Editorial: NW Side race puts charter schools in spotlight

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The pending retirement of Sen. William Delgado opens the door for new, young blood in a Northwest Side district of the state Senate. Two admirable, likable Democratic candidates want the 2nd District job. Omar Aquino displays a stronger grasp of the big issues in Springfield and has our endorsement over Angelica Alfaro.

The victor in the March primary will run unopposed in the November general election.


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In the last five years Aquino worked as an outreach coordinator for U.S. House Rep. Tammy Duckworth and as a legislative aide in the Illinois House. Last spring, he lost a runoff for 36th Ward alderman.

Aquino offered more substantive responses compared with Alfaro on questions about gridlock in Springfield, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, workers compensation and tax increases in an interview with the Sun-Times Editorial Board. For instance, asked to what extent House Speaker Michael Madigan is at fault for the state budget standoff and what he should do differently, Alfaro generalized. “Egos,” she said. “People not working together.” Aquino said Madigan should compromise on something, such as the redistricting of legislative maps. “I’m sure the Speaker probably is not going to agree with it, but I think it’s something negotiable,” he said.

Many observers see this race as a referendum on charter schools. Alfaro works as a project coordinator for the high-performing Noble Network of Charter Schools. Unsurprisingly, she has heavy financial backing from the pro-charter crowd. But Alfaro, a Noble graduate, stresses that she is an advocate for all schools.

In light of the state’s poor record on funding schools, Aquino supports a moratorium on charters. He is skeptical of the charter movement in part, he says, because Rauner is an advocate for them. “With this governor and his Turnaround Agenda and trying to turn this state into a right-to-work state, I wouldn’t want to be privatizing education,” he said. It’s no surprise that he has the endorsement of the Chicago Teachers Union. The outgoing senator, Delgado, also is a supporter.

Aquino once worked as an aide on Madigan’s staff, but says he never met the Speaker. We can hope. We’re counting on him to be his own man.

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