Government

Education a priority in Iowa House 68 race, but candidates find room to disagree

Republican candidate Randy Ray (from left) answers a question as Democratic candidate Molly Donahue looks on during the forum for Iowa House District 68 hosted by the League of Women Voters Linn County in the Lecture Hall at Linn-Mar High School in Marion on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. The seat was previously held by Republican Ken Rizer who had announced he was not running for reelection and then resigned in May. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Republican candidate Randy Ray (from left) answers a question as Democratic candidate Molly Donahue looks on during the forum for Iowa House District 68 hosted by the League of Women Voters Linn County in the Lecture Hall at Linn-Mar High School in Marion on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. The seat was previously held by Republican Ken Rizer who had announced he was not running for reelection and then resigned in May. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

MARION — Two career educators in an open-seat race for the Iowa Legislature prioritized education but disagreed on several education-related issues, including funding, arming teachers and collective bargaining for public employees.

Republican Randy Ray and Democrat Molly Donahue answered questions from 60 people at a League of Women Voters forum at Linn-Mar High School in Marion for 90 minutes Monday night.

Donahue, a behavior disorders teacher at Harding Middle School in Cedar Rapids, said her priority will be education. Her budget priority will be making sure state funds are spent on the “right priorities” starting with education, and affordable, accessible health care.

“Once the people have what they need,” the state could consider other spending, she said, such as tax credit “rather than the other way around.”

Fifty-four percent of the state budget goes to education, Ray said.

“My questions is: ‘Is it hitting the classroom?’ ” said Ray, who is retired after teaching 38 years in Cedar Rapids schools.

Donahue and Ray are running in Iowa House District 68, which includes Marion, Ely and Bertram. The winner will succeed former Rep. Ken Rizer, who retired after the 2018 session.

Both candidates said their experience as educators would serve them well as legislators.

As a teacher and a small-business owner, Ray said, he had to deal “with people coming from all different views. They got to be able to trust you. You have to be able to reach out to people who might have different views and take the good they have.”

As a special-needs teacher, Donahue said she works with some of the toughest situations — both at school and with families.

“But we have to be able to talk to one another … work with people of all views,” she said.

Ray would support arming properly trained teachers to increase school safety, especially in large building where there might be only one school resource officer.

“We entrust them to teach our children. Why can’t we entrust them to protect our students?” he said.

“Absolutely not,” Donahue said, adding that as a teacher it would not make her feel safer if some of her colleagues were armed.

She called for reversing the changes the GOP-controlled Legislature made to collective bargaining earlier this year

The changes increased local control and flexibility, Ray said.

Neither candidate wants to make changes to IPERS. Donahue was concerned that some Republicans proposed changes in the public employee retirement system that serves about 400,000 Iowans. Ray called any talk about changing IPERS a “political ploy” because he hasn’t heard one legislator of either party talk about changing it.

Ray, 62, taught history at Washington and physical education at Regis — and coached. Ray also owned and operated a packing and shipping store, a trucking company and a storage business. He previously ran unsuccessfully for the Linn County Board.

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Donahue, 51, is a graduate of Cedar Rapids Washington High School and has degrees from Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. She also holds a certification in secondary school administration. She has worked in a variety of schools as a behavior disabilities teacher, was the first teacher at Harambee House, an alternative program for students who had brought weapons to school, and now teaches behavioral disorder students at Washington.

She ran unsuccessfully in House 68 in 2016.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; James.Lynch@TheGazette.com

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