Bruce Rauner told reporters Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is his “one major disappointment” as Illinois governor, while also comparing some Chicago Public Schools to prisons. Rauner’s comments started another round in the tit-for-tat dispute between Rauner and Emanuel as the state still has no plan for how to fund the state’s schools come Fall.
Last week, Illinois state lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on a state budget - including funding for public schools across Illinois - before a May 31st deadline. Negotiations have gone into overtime, but any agreed upon spending plan would now need approval from three-fifths majority of state senators and representatives, instead of a simple majority.
Rauner has so far ridiculed education spending plans from Democrats for giving too much state money to Chicago Public Schools, calling those proposals a state bailout of CPS. That prompted Emanuel to refer to Rauner as following the “Donald Trump playbook of demonizing one group of people for his political advantage.”
Monday, Rauner once again suggested it should be legal for Chicago Public Schools to declare bankruptcy to restructure its debt and make up for its bad
finances and its bad infrastructure.
“Many of them are inadequate,” Rauner said of Chicago Public School buildings. “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.”
That comment drew immediate sharp rebuke.
Chicago Alderman Howard Brookins called it racist rhetoric, in a written statement. “It’s time for Governor Rauner to apologize for his inflammatory rhetoric that insults our children and degrades their achievements,” he wrote.
State Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago, repeated criticisms Emanuel has had of Rauner, saying Rauner is trying to make Chicago Public Schools the boogeyman to divide suburban and downstate residents against Chicago.
“Instead of pointing the finger of blame at Chicago, this governor needs to take ownership of the fact that his extreme agenda is the reason we don’t have a budget yet,” Mitchell said.
Rauner’s argued that the best way to address Illinois and Chicago’s financial issues is to enact changes to the state’s compensation system for injured workers and limitations to collective bargaining, which would bring more businesses to the state. He reiterated on Monday that Emanuel privately supports those policies, but the Chicago mayor won’t stand up to his Democratic ally House Speaker Michael Madigan to do anything about it.
“If I have one major disappointment in the last 18 months, it’s with the mayor,” Rauner said, referring to a plan from Emanuel to extend the time the city has to put money into its underfunded police and fire retirement systems. “Only in Chicago, only in the state of Illinois do politicians stand up and declare victory and take a victory lap when they don’t pay pensions. Who is that a victory for? That’s not a victory for anybody. That’s a major long-term loss for the taxpayers of Chicago.”
Last week, Emanuel was successful in lobbying enough lawmakers at the Illinois statehouse to override a veto of Rauner’s addressing the city’s police and fire pension systems.
Despite the strong criticisms of Emanuel and the management of Chicago Public Schools, Rauner said he spent the weekend talking with Emanuel, mayoral advisor Michael Sacks and Democratic lawmakers. The House of Representatives is scheduled to return to Springfield on Wednesday.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him @tonyjarnold.