Rauner E-mail Called Chicago Teachers Illiterate, Principals Incompetent

(Photo: Steven Vance, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Steven Vance, Creative Commons)

Emails released by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration under a court order show that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner told some of the wealthiest and most influential civic leaders in Chicago that half of public school teachers there are “virtually illiterate” and half of the principals are “incompetent.”

The emails were sent five years ago during Rauner’s time as a private equity executive and active participant in Chicago school reform.  The comments were made as part of a discussion among educational reform activists that had been connected to the nonprofit Chicago Public Education Fund.

“Teacher evaluation is critically important, but in a massive bureaucracy with a hostile union, where 50% of principals are managerially incompetent and half of teachers are virtually illiterate, a complete multi-dimensional evaluation system with huge subjectivity in it will be attacked, manipulated and marginalized — the status quo will prevail,” Rauner wrote in a December 2011 email arguing for a strong system of teacher and principal evaluations in the district. “It’s much more critical that we develop a consistent, rigorous, objective, understandable measure and reporting system for student growth upon which all further evaluation of performance will depend.”

Lance Trover, a spokesman for Rauner, has issued an apology on behalf of the governor, stating that change, especially within public education, can be slow.  He went on to say that the email in question was sent during a time of slow change and was written quickly without careful thought.  He apologized on behalf of the governor “for making an unfair, untrue comment,” writes Lauren Fitzpatrick for The Chicago Sun Times.

Meanwhile, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called the statements made by Rauner both “ridiculous” and “silly.”  Lewis, who, as Rauner did, graduated from Dartmouth College, asked how she could be considered to be illiterate when she has the same degree as Rauner, reports Bill Ruthhart for The Chicago Tribune.

The emails in which the comments were made were included in a request made of Emanuel’s office by the Chicago Tribune over a year ago in connection to a report it was conducting on a $20.5 million no-bid CPS principal training program that had to do with former district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s guilty plea to federal fraud charges.

The mayor’s office had withheld a number of emails and heavily editing others before releasing them, causing the Tribune to sue the Emanuel administration.  Just this week, Cook County Judge Anna Demacopoulos ruled the mayor’s office was in violation of the state’s open records laws and ordered the emails to be released.

Rauner had previously been head of the nonprofit education fund, which had provided money for a CPS training program through SUPES Academy.  The education fund currently works with CPS through offering financial support to major programs.  The Rauner emails, which were also sent to then-deputy chief of staff for education, were included in the request due to their reference to SUPES.

The emails had been completely withheld by Emanuel’s administration, who argued they were not subject to the state’s open records law.