Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rauner pledges support for education equity and excellence

Gov. Rauner addressed the Alliance Leadership Summit.
Governor Bruce Rauner told school leaders assembled for the Alliance Leadership Summit on Feb. 22 that nothing is more important than education, assuring attendees his focus is on both equity and excellence and providing “outstanding schooling for every child.”

He pointed to the much-discussed gap in the quality of education for children living in impoverished neighborhoods and said he wants to change that.

“Every child, in every community, in every neighborhood in Illinois, deserves an outstanding education,” he said.

The Alliance Leadership Summit was intended to provide a chance for superintendents, school board members, school business officials, principals, and other stakeholders, to come together to learn, plan, and engage state policy makers on what is at stake for public education in general, and local school districts in particular. Attendees heard the latest news on emerging issues such as: a proposed property tax freeze, pension reform, mandate relief, federal law, and Vision 20/20 initiatives.

“We should be focusing on closing the achievement gap between low-income kids and other kids,” Rauner said, after noting that Massachusetts has begun to pursue that goal when fine tuning its state education plan. The detailed state plans are required this year under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which takes effect this year.

Rauner revealed he had earlier in the day testified about the state’s ESSA plan draft before the Illinois State Board of Education, urging several changes and a delay from April to September before submitting the Illinois plan. Such a delay is allowed under the federal law, he noted, with “no penalties, no problems.”

The governor said his recommendations concern four topics: high expectations for all students to promote equity and closing the achievement gap, rigorous requirements for growth and proficiency, transparency that would include a reporting of how all dollars are spent at each school, and producing college and career-ready students. He also urged educators and school leaders to submit their own ideas to improve the state’s ESSA plan.

The governor briefly paused for a photo
with IASB leaders before he spoke at the summit.
Rauner stressed that his passion has always been K-12 education. “I just believe there is nothing more important than outstanding public education, available to every child in every community,” he said, noting that he has lived up to that ideal by increasing school funding every year as governor.

“We demanded more money our first year, $700 million more, we demanded more money the second year, and we are going to demand more money every year for K-12 schools from the state. No more is Illinois going to be at the bottom of the fifty states with the lowest amount of percentage of funding from the state government into local schools,” he pledged.

“We overly rely on local property taxes, and that makes our school systems unequal,” the governor said. “That means low-income families have disadvantaged schools that don’t get the proper support. This is wrong, it’s denying the American Dream to too many families. This is a social justice issue, it’s a moral issue…the American Dream is founded on education,” Rauner said.

Finally, he stated that the key to fixing the problem is to get more money for schools from the state, with less reliance upon local property taxes.

Reaction to Rauner’s remarks from those in attendance at the address was generally positive, as was the response from IASB leaders.

“I was pleased that Governor Rauner came to speak to us to underscore the fact that he has a passion for education,” said IASB President Phil Pritzker. “So, from a purely PR stance, it was positive that he, as well as the state superintendent and the Secretary of Education, all came to be with us. It would have been more engaging to have had an actual forum or dialog where we could have had the ability to ask questions like the other two officials afforded the gathering. In general, it was a decided plus for the Governor to address our gathering,” Pritzker added.