Leading Governor’s Race, Illinois’ Rauner Tackles Education

Bruce Rauner, the Republic candidate for Illinois governor, has finaly shared some of the initiatives he would back if he wins the November election.  Since Rauner has used his own personal wealth to support charter schools and other education causes, this week he revealed policies that would expand these pet projects — but the big question is how they will be financed.

Tony Arnold of Peoria Public Radio explains that Rauner says he will reduce income tax rates, but doesn’t want local districts to raise property taxes.  Democrats say that would mean much less money for classrooms, to which Rauner replied that the state can afford it.

“Other programs will need to be cut and the tax code needs to be overhauled.”

Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn chose as his running mate Paul Vallas, who has run several school districts nationwide.  Vallas agrees with some of Rauner’s plans, but says Rauner has no way to pay for them.  At the same time, Rauner has been blasted by the teachers union.

Rauner has published a 26-page explanation of his education platform entitled the Bring Back Blueprint, his ideas concerning education reforms.  While holding the line on taxes, Rauner laid out how he would bring more money to state schools in his education blueprint.  A venture capitalist, Rauner is calling for a change in the state schools’ funding formula which is heavily reliant on property taxes. He wants to expand charter schools, reform teacher tenure, and offer teachers who spend their own money on school supplies a $250 tax credit.

“It is not fair to our children and our parents and our taxpayers if it’s virtually impossible or extremely costly and extremely difficult to remove an ineffective teacher from a school,” Rauner said.

One longtime Illinois government watcher noted that the next governor of Illinois will enter office with a $6 billion budget hole, and any monies from increased revenue streams require the backing of a Democratic-controlled legislature.  Governor Quinn had a five-year blueprint for education, which included making a temporary income tax increase permanent.  The permanent tax increase was rejected by the Legislature.

Monique Garcia of the Chicago Tribune writes that Rauner’s “blueprint” is a familiar campaign strategy with broad themes and no specifics and that Rauner has not yet said how he will handle the state’s public employee pension system, which is $100 billion in debt.  Neither has he addressed the reduction of day-to-day spending by the government.

Rauner has also criticized Governor Quinn’s education policies, even though the governor has signed a major income tax increase nearly four years ago.

“This issue is very important, but also very complex,” Rauner said. “It’s going to take significant discussion and interaction to come up with a very good answer.”

Other planks in Rauner’s platform include consolidating school districts to save on administrative costs; streamlining various agencies which oversee education in Illinois; lifting the cap on the number of charter schools; enacting a merit pay system to increase teacher salaries based on student growth and achievement; and reforming the tenure system.

Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said Rauner’s outline for education reads like a “Greatest Hits of failed education experiments.”  Montgomery’s union has endorsed Quinn.  When Rauner said that kids on the South and West sides cannot get jobs because of the high minimum wage which prevents employers from being able to offer them jobs, he added that the result was that the kids become drug runners.  The Quinn campaign had some things to say.

Quinn’s campaign sent out Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle on the governor’s behalf, and she called the comments “100% wrong and offensive to those of us who have worked to stem the tide of violence and drugs in our communities.”

According to Real Clear Politics, Rauner currently has a 7 point lead over Quinn.