Meet Deb VanderGaast running for Iowa Senate
Deb has a background in childcare as an RN and a childcare director. Through her time working with children with special needs, she has become an advocate for childcare and has even written legislative proposals for healthcare and childcare. After going back to college to become a nurse to support her family, she found herself doing home care for special needs children. Two of her own children have special needs, so she has a close connection with her clients. Deb’s career led her to become a childcare provider for many different types of children. Unfortunately, the pandemic made her job much harder and she has been forced to shift her career. It all started when her county got redistricted and between the two new Senators for the district, neither of them were going to run. There was an open seat, and Deb couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run for that seat. Having legislative experience passing acts like the 2015 Iowa Epinephrine in School Act, she knew she had the skills needed to be a great candidate.
Deb told us that one of the biggest issues she sees in her state is a lack of funding for schools. While keeping schools running properly is becoming more and more expensive, school funding is not increasing enough to keep up with rising prices. She even told us that one district lost 38 teachers recently because they cannot offer them competitive pay. Deb also pointed out to us that this issue is largely connected to the housing crisis. School enrollment has been dropping due to families being unable to find affordable housing in certain areas. Because of this, many parents who are essential workers are withdrawing from the work force and creating an even larger worker shortage. All of these factors affect the communities that surround these schools.
Another pressing issue mentioned by Deb is the lack of affordable housing. Here’s what we learned about why subsidizing rent is so important for these communities: Many low income families live paycheck to paycheck and any unexpected expense can be a huge setback. A car breaking down, an illness, or even just family issues. When rent is subsidized, families gain more stability, landlords get their payments on time, and communities can retain their essential workers that they need. Deb wants to make this a reality along with providing a state tax credit for landlords who provide affordable housing. She also proposes annual inspections for rental properties to make sure they are safe and liveable.
The childcare crisis is also on Deb’s list of issues she would like to tackle. She has plans to introduce a bipartisan bill that will expand childcare, make it more affordable for families, and pay childcare workers better wages. She has a dream that there will be universal child care funded by taxes and that states will be able to reduce families out of pocket pay for this type of care.
Something Deb wants you to know about Iowa is that in her state, the people there are known for being “Iowa nice”. She told us that despite the division throughout the past few years, she is looking forward to seeing people be respectful of their neighbors again. Her bills are all bipartisan because she believes in meeting the needs of the people—not political parties. Deb wants to get Iowa back to being a wonderful state, with the best schools in the nation, and friendly neighbors all around! “We are all Iowans first over any political views”
Something you probably didn’t know about Deb is that she is a huge theater person and still holds roles in plays today. Sadly, she missed out on being in Shrek the Musical during her campaign but she says it’s all worth it! Deb even plays the trumpet and the tuba and was recently an honorary member of the highschool marching band in her community for a field show.