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Loebsack pushes education in re-election bid, but doesn't offer specifics

BY ANNA THEODOSIS | FEBRUARY 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said educational reform will be a key point in his re-election campaign, but both he and his political director were unable to offer specific policy proposals.

He told a group of Democrats in Iowa City this past weekend that reform would focus on needs of individual states.

The Feb. 11 event, organized by the University of Iowa Democrats, sought to gain support for Loebsack's re-election. Loebsack and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., emphasized returning a Democratic majority to the Iowa House of Representatives.

"Everybody here is important [because] you're all going to help me get elected," Loebsack said at the event. "We have a real shot at taking back the Iowa state House of Representatives."

Loebsack, a former political-science professor at Cornell College, spoke about education reform but declined to go in detail, telling The Daily Iowan he did not want to risk being misquoted.

Brian Fritsch, Loebsack's political director, spoke instead about the congressman's political views.

"Since he first ran for office, Congressman Loebsack has been advocating for federal education policy that is more flexible and more responsive to local needs, with less unfunded federal mandates but that provides necessary supports for our most vulnerable students," he wrote in an email.

Israel said lawmakers need to have a more in-depth knowledge of the country's current education system in order to make policies that work as a whole. He spoke of his visit to a fourth-grade class in New York, where he talked directly to students, as a focal point in his work to develop such policies.

"Everything that I need to know about federal education policy, I can learn by walking into a school," Israel said.

Some Iowa Republican legislators said officials need to work more closely with federal officials when developing educational policies. Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, said he agreed with Israel's call for education policies developed more often with local communities in mind.

"We can't create a one size fits all Band-Aid," he said.

Iowa Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck, R-Dixon, said education bills at both levels of government often don't pass when parties are unable to compromise. However, he said, he did support President Obama's recent move to waive several states from the No Child Left Behind Act, which sets certain standards for elementary and secondary education.

"There's a certain number of things that need to be passed," he said. "Until those things are passed, we're stuck in a limbo. I support the No Child Left Behind waivers done by President Barack Obama, and I support the measures of Arne Duncan, the director of the U.S. Department of Education. "

Some students echoed support for Loebsack.

"He's my congressman, so I really support him," said UI sophomore Katherine Valde, the treasurer of UI Democrats. "I think he's in a really good place to win."


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