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Vallas Warns Of 'Devastating' School Budget Cuts Under Rauner

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 27, 2014 9:30PM

Paul Vallas gets slimed at Fannie C. Williams Elementary School during a playground rebuild sponsored by Nickelodeon on May 17, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)
The rhetoric is beginning to heat up in the race for Illinois governor. Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee Paul Vallas released a report indicating what could happen with education funding in Illinois if Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner is elected. Rauner promised a rollback of the 2011 state income tax hike over a four-year period, which Vallas claims would result in a $4 billion cut in revenues per year. That includes an $882 million loss in revenue to Chicago Public Schools, the largest public school system in Illinois.

Vallas called the projected revenue loss “devastating” and could result in one out of every six public school teachers being laid off.

“Disinvesting in education does not improve the business climate. It does not create jobs. It’s not investing in our children’s future. It’s as simple as that. We can’t let him get off the hook. This is his plan,” said Vallas, the former CEO of Chicago’s public schools.

Rauner campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf disputed Vallas’ findings and said the numbers “are just made up.” Schrimpf added that Quinn not only approved the income tax hike, but cut education spending by $500 million.

As state political pundit Rich Miller notes, Vallas and Schrimpf are both wrong.

(T)here likely will be some revenue gains over the years and other budget priorities could come into play, so (for Vallas) to state categorically that it’s a $4 billion cut isn’t quite Kosher. And Schrimpf is obviously making up numbers because there’s no way Rauner can avoid cutting school funding if that tax hike is rolled back over four years. Unless, of course, he wants to start skipping pension payments again.

But wait. There’s more.

By the way, back in the day, George Ryan removed state pension payments from the definition of state school funding. That, in retrospect, was a big mistake. You can’t have schools without teachers, and you can’t have teachers without pensions. If you include pension funding, spending on education has, indeed, increased.

Ah, yes. It always comes back to pensions, and how government entities shirked their responsibilities to fund them.

It’s worth noting that, while we’ve consistently called Bruce Rauner an “astroturfer” here at Chicagoist, Vallas has spent the past decade flitting about the country, running public school districts in New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Bridgeport, Connecticut with mixed success, trading in the reputation he earned as CPS CEO in the mid-90s. (Vallas has maintained a permanent residency in Palos Heights that entire time.) CPS began starving the teachers pension funds under Vallas’ watch and, if he hasn’t been reading the news, the school system is already reeling from years of “devastating” cuts; the foundation for those cuts was laid by him and former Chicago School Board president Gerry Chico nearly 20 years ago.

So we have a carpetbagging school “reformer” calling out an astroturfing “populist” venture capitalist about a problem the carpetbagger helped create. This is how incestuous Illinois politics has devolved, readers.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers also disapproves of the Rauner tax plan. Union president Dan Montgomery said:

“Bruce Rauner’s so-called budget was not designed with students in mind. Unsurprisingly, he claims to support working families, but his plan fails to address the fact that Illinois schools are some of the worst funded in the nation. Aside from his empty, feel-good TV commercials, he has no explanation or problem with blowing an $8-billion dollar hole in the state budget and forcing layoffs, larger class sizes, and devastating cuts to our public schools. Strong schools begin with strong investment, and Rauner’s proposals would decimate public education as we know it and force communities to raise property taxes just to keep the doors open.

“As educators, we know best what students need and parents want - high-quality neighborhood schools with libraries, support services, and experienced teachers who are fixtures in the communities they serve. The only candidate committed to these families is Governor Quinn.”