Teachers group unanimously backs Pat Quinn for governor

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Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday won the endorsement of the Illinois Education Association, the largest education employee union in the state.

It was a group that both Quinn, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner, spoke before earlier this year.

The IEA is made up of 130,000 teachers and other education professionals. The endorsement means financial resources as well as the strength of union membership to push out the vote. In the 2010 election cycle, the IEA gave Quinn $700,000, an IEA official said Wednesday.

It announced that the decision by the IEA Board of Directors was unanimous and that it came after an IEA panel interviewed both candidates.

The IEA said it supports both political parties and in the past recommended a Republican for the office of governor in five of the last nine elections.

We had a spirited discussion with both Gov. Quinn and Mr. Rauner, IEA President Cinda Klickna said. We looked at the records of both candidates and asked them to explain where they want to lead our schools and our state.

Quinn and Rauner met up in front of a boisterous crowd of education professionals in April, where Klickna questioned Rauner about his repeated comments throughout the Republican primary with regard to “government union bosses.”

Rauner has backed off of using that phrase in the general election.

Quinn had angered public employee unions after pushing through pension reform legislation last year. Likewise, Rauner has done the same by saying public employee pensions should be frozen and moving forward retirement benefits should be in the form of a 401 (k). Rauner’s campaign contends Quinn “decimated” education funding.

“Bruce is committed to working with and for the teachers, parents and children who want better schools and a brighter future for Illinois,” said Rauner spokesman Rich Goldberg.

Jim Reed, Director of government relations for the IEA, said it was Quinn’s committment to funding education that helped him win the endorsement.

“We know that part of (Rauner’s) education plan does involve money for charters and vouchers, which takes money away from public education at a time when funding for education has been shortchanged,” Reed said. Reed said IEA members support “Quinn’s ideas on supporting the graduated income tax or the continuation of the new income tax” to fund education. “He’s been pretty diligent about paying off state debt. It’s a committment to that as well,” that helped win the support, Reed said.

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