Candidates for Iowa Senate 48 seat focus on education plans

Zumbach, Willems call for increased rigor, more rewards for quality teachers

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April 1, 2014 | 1:01 am

Candidates in an open Iowa Senate district that covers part of Linn County called for increasing rigor and opportunity in Iowa schools and rewarding good teachers to improve the quality of K-12 education.

Republican Dan Zumbach and Rep. Nate Willems, D-Lisbon, are vying for the seat in Senate 48, a district created by redistricting. They spoke at a League of Women Voters forum in Central City Tuesday, addressing several education-related questions submitted by the audience of more than 100.

Iowa has been one of the best “suppliers” of well-educated students, Zumbach said. That’s due in large part to high-quality teachers, but the rural Ryan farmer worries they are spending too much time on paperwork and not enough time teaching.

A former West Delaware school board member, Zumbach called for finding a way to pay good teachers more.

“There has to be a way to break out of the mold,” he said, and find ways to reward them for results.

Willems called for increasing opportunities, especially for rural Iowa students. He’d like to see more schools pooling their resources, such as the joint venture at Monticello between Kirkwood Community College and eight Jones County school districts.

At the same time, the labor attorney said Iowa schools “can’t shy away from raising expectations.” He’d like the state to offer financial incentives to school districts to get more students to take and pass advanced placement courses.

Willems and Zumbach responded to questions from an audience of more than 100, disagreeing by degrees on several issues.

Willems said the state’s recent decision to provide incentives to an Egyptian fertilizer company to locate in southeast Iowa “epitomizes the ugliness inherit in economic development.”

At a cost of $1.5 million per permanent job, “it’s not a good deal for us,” he said.

Zumbach had some misgiving about the deal, but said the plant will be a “huge economic boost” to the state because the company and its employees will pay taxes for years to come.

“It’s one of those deals where you take one step backwards and 10 steps forward,” he said. “I call that nine steps forward.

Senate 48 stretches from Palo in western Linn County to Colesburg in northeast Delaware County, from Rowley in Buchanan County to Anamosa in Jones County.

Upcoming LWV legislative forums include:

Oct. 2 -- House 95 forum between Democrat Kristen Keast and Republican Quentin Stanerson at the Falcon Civic Center, Central City.

Oct. 4 – House 66 forum between Rep. Renee Schulte, R-Cedar Rapids, and Democrat Art Staed, Christ Episcopal Church, 220 40th St. NE, Cedar Rapids.

Oct. 9 – House 67 forum between Rep. Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, and Democrat Mark Seidl, Hiawatha Community Center, 80 N. Center Point Rd.

Oct. 15 – House 70 forum between Rep. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids, and Republican Lance Lefebure, Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist, 4980 Gordon Ave. NW, Cedar Rapids.

Oct. 18 – House 68 forum between Rep. Nick Wagner, R-Marion, and Democrat Daniel Lundby, Kirkwood Training and Outreach Services (KTOS), 3375 Armar Dr. in Marion.

Oct. 25 -- Senate 34 forum with Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Cedar Rapids, and Republican Ryan Flood, KTOS, 3375 Armar Dr. in Marion.

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