Tag: charter school

Bruce Rauner paying former charter school executive $250,000 per year out of the budget of a social services agency

You may remember Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner hiring Beth Purvis, a former Chicago charter school executive, to a newly-created post that could best be described as an “education czar”.

Well, you may be surprised about where the money for Purvis’s ridiculously high $250,000/year salary is coming from.

Rauner is paying Purvis’s $250,000/year salary out of the budget of the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS is not responsible for overseeing education in Illinois (the Illinois State Board of Education oversees K-12 education at the state level in Illinois), instead, it’s a government agency that, among other things, administers social safety net programs run by the state and provides assistance to people with developmental disabilities. This revelation comes not long after Rauner authorized a funding cut of $26 million from DHS, which would make it harder for Illinoisans who need the state’s social safety net to survive and get their lives back on track to get the help they need.

Democratic Illinois State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), who is the chairman of the Illinois House Human Services Appropriations Committee, has called for Rauner to testify over cutting funding meant to help our state’s most vulnerable residents and using it to pay the ridiculously high salary of a mouthpiece for Rauner’s political agenda to destroy public education in Illinois (official letter here). I agree with Harris on this issue, because it’s absolutely ridiculous for Rauner to cut funding from the most vulnerable Illinoisans and give it to his political cronies.

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Bruce Rauner paying former charter school operator $250,000 per year to advise him on education policy

While Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner claims to be a guy who wants to fix Illinois’s fiscal problems, his actions as governor say something much different.

For example, Rauner is paying Beth Purvis, a former head of a Chicago charter school, $250,000 in Illinoisans’ taxpayer money every year to advise Rauner on education policy:

In her role as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s education policy adviser, Beth Purvis is pulling in a $250,000 annual salary, the Associated Press reports.

That salary is more than twice as large as the earnings of previous officials in the position. Of Rauner’s Cabinet members, Purvis, the former head of the Chicago International Charter School (CICS), is earning the largest salary, according to the news organization.

The former CICS CEO told the AP that the $250,000 salary is “commensurate with what I’ve been paid in the past.”

Given that charter schools divert taxpayer money from public schools and lower the quality of education for Illinois children, it’s horrible that Rauner would hire someone who was an administrator of a charter school to advise him on education. What’s just as bad, in my opinion, is that the Rauner Administration is paying a political adviser more than any of our state’s constitutional officers (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, and comptroller) earn, which is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money.

Our state’s fiscal problems are too severe for anyone in our state’s government to collect a quarter of a million dollar salary every year.

The Progressive Response to the State of the State of Illinois Address

Earlier today, Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of our state that we instinctively know as Illinois, outlined his plan to drive down wages, infringe on the rights of Illinois workers, and destroy an already weak Illinois economy.

Prior to giving his State of the State address, Rauner went around the state using PowerPoint slides to publicly bash our state’s public employees, whine about public employees being, in his view, overpaid, spread lies about worker’s rights and public employee pay, and blame public employees for our state’s fiscal problems. Additionally, it was reported yesterday that Rauner strongly hinted that he wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights for our state’s public employees. Given that Rauner has given his top administration officials pay raises and appointed a $100,000/year chief of staff to his wife despite the fact that his wife has no official duties whatsoever, for Rauner to give his cronies pay raises while wanting to drive down public employee salaries is blatantly hypocritical.

In his State of the State address, Rauner called for gutting our state’s workers’ compensation system, lowering property taxes while our state and local governments have billions of dollars in unpaid bills, allowing local governments and/or voters to bust unions at the local level, prohibiting project labor agreements, eliminating prevailing wage laws, and privatizing public education to benefit his political cronies. Rauner did have a few good ideas that he talked about in his address to the people of Illinois, such as banning trial lawyer donations to judicial campaigns, merging the offices of state comptroller and state treasurer, and increasing funding for early childhood education.

While there is no disputing the fact that our state is in a fiscal mess for a large number of reasons, the primary reason why our state is in such a fiscal mess is because the wealthiest Illinoisans, such as Rauner himself, don’t pay enough state income taxes thanks to an ridiculous provision in the Illinois Constitution that prohibits the General Assembly from passing legislation to tax the incomes of wealthier Illinoisans at a higher rate than the incomes of poorer Illinoisans. The flat tax requirement in the Illinois Constitution prohibits our state from raising the revenues that would be needed to pay off our state’s unpaid bills and put our state on solid financial footing. I would strongly support a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution to allow the General Assembly to levy a progressive state income tax in order to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans, cut income taxes for the poorest Illinoisans, and put our state’s finances back on track. Additionally, I would strongly support eliminating all tax breaks for businesses, such as the ridiculous tax break that Sears and CME Group received a few years ago, as this would also bring in more revenue to the state that can be used to pay off unpaid bills.

Regarding public employee pensions, another reason why our state is in a fiscal mess, I would strongly support a pension reform proposal that would phase out the current public employee pension systems in our state, but still allow public employees who have paid into the current pension systems to still receive the benefits they’ve earned once they retire, and require all new state and local elected officials, appointed officials, and hired public employees who receive a full-time salary but had not previously paid anything into the current public employee pension systems in our state to pay into a newly-created public employee pension system that is designed to be fully-funded and provide our state’s future elected officials, political appointees, and public employees with a steady retirement income once they retire. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose any pension reform proposal that cuts benefits for those who have currently paid into the pension systems, creates a 401(k) system for public employees, and/or turns an existing pension system into a 401(k) system.

Regarding cutting spending, I would support an audit of the entire state government and every single county, township, city, town, village, and other type of local government entity in our state in order to find actual wasteful spending and propose common-sense solutions to cut actual wasteful spending and help save the state money in both the short term and the long term. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose cuts to public education, social services, and other government services that reduce the quality of service by our state and local government agencies.

Regarding strengthening our state’s economy, I strongly support raising the state minimum wage here in Illinois to $15/hour and indexing automatic, annual minimum wage increases to productivity. Additionally, I strongly support creating a North Dakota-style economic development bank here in Illinois to issue and/our guarantee loans to factories, farms, small businesses, and other types of businesses that have to be repaid in full with interest. These two proposals would lift thousands of Illinoisans out of poverty, establish a minimum wage that values work, and help entrepreneurs start up new businesses and create jobs without pocketing government benefits to simply pad profits. Busting unions and driving down wages is something I strongly oppose because those policies would do absolutely nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or empower Illinoisans.

Regarding campaign finance, ethics, and government reform, while a federal constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped Rauner and his cronies buy the last gubernatorial election would be required to allow Illinois to enact meaningful campaign finance reform, I strongly support eliminating the conflicts of interest that are currently allowed by our state’s campaign finance system, such as a couple of conflicts of interest that Rauner mentioned, prohibiting unions from donating to candidates for public office that they’d have to collectively bargain with if said candidates are elected and prohibiting trial lawyers from donating to judicial candidates, and one that Rauner did not mention because he’s effectively opposed to it, prohibiting business owners and managers from donating to candidates for public office that could use the public office in question to directly benefit said business owners and managers if elected. Additionally, I would support setting the maximum campaign contribution for a statewide office here in Illinois at $250 and enacting even lower limits for state legislative and local offices. Additionally, I strongly support implementing a pair of public campaign finance systems, one for judicial elections and one for other non-federal elections. The judicial public campaign finance system would prohibit judicial candidates from receiving campaign contributions from other people and/or funding their own campaigns, require that all judicial candidates receive a set amount of campaign funds from the state, and require that judicial candidates receive the same amount of campaign funds from the state that their opponents receive. The public campaign finance system for other offices would allow candidates for those offices to receive $4 of state funding for every $1 they receive in contributions and/or self-fund their campaigns with. Additionally, I would support enacting what I like to call the Bruce Rauner Rule, which would outright prohibit candidates for statewide office here in Illinois from donating or loaning more than $100,000 of their own wealth to their campaign, and set even lower self-funding limits for other offices. On term limits, I would support limiting the offices of governor and lieutenant governor to one elected term, limiting the other state executive offices to two elected terms, limiting state senators to five elected terms, and limiting state representatives to eight elected terms, and anything stricter than that would receive my opposition. Some other government reform ideas I support include allowing Illinois voters to recall all non-federal elected officials, converting the Illinois General Assembly into an unicameral legislature with at least 177 members via a state constitutional amendment, and amending the Illinois Constitution to establish a truly non-partisan redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts.

Regarding reforming the criminal justice system, I strongly support legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana, which would reduce the incarceration rate in our state and provide our state with much-needed tax revenue. Additionally, I’m open to various ideas to reform the criminal justice system in order to make our prison system more about rehabilitating convicted criminals instead of simply punishing them and make our criminal justice system more fair. For example, one idea that I strongly support would be requiring independent investigations of deaths that occur in the hands of state and local police here in Illinois.

Regarding education, I strongly oppose implementing school voucher programs here in Illinois, expanding charter schools, or any other school privatization scheme. I strongly support repealing Common Core State Standards and replacing them well-rounded, developmentally appropriate K-12 academic standards developed by the state and are held accountable by measures other than assessments and standardized tests. Additionally, I strongly support getting rid of the emphasis on career preparation in K-12 education, since I believe that career preparation should be the responsibility of higher education institutions, not the K-12 system. Also, I strongly support increasing funding for public schools in our state and making our state’s K-12 school funding system fairer to poorer school districts.

Illinoisans are worth more than speeches, political buzzwords, and PowerPoint presentations about driving down wages, busting unions, and making our state’s economy even weaker than it currently is, and Illinoisans are certainly worth more than Bruce Rauner’s far-right policies to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy our state’s economy. It’s time for Illinoisans to push for progressive policies to protect workers’ rights, strengthen our state’s economy, put more money into the pockets of poor and working-class Illinoisans, provide a world-class education system for our state’s K-12 and college students, and provide for a more perfect Illinois.

Wisconsin public education takeover public hearing turns into total farce, Republicans in full damage control mode

The Wisconsin State Assembly education committee, chaired by Republican State Representative Jeremy Theisfeldt of Fond du Lac, held a public hearing today on 2015 Wisconsin Assembly Bill 1 (AB1), a proposed “school accountability” bill that isn’t actually a school accountability bill, but rather a bill to shame, takeover, and privatize public schools in Wisconsin.

The original bill that was brought to the public hearing was so atrocious, the public hearing turned into a total farce and the Republicans that control the committee have gone into full damage control mode. I’ll let the tweets from The Progressive magazine columnist and Madison Common Council candidate Rebecca Kemble and the author of the progressive blog Wisconsin Soapbox, who have been livetweeting today’s public hearing, speak for themselves:

…and that was just the first hour or so of the 11 1/2 hour public hearing.

To summarize all of that, Jeremy Theisfeldt and his fellow Republicans brought the bill to the public hearing and was quickly criticized by Democrats over horrible provisions in the bill and the bill not having a fiscal note despite the bill having a significant fiscal impact on local school districts in Wisconsin. That forced the Theisfeldt to remove a provision from the bill that would have authorized a state panel that would have had the power to take over public schools in Wisconsin and give them to millionaire charter school operators, as well as some of the other more atrocious provisions of the bill, without scheduling a second public hearing for the modified bill. That forced Theisfeldt to go into total damage control mode as he was attacked by both Republican (Dean Knudson of Hudson) and Democratic (Sondy Pope of Verona and Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee) state representatives, with Sinicki pointing out that the modified bill would still allow for public schools in Wisconsin to be taken over by the state and given to millionaire charter school operators. Theisfeldt comes across as a guy who is way over his head and is making a total fool of himself.

In my nearly four years as a political blogger, this public hearing on Wisconsin AB1 has been the single biggest farce I’ve read about.

Many conservatives don’t like the Republican takeover of public education in Wisconsin one bit

I may be an Illinoisan, but I proudly stand with Wisconsinites who support public education! (Feel free to use this picture as you please with no photo credit necessary)
I may be an Illinoisan, but I proudly stand with Wisconsinites who support public education! (Feel free to use this picture as you please with no photo credit necessary)

You might be surprised to find that opposition to 2015 Wisconsin Assembly Bill 1 (AB1), or what I like to call the “Wisconsin school shaming and partisan takeover bill” because, if enacted, it would result in, among other things, poorly-performing Wisconsin K-12 schools being taken over by a board controlled by political appointees and possibly handed over to millionaire charter school operators, is not solely from teachers’ unions, Democratic and progressive elected officials, and various progressive groups, although all of these are strongly opposed to the legislation for a large number of reasons.

As Heather DuBois Bourenane, the author of the Wisconsin progressive blog Monologues of Dissent, wrote, the opposition to Wisconsin AB1 is broad, bipartisan, and across the ideological spectrum.

Former Republican State Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center, a center-right Republican, publicly called the bill “a disaster” and warned that the bill could very well result in “eliminating completely the authority of local school boards and making them subject to a political board”.

Even many conservatives are opposed to the proposed Republican takeover of Wisconsin public schools.

Stop Common Core Wisconsin, a right-leaning political organization that is opposed to the implementation of Common Core State Standards in Wisconsin, publicly called the school grading system that would be implemented if the bill were to be enacted “a sham” and criticized the legislation for taking away local control from K-12 school districts in Wisconsin. Additionally, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), a far-right legal organization, criticized the legislation for putting political appointees in charge of private schools. While I usually disagree with conservatives and their political organizations, these two groups are making valid points in this particular case: This bill would take away local control from public school districts in Wisconsin, and, although WILL will disagree with my firm belief that private schools shouldn’t be able to receive taxpayer money at all (whether it be in the form of school vouchers or otherwise), I strongly believe that private schools shouldn’t be under the control of a governmental body of any kind.

As DuBois Bourenane pointed out in her blog post, the only groups not lobbying against the single worst anti-public education legislation in American history “are those with direct links to the organizations lobbying for “reform” (read: privatization) of public schools”. Sadly, school privatization interests wield a ton of influence in the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and they have large majorities in both chambers of the Wisconsin State Legislature.

I strongly encourage Wisconsin state legislators to vote NO on AB1, as the bill is not a school accountability bill, but a school shaming, takeover, and privatization bill that would destroy public education in Wisconsin. Additionally, I strongly fear that Bruce Rauner, who will be sworn into office as Governor of Illinois tomorrow, will propose legislation similar to Wisconsin AB1 here in Illinois.

Wisconsin Republicans propose school shaming legislation that would allow millionaire takeovers of schools in poor areas

The first bill to be introduced in the Wisconsin State Assembly for the 2015-2016 session is a school shaming bill by Republican Wisconsin State Assemblyman Jeremy Theisfeldt of Fond du Lac. Theisfeldt’s bill would allow millionaire charter school operators to take over “failing” K-12 schools in Wisconsin.

While Republicans and the corporate media in Wisconsin are referring to this legislation as “school accountability” legislation, in reality, it’s school shaming, takeover, and segregation legislation. This is because the legislation does absolutely nothing to fix the root causes of why some public schools perform worse than other public schools, allows millionaire charter school operators to take over “failing” Wisconsin public schools (which does nothing to improve the quality of education and makes them less accountable to the public), and, in effect, could leave poor areas and areas with large minority populations in Wisconsin without any service from public schools, effectively resulting in segregation of Wisconsin’s education system along both racial and economic class lines.

You’re not going to fix the poorly performing schools problem in Wisconsin until you fix the poverty problem in Wisconsin. If one were to compare the average household income of families who send at least one child to particular Wisconsin public schools to the performance of said Wisconsin public schools, you would probably find at least a rough correlation, if not a strong correlation, between household income and public school performance, with schools in wealthier areas of Wisconsin performing better than schools in poorer areas. Raising the minimum wage, restoring collective bargaining rights to public employees, and replacing the corrupt Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) by creating a state economic development bank to make it easier for people to start up new businesses and hire people would be a good start toward eliminating the poverty problem in Wisconsin. Sadly, Republicans in Wisconsin aren’t even remotely interested in fixing the poverty problem or improving public education, and Democrats in Wisconsin aren’t much better than the Republicans when it comes to education (Jennifer Shilling, the leader of the Democrats in the Wisconsin State Senate, wants more accountability for school voucher programs, which means that she effectively supports school vouchers because she’s not publicly supporting repealing school voucher programs in Wisconsin).

Wisconsin deserves legislation that values all public schools (such as legislation setting statewide K-12 academic standards in Wisconsin and using methods other than standardized testing to make sure that schools are teaching to the standards) and strengthens the state’s economy, not shames certain public schools.

The author of Wisconsin Soapbox and Heather DuBois Bourenane of Monologues of Dissent have written more about this subject.

Wisconsin State Senate Democratic leader Jennifer Shilling appoints pro-school voucher Democrat to state legislative finance committee

It’s been only a couple of weeks since Jennifer Shilling, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Senate from La Crosse, was unanimously selected by the Democratic state senate caucus to be the new minority leader of the state senate, yet she’s already pissing off Wisconsin progressives and rural voters in a big way.

Shilling assigned 2 state senators to the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (which consists of 16 total members; since Republicans control both chambers of the legislature, 12 are Republicans (six from each chamber) and 4 are Democrats (two from each chamber)). One of Shilling’s picks for the joint finance committee is Jon Erpenbach of Middleton, who has built up a progressive record on most issues as a longtime member of the state senate. However, Shilling’s other pick is Lena Taylor of Milwaukee, who, despite representing a district that has a large black population and votes overwhelmingly for Democrats, is a conservative Democrat who has supported, among other things, the gun lobby’s agenda, giving corrupt Milwaukee County Executive Chris “Boss” Abele more political power, and school vouchers.

For Jennifer Shilling to assign a staunch supporter of privatizing public education like Lena Taylor (the only time she voted against the charter school/school voucher lobby that I know of was when a statewide school voucher program was tied into the Wisconsin state budget) to a committee that is responsible for reviewing legislation on all bills that affect state revenue and expenditures (including education funding, proves that Shilling doesn’t give a rip about public education in Wisconsin. The Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government are planning on enacting more legislation to privatize and destroy Wisconsin’s public school system, so for Shilling to pick Taylor for a committee that oversees, among other things, state education funding in Wisconsin is downright asinine.

Most of Shilling’s own constituents (Shilling represents a district that includes the La Crosse metro area and mostly rural areas to the south of La Crosse) are strongly opposed to taxpayer money being diverted from public schools to fund private schools, but Taylor wants to divert money from public schools all across Wisconsin into school voucher programs, which could force the closure of many rural school districts in Wisconsin, possibly including some school districts in Shilling’s own state senate district. To put this another way, Shilling is effectively aiding and abetting the Republicans’ push to destroy public education in Wisconsin.

Jennifer Shilling, the new Wisconsin State Senate Minority Leader, has done more to piss off progressives and rural voters in a little over two weeks than the previous Wisconsin State Senate Minority Leader, Chris Larson, did to piss off progressives and rural voters in nearly two years. The current Democratic leadership in Wisconsin has driven the Democratic Party of Wisconsin into political irrelevancy by giving political cover to the Republicans at every opportunity, and the new Democratic leaders in Wisconsin are even worse in this regard by actively helping Republicans implement their far-right agenda. It’s time for a large-scale push by Wisconsin progressives to divide and conquer the Democratic Party of Wisconsin by railing against the out-of-touch Democratic leadership and getting actual progressives elected to public offices and state and local party positions in Wisconsin.