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Iowa gubernatorial candidate holds educator roundtable, talks about “getting out of the way”

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ras roundtable

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- In an hour-long roundtable Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ras Smith spoke with local educators about the challenges they face after 2020.

"Support you the way you want to be supported, ask you what you need to be successful, and then really getting out of the way," Smith said.

A handful of teachers met with the state representative at a Waterloo church. The core of their discussion seemed to focus on trust teachers and not having government micromanage Iowa classrooms.

"If you just let teachers know what they know how to do, the results will come," said Andy Wolfe, a Waterloo social studies teacher.

Many shared their thoughts on curriculum, like guided play for the younger grades, and also a form of local control.

"When we went back after the pandemic, I was a terrified wreck going back into the classroom but it was the best choice for our district that we have that face to face. That was a decision our district was able to make and I just feel we have to have that power back in our district, the school board's especially," said Waterloo Connie Adams.

While nothing was mentioned specifically, Iowa saw big pieces of legislation pass this year when it came to education. These include a ban on critical race theory and a mandatory in-person learning option during the pandemic.

"This year was a great example, I think, of how the state government was overreaching into classrooms on so many occasions and creating a lot of confusion," Smith said.

Teacher's pay was also a big talker with teachers saying there's a large discrepancy in salary for teachers just entering the workforce and those who've spent years in the game. This issue extends to paraeducators as well with one teacher recounting a recent conversation where an aide was joyous of finally making $19,000 a year after being in the district for 12.

The concern is that more teachers are going to other states for better opportunities and pay. Teachers at the roundtable said often they're required to do jobs outside their normal duties and many principals are forced to cover duties that would normally fall to a paraeducator because they can't find any applicants.

"We have to find a way to keep you here, working with our students," Smith said.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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