CHICAGO - Education reform and public-sector unions are two issues Republicans will be hearing more about as the 2014 GOP primary ramps up. The four candidates competing to be the Republican gubernatorial nominee have different positions on the issues.
Tuesday, Bruce Rauner set himself apart from his GOP competitors with outspoken criticism of "government union bosses," as he refers to them. Rauner tied together the issue of education choice with his criticism of teacher's union bosses when asked about both by Joe Walsh on his WIND AM 560 radio show. How does Rauner plan to support a school voucher program with a Democrat majority in the Illinois General Assembly and strong opposition from the teacher's unions?
Rauner replied: I believe we can get it done in Illinois because there's a significant number of parents around the state who want school choice. I've met with African-American leaders, Latino leaders who tend to vote Democratic, who want and encourage vouchers and have school choice.
It's going to be a tough sell, because the teacher's union is so strong. And let me give you an example: I've been battling on issues like this for 20 years. I got so frustrated with the pace of school reform that I formed a PAC four years ago, and got a piece of legislation drafted, that took away tenure for ineffective teachers, took away the teachers' ability to strike in Illinois because its a nuclear bomb on our taxpayers, and it's a public safety issue for kids, and put in a rigorous school accountability system.
Got the bill drafted, it was pending in the legislature, Madigan, Daley - it was bi-partisan support, and we lost most of the bill. And you know who fought us the hardest in the legislature in the end when it got killed? Republicans in the legislature who take teacher union money.
This is the challenge we've got, but you know what? I've never taken a nickel from a government union boss, I can stand up to them. I don't need their ...I'm financially independent ... I will take on the teacher's union, AFSCME and SEIU. They've got a stranglehold on the state.
Rauner also tied public-sector unions to the financial problems facing Chicago and Illinois, saying:
The disaster is Chicago is essentially bankrupt. What's gone on for years is the Chicago machine is built on the backs of government unions. That's the patronage army that's built the city [Chicago] government, and it has bankrupt the spending on the pensions, the spending on payscales - it's bankrupt.
Rauner took credit for being the reason why Emanuel stood against the Chicago Teacher's Union - at least for a while - saying:
I first met him when he was in business, he was with an investment bank in Chicago, and I met him there. I had a venture capital firm that worked with various investment banks, so we did a few deals together. I became ... frankly, got to know him - pretty talented guy, hard-working, a very creative problem-solver - and then, over the years, we've kept in touch with him because he wants to transform Chicago Public Schools, and I've been pushing him hard to take on the teacher's union. That's why he took a strike last year. He caved on it, I was furious with him. But he's willing to push charters, he's going to be trying vouchers, and I've tried to help him, encourage him to break up the school system there.
Just who are the Republicans in the General Assembly Rauner says have taken so much funding from the teachers unions? What are the chances of Rauner "taking on the government union bosses" in a Democratic majority-controlled Illinois General Assembly?
To be continued...