An education advocacy group will fund television commercials pressuring presidential candidates to offer ways to improve the nation’s school system.
The commercials, paid for by Strong American Schools, will begin airing Friday in the Des Moines market and will run through Sunday’s Republican presidential debate in Des Moines and the GOP straw poll the following weekend in Ames.
“As the candidates gather in Iowa this week for the debate, I hope they will all demonstrate true leadership and raise the most important issue—the quality of our children’s education,” said Marc Lampkin, who heads the advocacy program.
The group was created by entrepreneurs Bill Gates and Eli Broad, and it has announced intentions to spend up to $60 million during this election cycle to push candidates on education issues.
The initial wave of commercials is targeted at Republicans and focuses on central Iowa, but the program will expand to other areas, Lampkin said.
The Iowa commercials, costing about $45,000, feature Abby Bowman, a recent graduate from Johnston High School in suburban Des Moines.
“I feel like the government is kind of letting us down,” she says in the ad. “When I hear that other kids in other countries are so much more advanced than we are in education it’s kind of embarrassing. That says something about where our priorities are.”
The ad also offers statistics that show 19 percent of Iowa’s students don’t graduate from high school, and that America’s high school graduation rate has fallen to 19th in the world.
“People need to stand up and say to the presidential candidates, ‘We want to hear about education,’” Bowman said.
Former Gov. Terry Branstad, who is helping the effort in Iowa, said Iowans have a long tradition of focusing on schools and will punish presidential candidates who don’t share that focus.
“Like all Americans, Iowans care deeply about the bread and butter issues that affect them and their families, and K-12 education is one of those issues,” he said.
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