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Harkin visits Wilton to campaign for statehouse candidate Dick Schwab

BY RISHABH R. JAIN | OCTOBER 18, 2012 6:30 AM

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Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, spoke to elderly community members about the importance of education and earned benefits in the Iowa town of Tipton.

Serving his fifth term in the U.S. Senate, Harkin spoke to a crowd of nearly 30 people at the Tipton/Cedar County Senior Center and stressed his commitment to education in Washington. He also announced his support for House District 73 candidate Dick Schwab, who hosted the event.

As the current chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Harkin expressed his worries about the state of education in Iowa.

“We always took great pride in Iowa schools; we were the leaders,” Harkin said during his hour-long speech. “But I am sorry, we can’t say that anymore, because the scores show differently. The graph for education in Iowa has gone down over the last 20 years.”

He emphasized the importance of state funding for the betterment of education, and said Schwab, 60, was the right candidate.

“Tuition for regent universities is going up; it keeps going up,” he said. “The single most important correlating factor for tuitions going up is the lack of state support for higher education.”

Harkin said support for education in the state has been historically bipartisan, but he is alarmed by recent attempts by the House to cut spending on education.

In June, the Iowa House proposed a $774.3 million education budget, a $37 million decrease from last year’s budget. The Senate on the other hand, proposed an increase of $79 million.

Bobby Kaufmann is Schwab’s Republican opponent in District 73, which is comprises Cedar County, eastern Johnson County, and the town of Wilton in Muscatine County.

Kaufmann agreed with Harkin’s claim of bipartisan support for education but said he wants the teachers of Iowa to decide the fate of education, not legislators.

“I have a family with seven educators. If I didn’t support education, I wouldn’t be allowed a Christmas,” the 27-year-old said. “If there is a group proposal on education for funding or anything else, and it comes through the Democratic Party and is good to teachers and school administrators for my district, you will see me hanging that Democratic Party banner way over my head happily.”

The senior community members present at the event however, wanted to hear more about the security of their Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Eleanor Droll said she is worried about the fate of her benefits and believes GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s plan to privatize benefits is flawed.

“They are thinking about the few,” the 85-year-old said, referring to the Romney campaign. “And it is a shame that they are thinking about the few in this country.”

Harkin spent the last quarter of his speech addressing the issue of earned benefits, and he said as long as Democrats are in charge, Medicare and Social Security will be intact.

“Since its inception, Wall Street has wanted to get its hands on the Social Security money,” he said. “If they can’t get it all, they want a part of it. So if Romney and Ryan were to win and the Senate went Republican, I think you can see the beginning of the end of Social Security.”


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