State Reps invite Rauner to visit local school that is not "crumbling"

Date: 
06/10/2016
FourRepsSchl

Rep. Will Guzzardi at the podium, Rep. Rob Martwick, Rep. Ann Williams and Rep. Jaime Andrade standing with educators and parents

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is being invited to join four Illinois State Representatives on a tour of Brentano Math and Science Academy in Logan Square. At a Thursday press conference, elected officials, educators and parents expressed their concerns about Rauner's approach to school funding. 

This challenge to Rauner is in response to his comments about Chicago Public Schools (CPS) being "crumbling prisions." That June 6 statement set off another war of words with Mayor Rahm Emanuel who, in response, said that Chicago schools "are a gateway to the economy" and then suggested that Rauner "is auditioning to be Donald Trump's running mate." 

On Thursday, Seth Lavin, Brentano's Principal, said, “Our students here at Brentano are doing great work. Our teachers are fantastic. But if the state doesn’t provide CPS with more support, we and many great schools like us are going to face massive layoffs. I hope all parties in Springfield realize that and work toward a solution.” 

Brentano has a population of 440 students, of whom 83 percent are Latino, 84 percent receive free/reduced lunch, and 30 percent are English Language Learners. The school faces budget cuts for the 2016-2017 school year of some $900,000. 

“The Democrats in the legislature have passed plans to get hundreds of millions of extra dollars to CPS next year,” said Will Guzzardi, 39th District State Rep. “We’ve done our part. The only proposal Gov. Rauner has put forth has more money for the richest districts and a $75 million cut to Chicago. If he’s so heartbroken about our schools, why is he trying to make even deeper cuts?” 

“Gov. Rauner weeps for our children,” said Rob Martwick, 19th District State Rep. “But I don’t see children weeping. I see children smiling. I see children learning. He sees fat, lazy public sector employees that need to be privatized. I see hardworking, caring, professional educators.” 

“We have some wonderful neighborhood schools in Chicago,” added Ann Williams, 11th District State Rep. “But our goal should be to provide the highest quality education for all of the kids in Chicago. In order for all of our children to thrive, we have to make a serious investment in our schools. Further cuts are simply unsustainable and unacceptable.” 

“Nobody’s blameless in the current crisis in Chicago Public Schools,” said Jaime Andrade, 40th District State Rep. “There have been decades of underfunding from the General Assembly, mismanagement from the district. But the Governor should work to solve these problems, not hold our children hostage for the mistakes of adults in years past.” 

Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education's Director, Wendy Katten, weighed in Rauner's comments, "Governor Rauner and his elite buddies like to make these kinds of comments about CPS so they can justify slashing our budgets instead of investing in our schools, so as to not impact their own wallets," Katten wrote. "So disgusting. Everyone should invite him to their school so he can see what's really going on instead of perpetuating this nonsense." 

In a continuing attempt to engage the Governor and aligned with Katten's comments, the four representatives are sending the following letter:

We are joining the chorus of Chicagoans who have reminded you in the last few days that our public schools are not “crumbling prisons.” They are not “dark and depressing.” You should know; you took great pains to ensure that your daughter attended one. 

As a reminder, we are inviting you to join us on a tour of a wonderful neighborhood school performing exceptionally well despite serious budgetary pressures. Brentano Math and Science Academy serves predominantly low-income Latino students and is a vibrant, high-performing academic community. We will be in touch with your office this afternoon to schedule a tour of Brentano with us. 

If you truly shed tears for the students of Chicago, we are baffled by your adamant refusal to provide them equitable funding. Your K-12 funding proposal would have cut tens of millions of dollars from Chicago Public Schools at a time when the district is already severe budgetary constraints. It is unclear how that would help our students, for whom you profess to care. 

Officials, educators, parents and everyone else concerned about education in Chicago find Rauner's rhetoric particularly infuriating because of the 2008 enrollment of Rauner’s daughter in Walter Payton College Prep. With her application denied, Rauner talked with Arne Duncan, then CPS' CEO. Rauner's daughter was then accepted. 

At the time, the family lived in Winnetka and she was eligible to attend highly acclaimed New Trier High School. Interestingly, Payton's Prep Initiative for Education received $250,000 from the Rauner Family Foundation about 15 months after her admission.

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