Rauner on Education

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Now that Bruce Rauner has been inaugurated as our governor, those of us interested in public schools (which should be all of us, I would argue) need to review his education campaign promises.  What should we expect from Governor Rauner when it comes to public education, specifically pre-school through senior in high school?

Although largely an attack on the record of his opponent, now ex-governor Pat Quinn, this document put out by the Rauner campaign prior to Election Day gives an overview of his plans for Illinois schools (http://brucerauner.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Bring-Back-Blueprint-Education-Reform.pdf).  Let’s outline the plan so we can see where the Governor said he would lead Illinois:

“Invest in our Children”

  1. Increase overall state resources for education
  2. Streamline and consolidate funding streams
  3. No increases in property taxes
  4. Halt decreases in early-education programs
  5. Improve coordination of early childhood and child care funds
  6. Expand high-quality early education programs
  7. Reduce administrative costs (for example, large superintendent salaries)
  8. Allow local school boards to waive unfunded state mandates

“Support Great Teachers”

  1. Incentivize school districts to move away from automatic step and lane salary increases
  2. Establish grants so districts can experiment with merit pay for teachers
  3. Give teachers a tax credit for classroom expenses
  4. Reform teacher tenure as Florida has (teachers have one-year, renewable contracts)
  5. Allow teachers from top 10% performing schools to form “Success Schools,” where teachers run the schools

“Enhance Education Opportunity”

  1. Lift caps/restrictions on the number of charter schools
  2. Fund public charter schools the same way non-charter public schools are funded
  3. Implement a “revenue neutral” Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program for low-income children
  4. Establish Education Savings Account program for parents of special needs children
  5. Implement a Course Access program to provide students with choices either on-line or in-person at a variety of schools

There are two additional sections which deal with post-secondary education rather than K-12; you can review his proposals for college and job training by clicking on the above link.  Regardless, these first three provide an ambitious agenda that would significantly change public education in Illinois.  Obviously, Governor Rauner will have to work with the House and Senate to put these programs in place.  And you can anticipate much discussion about these changes, just as his appointing James Meeks as chair of the Illinois Board of Education has.

I’ll reserve comment for now, since campaign promises often change when the realities of political compromises and how to fund proposals arise.  Teachers will not be in favor of most of his second section, outside of the tax credit; of that much I’m pretty sure. The entire tone of more competition for education tax dollars through charter schools, choice, and merit pay requires more analysis and comment, so we’ll address that once more specific programs are put forth.  We’ll also have to see how much of this agenda carries over from campaign rhetoric into actual proposals and laws.  Rauner is governor; now we’ll see how his plan for public education actually plays out.


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