Iowa should use its budget surplus to address problems in mental health and public education, Democratic Gov. DeGeorge said Saturday.
DJer spoke to more than 50 people gathered in the political soapbox of the Des Moines Register at the Iowa State Fair. The state is underfunding public education and mental health, she said, and state money should be used to help Iowans in need.
“We need to have leadership that puts your resources to work, not trivializes the problem,” said Djer. Acknowledging the challenges that exist is a point of strength.
One of those challenges, she says, is bringing back high-quality public education. Iowa used to be number one in education, she said, but recent budget cuts have hampered the state’s public schools. The Republican-controlled legislature a A 2.5% increase in per-student education funding in Iowa This year, the Democrats could not keep up with rising inflation.
DeGeorge’s rival, Gov. Kim Reynolds, also introduced legislation allowing Iowa students to receive taxpayer-funded scholarships to attend private schools. A rallying cry this election season. Reynolds is not scheduled to speak on the soapbox.
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DeJer said the lack of investment in education isn’t just hurting students, it’s hurting Iowa’s economy. She said the underfunding of Iowa’s child care and higher education systems has kept some Iowans out of the workforce, requiring stay-at-home parents and students unable to afford education to gain job skills.
While there are problems now, DeJer said, the history of Iowa’s public schools, from its peak to its first desegregation, shows that Iowans are not comfortable with the status quo.
“We know as Iowans that this is not where we are and this is not what our children deserve,” she said.
Iowa children are also underserved by the state’s mental health resources, she said. DeJer shared the story of a 17-year-old boy whose father took him to the emergency room after he expressed thoughts of harming himself. The family was told they would have to wait six months for a psychiatric appointment or travel five hours from Dubuque to Sioux City for inpatient treatment.
The state has fewer than 600 mental health beds for a population of more than 3 million, DeJer said, which is too few. She told reporters the state needs to open more critical mental health care access points. In 2018, The legislature passed the Mental Health Act He called for the opening of six regional “access centres” – places where people with mental health problems can get help without having to go to hospital.
Only two of those access centers are open, DeJer said. Iowa should use the profits to open the remaining four centers and improve other state mental health resources, she said.
“And we’re not broke: $1.5 million of your taxpayer money is sitting in an account that this current governor calls a ‘trust fund,'” DeGeer said. “Well, I’m of the opinion that you have to be privileged to have a trust fund. That’s the Iowa Rainy Day Fund, and it’s raining in our state.
Read what other candidates had to say about the state fair over here.