Potential U.S. Senate candidate Mark Jacobs brought together education leaders from across the state and beyond on Wednesday to discuss ideas for restoring Iowa’s status to among the best in the nation for students. Jacobs is the founder of Reaching Higher Iowa, an organization designed to improve the state’s education standards. He is also a former energy executive, and possibly a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014.
“I’ve had a number of people that have urged me that that is something that I should consider,” Jacobs told TheIowaRepublican.com. “I moved back to Iowa with an idea of giving back to the state. I didn’t know exactly what way, shape or form that was going to take place, but I do think that’s something that I’m going to consider.”
As TheIowaRepublican.com reported first on April 19, Jacobs has been raising his name ID the past few months by publicizing his ideas for education reform. He has done that by travelling the state, speaking to rotary and Lions clubs, and writing op-eds in local newspapers.
Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds were among the lineup of speakers as Wednesday’s event. Mark Jacobs is a supporter of Branstad’s education reform package that is still being debated in the Iowa Legislature.
“I think the governor and the lieutenant governor added a level of credibility and substance to the conversation we were having today here,” Jacobs said. “I deeply appreciate his administration’s commitment to public education. I’m deeply appreciative of that as a parent who has children in Iowa public schools and so I think he lent an air of credibility to the event that we were putting on today.”
Other speakers included Des Moines North High School principal Matthew Smith and Dr. Martha Bruckner, the superintendent of the Council Bluffs school district. They both discussed steps they have taken to improve achievement among low-income students.
Vanessa Ramirez spoke to the audience about the Knowledge is Power Program that Mark Jacobs was heavily involved in while he lived in Houston. Jacobs was a board member and eventually become chairman of the KIPP organization. That program helps disadvantaged students in the Houston area. A crowd of 65 attended the mid-afternoon event on Wednesday.
“I thought it was a great session,” Jacobs said. “I was very pleased with the turnout. We had more people than I was expecting to be here today and I thought we had a great conversation about some of the most important things we can do to help close the achievement gap here for students in our state.”
Jacobs was one of the youngest Fortune 500 CEOs in the nation when ascended to the leadership of Reliant Energy in 2007, at the age of 45. The Des Moines Roosevelt graduate retired from the energy sector last year and moved his family to West Des Moines in August.
If Jacobs does run for the U.S. Senate, he has the support of at least one high profile Republican. Longtime activist and donor Charise Schwarm heaped praise on Jacobs after the meeting. Schwarm and her husband Rich own a law office in Lake Mills. Rich Schwarm is also a longtime friend and business partner of Governor Branstad and a former chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa.
“Mark is dedicated, he’s dynamic and his leadership skills cannot be beat,” Charise Schwarm said. “He is a tremendous leader who has initiative and has the fortitude to go ahead and follow through on ideas that he has, but he brings people together for the common good to make progress in a positive manner for whatever he’s interested in. He is the real deal.”
Jacobs has not set a timetable for when he might make a decision regarding a U.S. Senate campaign.
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