervises the talented and gifted program for Des Moines public schools. “We have to have the funding because we need more teachers and those teachers need training.”
Roundtable participants talked about the challenges of growing K-12 class sizes, changing educational standards and core requirements without adequate state funding to implement them, and children from a variety of family situations attending school “in survival mode” or dealing with “outside baggage.”
“They’ve experienced a lot of trauma and that shows in explosive behavior,” said Des Moines elementary teacher Courtney Starbuck.
Hubbell said most Iowans don’t understand what teachers face in today’s classrooms — that teachers are required to do more administrative duties and there is an increased emphasis by schools to “teach to the test.” That has created a situation where employers increasingly have had to provide remedial training to make up for “what kids used to learn in school.”
The Democratic candidate said he “didn’t see any silver bullets” emerge from Monday’s discussion “but to be honest I didn’t expect any.” But he said he came away with a reaffirmation that education will be his administration’s No. 1 priority if he wins his November general-election matchup with incumbent Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.
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“We’ve got real challenges with the quality of our education system and they’re right that a lot of the issues in our society these days show up in our schools,” Hubbell told reporters after the roundtable. “Life is complicated and that’s why we need a governor who is committed to listening and learning from people all across our state to figure out how do we improve our education and how do we improve the impact of education in our society.”
Hubbell said K-12 and higher education has gone underfunded with Republicans in control at the Statehouse. The Reynolds campaign has turned to TV attack ads that distort and contain errors about his time as an executive with Younkers department stores more than 30 years ago, he said.
“The people who were in the ads, they didn’t work at Younkers, they have no connection to Younkers. They are people associated with the Republican Party, they were given a script to read,” he said.
Hubbell’s campaign said the Democratic challenger will “push back” against the GOP attacks in the “misleading TV ad that attempts to distract from just how much (Reynolds’) administration has pushed our state backward.”
The three-day “Priorities for Iowa” tour that he and running mate, Sen. Rita Hart of Wheatland, have embarked upon is designed to highlight their vision to invest in Iowans through education and health care to “get Iowa growing from the ground up” while ending what they view as “wasteful corporate giveaways.”
Pat Garrett, spokesman for the Reynolds campaign, stood by the ad’s content, saying Hubbell was chairman of Younkers when the three stores cited in the commercial were closed and his salary increased.
“Fred Hubbell has spent the last year talking about how his experience as CEO of Younkers has prepared him to be governor. Now he’s backtracking and saying that he wasn’t actually responsible for what happened under his watch? That is weak leadership at its worst,” said Garrett in a statement.
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