Gov. Tom Vilsack outlined his priorities for the 2005 legislative session Tuesday in his Condition of the State Address, saying he would focus on education, health care and economic development.
He asked lawmakers to support a new rating system for child care centers, expansion of early childhood education and economic expansion, including a five-year, $800 million commitment to the Iowa Values Fund.
He said 18 percent of Iowa's young children have access to an accredited preschool and proposed spending $39.1 million to boost access.
"Iowa needs a more comprehensive commitment to our youngest learners that integrates early care, health and education," Vilsack said.
"Our children deserve this commitment and our values command it," he said.
Vilsack will ask lawmakers to provide school districts with $137 million in additional funding for the 2006 fiscal year, which begins in July. That includes an additional $40 to $50 million for teacher compensation and student achievement initiatives.
Vilsack also called for tougher graduation requirements from Iowa high schools, saying young people can graduate with just two years of math and two years of science. He said schools must adopt strategies such as grade sharing and consolidation of high schools and school districts to free resources to improve Iowa's high school curriculum.
"For our children to be competitive in a global economy, they will have to be more academically challenged," Vilsack said. "Parents, school board members and school administrators concerned about student achievement and local control will do well to heed this call."
Vilsack said he made a conscious decision 30 years ago to move to Iowa with his wife, Christie, and knew it was a special place. He didn't realize how special the state was until he had two sons and saw how others cared about his children.
"I saw a community invest in the potential of my children," he said.
Vilsack said he also wanted lawmakers to complete property tax reform, noting that property taxes in Iowa are too high.
The governor also said he'd call for new regulations for the telecommunications industry, including a deregulation for business lines.
Vilsack's economic development proposal calls for an $800 million 5-year program that would borrow money and pay it back by using gambling revenue.