Zach Wahls answers questions about education and wages with UI students

UISG's first state senate candidate forum featured Democratic hopeful Zach Wahls to discuss healthcare, wages, and tuition.

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Zach Wahls answers questions about education and wages with UI students

Iowa Senate candidate Zach Wahls holds a forum in the Iowa Memorial Union on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.

Iowa Senate candidate Zach Wahls holds a forum in the Iowa Memorial Union on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa Senate candidate Zach Wahls holds a forum in the Iowa Memorial Union on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.

Shivansh Ahuja

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa Senate candidate Zach Wahls holds a forum in the Iowa Memorial Union on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.

Andy Mitchell, News Reporter

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Democratic Iowa State Senate candidate Zach Wahls visited the University of Iowa Friday evening to take student questions and discuss the prominent issues on his campaign platform.

Wahls’ visit was part of UI Student Government’s efforts to host forums for the state Senate District 37 candidates. UISG will also host a forum for Libertarian candidate Carl Krambeck Oct. 17.

Education was among Wahls’ top priorities, and he addressed what he saw as problems from the k-12 level to higher education. He cited conversations with people from Davenport about the underfunding of k-12 schools.

Wahls also discussed the cost of tuition.

“Nationally, the cost of a four-year degree at a public institution like the University of Iowa for the baby boomer generation was 300 minimum wage hours. That’s like a summer,” Wahls said. “For our generation, it’s 4,500 minimum wage hours. That is not a summer.”

Wahls said higher education has become less of a ladder and more of a gateway because of the cost.

“A lot of us here were interested in his views on education, particularly higher education, so it was nice to hear him speak about that,” UISG Vice President Heath Schintler said.

As part of a discussion on the economy, Wahls discussed the state of the working class in Iowa. He charted out the American economy’s productivity since the postwar era and said that, while productivity went up around 200 percent, wages stopped rising in tandem with productivity.

RELATED: Candidates for Iowa Legislature talk privatization, worker rights, education

“For the first 30 years after World War II, hourly compensation grew at basically one for one with productivity, after 1973 that tapered off,” Wahls said.

Wahls said that while the changes in compensation went into benefits like increasingly expensive healthcare insurance, workers in non-managerial positions “have been getting the shaft.”

“I think we should just raise the state minimum wage,” Wahls said. “I think there are some areas where raising it to be $10.10 would be tough, but the reality is if we’re not willing to raise the minimum wage where we’re at 2.9 percent unemployment in the state of Iowa, when the heck are we going to raise the minimum wage?”

Wahls cited rising costs of living, tariffs, gas prices, and flatlined wages as reasons for raising the state minimum wage.

UISG City Liaison Gustave Stewart, who is registered to vote in Wahls’ district, attended the forum to learn more about his person and his policies.

“I want to be an informed voter when I go to the election place,” Stewart said.

Wahls was the first state Senate candidate to be hosted by university students for a forum. Earlier in the year, UISG hosted Iowa City council candidates for similar forums.

“Knowing how lucky we are in the state of Iowa in how big the political scene can be to take advantage of it,” Schintler said.

UISG will host Wahls’ opponent, Libertarian candidate Carl Krambeck on October 15th.

“To make sure that we’re having an even playing field and hearing all voices we’re looking forward to having that opportunity to have Carl to explain his views,” forum moderator AJ Smith said.

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