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Illinois Sen. President John Cullerton has been taking part in negotiations to end the budget stalemate in Springfield. | Seth Perlman/AP file photo

Cullerton tells parents Rauner is obstacle to funding schools

SHARE Cullerton tells parents Rauner is obstacle to funding schools
SHARE Cullerton tells parents Rauner is obstacle to funding schools

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton told a crowd of parents at one of the city’s top-performing public elementary schools Monday night that Gov. Bruce Rauner is the key obstacle to better funding for the city’s broke school system.

The parents at John C. Coonley Elementary weren’t buying it.

“I believe in my heart that nothing is being done on our behalf,” said Coonley parent Tracy Stein. “And that is so insulting and disingenuous to the people in this room and this community.”

Coonley is in Cullerton’s district. He began his remarks at the local school council’s monthly meeting by criticizing Rauner’s “reckless ignorance” and detailed his own efforts to secure more equitable funding for Chicago Public Schools.

But several parents quickly accused Cullerton of being part of the problem.

“It just feels like there is a lot of finger-pointing at Gov. Rauner, who is a very easy target to point fingers at — his ideas are radical, as far as I’m concerned,” said parent Julie Greenberg. “But you guys have been there when this problem was coming.”

Cullerton replied: “We don’t run the school district. We’re responsible for making sure that they get their adequate amount of money.”

Cullerton also said legislators from Chicago are often at odds with suburban and downstate lawmakers.

When asked what they could do to help Cullerton push his agenda, the Senate leader suggested they publicly sing the praises of Chicago schools.

That drew the ire of Coonley school council member Jeff Jenkins.

“You’re telling us there is nothing you can do for us except encourage us to cheerlead our schools,” Jenkins said. “With all due respect, that stinks. We deserve better.”

The crowd of about 60 people clapped loudly.

Cullerton thanked the council for inviting him to the meeting and hoped to be able to have better news in the coming weeks.

“Obviously, I feel frustrated as well,” Cullerton said.

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