A week after legislators left Springfield with no budget and no plan to fund education, Gov. Bruce Rauner began his Monday morning in Chicago, where he likened some of Chicago Public Schools to “crumbling prisons.”
By mid-day, the governor made his way to Ottawa — his third of three planned stops — where he again chose to pit Chicago against the rest of the state. There he reminded taxpayers to dial up their state representative —State Rep. Andy Skoog, a Democrat targeted by Republicans — to have him stand up against the “Chicago political machine.”
“They want your tax dollars to bail out Chicago,” Rauner said at an Ottawa courthouse. “That’s not right. It’s not fair to the people of LaSalle County or any other county in the state of Illinois. So we cannot allow that to happen. It’s not fair. But the super majority Democrats have said, publicly said, they want to hold up school funding. They want your schools not to open as leverage to try to force you to bail out the city of Chicago.”
The governor was met by dozens of union protesters, which forced a venue change in the town of about 18,500.
“I’m not anti-union. I’m pro-job creation, and I’m pro-taxpayer,” Rauner told the crowd, while reminding them his grandfather was a dairy farmer and union member.
It was a day of disparate messages for Rauner, who had set out to advocate for an education funding bill and a stopgap budget, but found himself calling Mayor Rahm Emanuel the “one major disappointment” during his 18-month term as governor, and also added “woeful” and “tragic” to his description of some CPS schools.
“The simple fact is that when you look objectively at the state of Chicago Public Schools, many of them are inadequate. Many of them are woeful, and some are just tragic. Many of them are basically almost crumbling prisons. They’re not a place a young person should be educated,” Rauner said.
The comments sparked outrage on Twitter, where CPS parents and students began a #notaprison campaign, detailing accomplishments at their schools.
It also brought out another Donald Trump comparison from Emanuel. Last week, Emanuel likened Rauner to the presumptive Republican presidential and condemned Rauner’s blame-game tour of the state.
On Monday, the mayor responded to Rauner comparing some CPS schools to “crumbling prisons” by escalating the war of words with his old friend, former business associate and vacation companion.
“Last week, I said his rhetoric of division and divisiveness — of targeting [and pitting] one group of people against another — was Trump-like. Now, it sounds like he’s auditioning to be Donald Trump’s running mate,” the mayor said.
Emanuel said Rauner “may have a stereotype that plays to his political philosophy, but those are not the results” in Chicago Public Schools under the mayor’s five-year watch.
“I would just say to him, ‘This is not about right-wing ideology. It’s about results.’”
“Now, I know you’re gonna try to play a political game and some rhetoric. [But] I ask all of you to do the responsible thing and put the data out about what the results are. It’s a University of Chicago report that talks about graduation rates, college attendance that are hitting remarkable highs,” the mayor said. The Sun-Times first reported the results Monday.
During his Chicago stop at technology hub 1871, Rauner talked about the failure of the General Assembly to pass a budget and said he is “deeply concerned” that schools might not open on time this fall.
While Rauner has said he’d put his “Turnaround Agenda” aside to fund education and get the state running, albeit temporary, he’s still advocating for changes in collective bargaining and workers compensation. Democrats say that will hurt the middle class. And Rauner has consistently said he won’t support a tax hike to balance the budget unless some of his favored reforms are attached.
Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to find a way to fund education and have long favored a complete reworking of the school funding formula. But for now, Rauner is pushing support for a bill to keep the doors open this fall that doesn’t include an overhaul of the formula.
Emanuel is caught in the middle, getting pressured by Rauner to enact his reforms, as the mayor tries to find hundreds of millions of dollars to help CPS.
At the same appearance in Chicago, Rauner accused Emanuel of blindly abiding by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago.
“If I have one major disappointment in the last 18 months, it’s with the mayor.” Rauner said, adding, though, that the issue is not “personal.”
The governor made three stops throughout Illinois on Monday in a push for two Republican-sponsored bills – one to fund education, the other a “bridge” stopgap bill that would fund government operations through November.
Rauner and Emanuel have been exchanging a war of words since the governor vetoed a police and fire pension bill two weeks ago, only to have that veto overridden.
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, was loaded for bear when told that Rauner called Emanuel his “biggest disappointment.”
“His calculator is a little busted . . . If you haven’t had a budget in two years, that would be my biggest disappointment if my sole job as governor was to pass a budget and have the state of Illinois run appropriately,” O’Connor said.
“If the idea is it’s the mayor of Chicago [who is Rauner’s biggest disappointment], I’m not quite sure he understands his role in government.”
Above all, O’Connor said Rauner needs to realize that compromising is winning—not losing.
“Right now, the concern that he has is that, if he does compromise, he’s lost. That’s not how life works. If you compromise at your house, I don’t think you’ve lost. You and your spouse have worked something out. If it’s win at all costs, that’s not what government is all about. It might be what business can be about. It’s definitely not what government’s about,” the alderman said.