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Education Top Priority for Senate Candidates

The three candidates for the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s 42nd Senate District say they will make education a top priority.

Bob Morawitz of Fort Madison, Rich Taylor of Mount Pleasant and Donna Amandus of Fort Madison each say improvements to the education system equate to economic development.

Morawitz says the key is improving the workforce, adding “we have a lot of people who do not have the skills and need the training.”

He says that starts with focusing on adult education, especially as industrial jobs become more technology-based.

“It makes it real hard to get in these new high-tech businesses,” says Morawitz, “as you just can’t get a factory job anymore with a high school education.”

Morawitz says he does not support Governor Terry Branstad’s plan to require more student testing.  He believes that money would be better spent funding preschool and emphasizing reading before third grade.

“We need to start with a good base before we can build on anything else,” says Morawitz.

Rich Taylor says developing the workforce is the key through community colleges or trade institutes.  He says if southeast Iowa can showcase a strong workforce, the jobs will come.

He says it starts with the fundamentals of education.  As the jobs come in, Taylor says there will be more money available.

“We need to start at a younger age than kindergarten and we need to put more funding into schools,” says Taylor.

He also wants to put an emphasis on vocational technologies, especially at the community college level.  “Community colleges have been far overlooked,” says Taylor, “and programs have been cut.”

Taylor also wants to increase pay for Iowa’s teachers.

Donna Amandus says a strong education begins in pre-school.  She says the best investment the state of Iowa could make is to fund the program and make sure it is available for all children.

“Especially with lower-income families,” says Amandus, “as they can use all the help they can get.”

She says if the state does not fund preschool, it will be in trouble in the future.  “We can’t move forward and we can’t compete globally if we are not educated properly.”     

Amandus says the state legislature must also give schools the freedom to properly teach each student.  She says trying to get all students to the same level will not work.

“You have to take the kids at an individual level and we have to make sure the classrooms are small enough so they can go one-on-one with them.”

The three each say education must remain a top budget priority.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.