Friday, June 09, 2006

Skirmish One: Nussle to Culver, raise teachers’ salaries above the average; Culver to Nussle, that’s not how the state budget works.

The first gubernatorial campaign skirmish is all about the teachers. As reported by Radio Iowa’s O Kay Henderson:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver is questioning whether Republican rival Jim Nussle can follow through on his promise to raise teacher pay in Iowa to "better than average." Nussle made that promise Wednesday and Culver today (Thursday) is repeating his own pledge to raise teacher pay from 42nd to 25th in the country.

Culver estimates it'd cost roughly four-hundred million dollars to raise Iowa teacher pay to the national average. Culver suggests to go further, as Nussle pledges, might bankrupt the state. …

… Nussle, in turn, suggests Culver's incapable of writing a state budget. …

And the mud is flying.

Nussle seems to be using an interesting tactic to drive a wedge through the monolithic education lobby. Nussle’s straight-up promise to raise teachers’ salaries above the “national average” pushed Culver to make this ridiculous comment;

"I think Congressman Nussle will start to understand how the state budget works a little bit better as he comes back to Iowa and learns how we actually govern here and get things done here and balance budgets."

What Democrat Governor works to "balance a budget", particularly without raising taxes? They have to feed their base, which requires large quantities of money appropriated on production, vote production. The Mauro brothers and CIETC anyone?

Back to the wedge: last year, Nussle took up the education issue when addressing a community group up in Black Hawk County. At that meeting, he started to hint around at the need to examine the structure of education funding as it is applied across the system. This is wonk talk for saying we need to make sure the teachers are getting the lions share of the funds, which at this point they are not, less than fifty percent is going towards classroom instruction.

It’s not hard to see how a promise of an aggressive pay increase for teachers, classroom instruction money, translates into a larger discussion of the dysfunction in Iowa’s educational bureaucracy. Just spend an hour attempting to figure out where and how the AEAs acquire & use their funds.

The only surprise is the Culver comment. It suggests that this particular funding nuance is lost on our newly minted Dem gubernatorial candidate. As odd as it might seem, good politics begets good governing; it reflects on a politician’s ability to see things beyond the obvious.

(I know I'm a day late on this story. Sometimes you just need a day off, and unlike a few smart set blogging types; I don't have a ready cache of blog fill.)

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