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Focus on education in Iowa Senate, House legislative forum

On the Stump - The 2012 Campaign

October 18, 2012
By John Speer - Toledo Police Chief , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

It was billed as an "hour-long."

The stage held six local politicians vying for three seats in the Iowa Legislature on Nov. 6

The moderator was veteran Iowa Public TV newsman Dean Borg.

Article Photos

Iowa Senate and House candidates are questioned by Dean Borg (left) during a forum on the Marshalltown Community college campus on Wednesday, Oct. 10. Facing camera, from left, State Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center), challenger Jane Jech (R-Marshalltown), Rep. Mark Smith (D-Marshalltown, challenger Allen Burt (R-rural Marshalltown), and Nathan Wrage (D-rural Gladbrook) and Dean Fisher (R-rural Garwin) who are seeking the open House District 72 seat.
Chronicle/John Speer

A pre-forum question was "What - six candidates in one hour? No way. Just by nature any one might talk that long."

Give Borg credit - he began questioning the six shortly after 6 p.m. He wrapped up at 7:10 p.m. One hour. (No, you can't vote for Borg. He doesn't live in these districts.)

Education and its funding was the topic Borg led the candidates through appropriately at the meeting at Marshalltown Community College before a crowd of about 100 on Wednesday night, Oct. 10.

State Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center) and challenger Jane Jech (R- Marshalltown) for Senate District 36, Nathan Wrage (D-rural Gladbrook) and Dean Fisher (R-rural Garwin) both seeking the open Iowa House District 72 seat and Representative Mark Smith (D-Marshalltown) and opponent Allen Burt (R-rural Marshalltown) for House seat 71.

There was a lot of agreement the Iowa community college system needed legislative support. Likewise there was a lot of agreement more vocational training programs in the colleges are needed.

One of the highlights was Borg's question of the equity of Iowa state funding for higher education.

He said the levels were - 57 percent to the three state universities, 25 percent to private colleges and 18 percent for community colleges.

All six candidates generally agreed they would be supportive of a cut in funding amount to private colleges with "for profit" colleges probably being left out of the mix.

They also were in agreement Iowa's community colleges needed additional funding.

How the candidates would achieve this led Borg to observe, "Here we have the classic Democrat - Republican divide on spending."

While Sodders called for dipping into the state's "rainy day" fund, Fisher claimed revenues were already adequate to support an increase.

Most of the candidates said they would not support a move to allow the community college trustees to set levy amounts. Only Jech said she would be keeping with her position on issues of taking an "open look."

Sodders and Smith both said the legislature had been working on the funding issue in the past session.

Wrage expressed concern "tuition rates are getting out of reach" and called for added technology opportunities at the community college level.

Borg also led discussion of how the minority population is affecting education in the Marshalltown area and ways to address the needs.

Borg extinguished the one real flare-up between the candidates when Jech began defending her record of service on the Iowa Valley community College Board. A mass mailing by the Iowa Democratic Party on Wednesday accused Jech of vacationing in Florida while a board member at taxpayer expense.

She said attending national conferences are something board members are expected to do, before Borg moved the candidates off the subject.



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