CHICAGO - In the first appearance with both Governor Pat Quinn and GOP candidate Bruce Rauner, union teachers cheered, hissed, booed and yelled responses to those on stage in a jovial but terse hour of exchange. The two candidates answered questions before the Illinois Education Association's 1100 member convention at the Chicago Hilton Friday afternoon.
At one point, IEA president Cinda Klickna asked Bruce Rauner, "Who are those 'union bosses' you refer to?"
Rauner hesitated purposely, and then said, "Uh ... well you're one," and went on to list SEIU's Henry Bayer and AFSCME president Ed Keller. Klickna smiled and said, "Well, I'm proud of that," and the audience burst into applause.
Rauner told the teachers he did not want to restrict collective bargaining rights for teachers, and he said that despite a Chicago Sun-Times op ed he wrote saying state workers were overpaid, he was not referring to teachers. Then Rauner said workers should have the right to decide whether or not they wanted to be in a union - another way of advocating the "right to work" position.
Again and again Rauner referred to his family's personal fortune which has been donated to advancing education in Illinois, from providing funds for teachers that excelled and received national accreditation to his wife's ongoing work with early childhood education.
"My wife and I have donated millions of dollars over the years to help schools and Illinois children," he said.
Quinn did not sit back and take the shots Rauner threw across the stage.
He challenged Rauner to return funds his company made with GTCR pension deals involving the now-jailed Stu Levine.
Quinn said he did not want to move to a 401K pension benefits plan, and while he acknowledged the teachers were not happy with the current pension deal before the Illinois Supreme Court, he said, "Don't compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative - over there," pointing to Rauner.
Quinn pounded Rauner's work with charter schools, saying "We need to invest first in public schools ..." and then said one of the biggest threats to Illinois public education was his opponent.
Rauner told the teachers one of the main reasons he was running for governor was to work with teachers to solve budget issues and improve Illinois education system.
Quinn closed by saying teachers should not "let a virus loose in Illinois" by backing Rauner in November.
More of the IEA Q& A here.