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KADNER: Rich candidates for gov might want to throw that money at schools

J.B. Pritzker and Gov. Bruce Rauner

J.B. Pritzker and Gov. Bruce Rauner | Sun-Times and AP photos

Chance the Rapper has raised more than $3 million for the Chicago Public Schools. He has talked about his fundraising drive for arts education on national TV shows, such as “Saturday Night Live,” which has made him a national hero to many.

I wish I could say the same for our candidates for governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, and the leading Democratic challenger, J.B. Pritzker.

Both of these men are fabulously wealthy and both are expected to spend in excess of $50 million of their own money running for public office.

OPINION

During a visit to a Chicago public school on Monday, Chancelor Jonathan Bennett (the rapper’s actual name), told students they ought to look into how their parents’ tax money is being spent, suggesting they had not gotten their fair share of the education dollar.

The Chicago Public Schools have been underfunded for decades. The State of Illinois has the “primary responsibility” for funding education according to the State Constitution but, in fact, coughs up only about 25 cents on the dollar.

The rest of us pay for public education through property taxes on our homes and businesses, which represents about 67 percent of all school funding.

In addition, for decades this state had in place a system of distributing state school money that discriminated against poor and minority communities.

This is not just my opinion. The current governor has said as much. So have most of the Democrats in the state Legislature, which this year passed a new school funding formula, which is way too complicated to explain. That’s the problem with Chance’s suggestion that children look into the situation.

You see, even lawmakers in this state have a difficult time understanding the school funding system. It involves not only a complicated formula, but property tax breaks and assessments that make no sense to anyone other than political leaders, whose law firms make money by representing wealthy clients who get their property taxes lowered on appeal.

On top of that, you have the underfunded state pension systems. Because governors and legislators failed to adequately fund them for decades, a large chunk of everyone’s tax bill in Illinois now goes to pay down the debt. Instead of lawmakers getting the blame for this, teachers are accused of being greedy.

But back to Rauner and Pritzker, who claim they love school children.

They are spending a fortune on TV commercials that are annoying.

I would like them to stop. I would like them to spend their money instead on those school children they love. Not all of their money. Just the dollars they would otherwise be spending on TV commercials and robocalls.

Do not have robots asking for my opinion about your campaign. Do not ask me who I am most likely to vote for next November.

I will tell you right now.

I will vote for the guy who spends on public school children instead of political advertisements.

Despite what the candidates would tell you, this campaign for governor is about ego gratification, not about making dramatic changes in Illinois government. This state is in terrible financial shape and neither Rauner nor Pritzker is going to make much of a difference as long as Mike Madigan is running things in Springfield.

So I urge them to make this Thanksgiving something special. Announce that instead of spending millions of dollars telling people how wonderful they are, they are putting the lives of children ahead of personal ambition because …. that’s what adults are supposed to do.

I know that’s not going to happen. But watching Chance the Rapper’s public campaign to focus on school children got me thinking that maybe there are people who care.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

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