Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday said he’s preparing for a state takeover of Chicago Public Schools and has told state Board of Education members to start looking for an interim superintendent for the city’s cash strapped school district.
At a news conference in Springfield to discuss legislation that would change the state’s procurement process, Rauner said he’s already told the state Board of Education to begin the process of identifying who can take over as superintendent of CPS.
“The state’s going to be ready to step in and take action,” Rauner said a day after the Chicago Teachers Union rejected a contract proposal from CPS.
“I asked our administration. I believe it’s coming. I believe a state takeover is appropriate,” Rauner said.
The teachers union on Monday unanimously voted to reject a four-year contract offer, citing a lack of trust and concerns about long-term school funding.
“I hope the rejection by the Chicago Teachers Union is a wake up call for the mayor and the taxpayers in Chicago and around the state. The mayor proposed an unaffordable contract. It was unaffordable. It was more kicking the can and just getting by and he was pushing off the day of reckoning and the teacher’s union still rejected that,” Rauner said.
Rauner blamed the union for CPS’ bad financial habits. He said he hopes the contract rejection pushes a CPS state takeover bill through the General Assembly.
Last month, Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin introduced legislation to strip Mayor Rahm Emanuel of his control over CPS. The bill would allow the state to seize control of CPS and keep control of it with an independent board until the school distract is out of financial strain.
Rauner said the state is better prepared to strike a deal with the teachers, than Emanuel can, despite not having been able to make a deal with one of the state’s largest unions, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
“We can get a deal done. We are going to get a deal done with AFSCME that’s good for taxpayers and fair. … We would get a deal done with the teacher’s union,” Rauner said.
He said CPS has been mismanaged by leadership and controlled by the teachers union who has run it for their benefit “not for the benefit of schoolchildren and taxpayers.”
Emanuel’s administration scoffed at Rauner’s suggestion that the state could somehow move immediately to seize control of Chicago Public Schools.
City Hall sources insisted that part of the school code does not apply to CPS and that, to authorize a state takeover, Rauner would be required to pass a bill changing that language to include Chicago Public Schools.
That’s something that Democratic legislative leaders would never allow, the sources said.
“It’s a lame-brain idea and a colossal waste of time. He needs legislative authorization and everyone knows that’s D.O.A. That’s not going to happen. No way. Everyone knew the legislation was dead before he had a chance to introduce it,” said a top mayoral aide, who asked to remain anonymous.
Referring to House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, the mayoral aide said, “The two main folks who would have to sign off on it happen to be opposed to it — and strongly opposed. I don’t see them ever coming around to supporting it. And the mayor will never support it.”
If Rauner wanted to be “productive and helpful” to Chicago Public Schools, the Emanuel aide said, “He’d stop the theater and focus on an education funding bill that helps the state and CPS.”
Cullerton on Tuesday said the CPS bill won’t go anywhere.
“I thought we’d already addressed this. The law doesn’t allow him to do that. So it’s not going to happen,” Cullerton said in a statement.
Two weeks ago, Rauner floated his plan for a state takeover of Chicago Public Schools that could pave the way for CPS to declare bankruptcy. A few days later, CPS abruptly put off an $875 million borrowing needed to get through the school year and stave off classroom cuts.
Now, Rauner is doubling-down in his threat of a state takeover just as CPS is attempting to salvage the borrowing and, what appeared to be a tentative agreement on a new teachers contract before the Chicago Teachers Union’s 40-person bargaining unit shot it down.
In announcing $100 million in CPS cuts on Tuesday — unless a new contract is reached with teachers — CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said the school district will move forward with a $875 million bond issue to secure additional funding needed in part due to the ongoing state budget impasse.
The cuts, he said, are “sending a very strong signal here we are going to right the ship” to the bond market ahead of going to bond market, and the district has what he termed strong interest from investors.
Claypool also got in a dig at Rauner’s idea to take over CPS, saying the real problem is a funding formula that penalizes the district – he called it “blatantly discriminatory . . . separate and unequal.”
On that issue, Claypool and CTU President Karen Lewis agreed, with Lewis blasting Rauner.
“Please don’t pay any attention to the ravings of a mad man,” Lewis said.
“He knows absolutely nothing about real education. So that’s a problem.”
Rauner also blasted Cullerton over a pension reform bill the governor is supporting, saying Cullerton is “doing some foot dragging” on the bill and should move quickly.
Procurement reform legislation, supported by Rauner, would change the way the state structures its procurement system. He called procurement “one of the largest sources of waste” in our state. A procurement reform bill would also allow an audit of procurement every two years and would allow the state’s Auditor General to perform surprise audits on agencies to make sure laws and statutes are followed. Rauner said the changes would save the state $514 million a year, which could be used for education and social services.
Contributing: Stefano Esposito and Andy Grimm