Tag: education funding

Three Democratic candidates for Governor of Illinois who I won’t vote for in Democratic primary

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am currently serving a two-year term as an election judge in Vermilion County, Illinois, with the last currently-scheduled election of my term being the Spring 2018 primaries. This blog post is purely my opinion about a race that will be on the Democratic primary ballot in an election in which I may be called to serve as a poll worker, and is not, in any way, connected to my election judge duties.


I’m not going to publicly endorse a candidate in the 2018 bicentennial election for Governor of Illinois, although I will be a voter in the 2018 bicentennial Illinois Democratic primary, and there are three candidates who I will not be voting for in the primary, unless, of course, they end up being the only three candidates on the primary ballot.

J.B. Pritzker is probably the only Democratic candidate in the gubernatorial primary in Illinois who could probably outspend Republican Governor Bruce Rauner in the general election, but there’s a very possible chance that Pritzker won’t make it to the general election. One main reason why Pritzker could have trouble winning the Democratic nomination is that, in 2012, Pritzker publicly refused to support then-President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign well into the Republican primary campaign season that year. Even worse, Pritzker outright said that he wasn’t 100% supportive of the Democratic Party, and signaled that he was open to supporting far-right Republicans.

Christopher G. Kennedy is a member of the Kennedy political family, and he’s also seeking the Democratic nomination for governor here in Illinois. However, CGK had the gall to appear at a campaign event in downstate Illinois and proceed to support a major education funding proposal that would give Chicago-area politicians more control over downstate school districts:

Kennedy said he is opposed to funding kindergarten through high school public schools through property taxes.

“We need to get rid of that system. It’s a terrible system,” he said. “Every other state in the United States has figured that out. They pay for their schools at the state level and not through local property taxes and they have much better outcomes.”

Removing local control from K-12 education funding in Illinois would put all non-federal funding of public schools in the hands of a state government dominated by Chicago-area politicians. Needless to say, downstaters are not going to like CGK’s idea to put decisions regarding funding their community’s public schools in the hands of a Chicagoland-dominated state legislature.

Another candidate running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination is Daniel Biss, a mathematician-turned-state senator serving the Evanston area in Cook County. Biss’s claim to political fame was supporting Senate Bill 1 (SB1), the unconstitutional state law that was designed to cut state public employee pension benefits in Illinois. While Illinois has a major pension funding crisis, SB1 was such a blatant violation of the Illinois Constitution’s provision prohibiting cutting earned pension benefits, even right-wing Republican state supreme court justices like Rita Garman ruled that SB1 was unconstitutional.

The other two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination that I’m aware of are Ameya Pawar, a Chicago City Council member, and Bob Daiber, a farmer and regional school superintendent from Madison County. I’m not going to tell anyone which of those two I’m going to vote for, but I’ve already made up my mind.

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Bruce Rauner’s War on Downstate Illinois

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has, despite winning a very large percentage of the downstate vote in the 2014 Illinois gubernatorial election, waged a war on downstate Illinois ever since taking office, much of which involves, either directly or indirectly, his political hostage-taking in regards to the state budget (which Illinois has operated without for a very long time because of Rauner).

There are several reasons why Rauner’s destructive politics has negatively impacted downstate Illinois.

Agricultural education

Rauner has, as recently as March of this year, targeted agricultural education, which has helped thousands of Illinois farmers better understand the land and farming practices, for complete elimination of state funding. This is obviously a blatant attack against downstate Illinois by Rauner, since nearly all of the agricultural industry’s economic activity in Illinois occurs downstate.

Higher education funding in general

It’s not just agricultural education that has been negatively impacted by Rauner’s War on Higher Education. Higher education in general, and, in particular, Eastern Illinois University, have felt the wrath of Rauner since taking office. Rauner has refused to fund public higher education institutions in Illinois. Eastern Illinois University, which serves a very conservative region of the state, has been forced to lay off nearly 200 employees and is on the brink of being forced to permanently shut down.

Illinois State Museum

Another casualty of Rauner’s War on Downstate is the Illinois State Museum, which is located in Springfield. The state museum was forced to close due to the lack of a state budget, meaning that the art exhibits, natural history exhibits, and other exhibits housed at the state museum are not accessible to the public.

Whoever Democrats nominate in the 2018 election for Governor of Illinois will have to address the concerns of downstate voters in order to defeat Bruce Rauner.

Chicago teachers go on one-day strike against Rahm-Rauner austerity

K-12 school teachers represented by the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) have gone on a one-day strike to protest budget cuts by Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and the Rahm Emanuel-appointed Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board (tweet from March 23, strike took place today):

Republicans like Bruce Rauner and his allies, as well as neoliberal corporate Democrats like Rahm Emanuel and his allies, have teamed up in an effort to destroy public education in Chicago, as well as the rest of Illinois. This is despite the fact that investing in public education, not charter schools, school vouchers, or other forms of education privatization, is one of the best investments that politicians can use the people’s taxpayer money for. The more money that government invests in public education at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels, the more likely students are able to go on to work in good-paying jobs, thus stimulating the economy when those who have good-paying jobs spend their hard-earned money on goods and services.

I stand with striking Chicago teachers!

While Illinois doesn’t have a state budget, the University of Illinois hires a new football coach

It is pretty clear to me that the State of Illinois, under the failed leadership of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, is completely incapable of adequately funding state universities, including Chicago State University (which is laying off its entire workforce) and Eastern Illinois University (which is in serious trouble financially due to a lack of state funding).

Yet that hasn’t stopped our state’s flagship university, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), from hiring a new coach for the university’s football team. Lovie Smith, a former NFL coach, was hired by UIUC to be the university’s new head football coach. I’ve not received any word on what Lovie’s annual salary will be, but I’m guessing that it’s a lot more than any elected official in Illinois makes, and that a significant chunk of it will be paid by Illinois taxpayers.

Bruce Rauner’s Illinois has the wrong priorities. While Rauner is completely unwilling to fund higher education in Illinois, Rauner has no problem with public universities shelling out big bucks for football coaches.

Bruce Rauner’s education funding hypocrisy

In yesterday’s State of the State of Illinois address, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner publicly criticized funding cuts to education and called for fully funding public education in Illinois.

There’s one problem with that…the guy who cut funding to public education in Illinois is…you guessed it, Bruce Rauner. In fact, a few months ago, Rauner gave away corporate welfare to food producing conglomerate ConAgra Foods while public education was being starved of funding:

As fate would have it, Governor Bruce Rauner revealed his plan to fork over as much as $1.26 million a year in tax credits to ConAgra Foods at roughly the same time parents were packing a Board of Education hearing room to protest the latest CPS cuts in special education.

So our dead-broke state has millions for Fortune 500 corporations but not enough money to educate our poorest, most vulnerable children. 

It’s something to keep in mind the next time the governor tells you it’s all about the kids.

Not only is Bruce Rauner dropping g’s, he’s dropping the ball when it comes to funding public education here in Illinois.

How the Republican agenda hurts rural Wisconsinites

I’m going to share something that Wisconsin State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton), wrote for the Madison, Wisconsin-based newspaper The Cap Times a week and a half or so ago. In her op-ed, Hesselbein talked about how the Republicans’ state budget in Wisconsin hurts rural Wisconsinites especially hard:

  • On public schools, the Republican budget cuts $150/pupil from Wisconsin’s K-12 public school districts in the 2015-2016 school year and $135/pupil from Wisconsin’s K-12 public school districts over the biennium (the two-year period of the budget). Additionally, Republican Governor Scott Walker wants more charter schools, which get public funds that would otherwise go to public schools, in Wisconsin. Furthermore, the Republican budget cuts funding used to create homeschooling lessons and online educational materials, which are produced by Wisconsin MediaLab. These cuts could force some rural school districts in Wisconsin to consolidate, costing small towns jobs they need to survive.
  • On rural sanitation, Walker proposed, in the original state budget proposal, to eliminate a fund that helps low-income Wisconsinites replace failing septic systems, but it had its funds restored by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature.
  • On rural roads, Walker proposed eliminating funding for removal of deer carcasses from rural roads in Wisconsin, which would have caused an even greater hazard to people driving in rural areas of Wisconsin. This also had its funding restored by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) of the Wisconsin State Legislature.
  • On rural health, the Republican budget eliminates both Wisconsin’s Rural Physician Residency Assistance Program and a loan forgiveness program designed to encourage medics to work in rural areas of Wisconsin. The program also cuts $25 million in Medicaid funding to most of Wisconsin’s community health centers.
  • On local government property insurance, Walker proposed eliminating Wisconsin’s Local Government Property Insurance Fund, which insures street sweepers, salt sheds, and other things that local governments in Wisconsin own and use to carry out street maintenance and other duties of local governments in Wisconsin. The City of Middleton, the Village of Waunakee, and the Village of Cross Plains, three incorporated municipalities in Hesselbein’s state assembly district, currently pay a combined total of $120,419 ($51,342 for Middleton, $49,214 for Waunakee, and $19,863 for Cross Plains) in premiums for insurance provided by the state’s local government insurance fund. If this fund is eliminated, local governments all across Wisconsin would have to pay more for local government property insurance from the private sector, if that kind of insurance is obtainable from the private sector. In its review of Walker’s budget proposal, the Wisconsin State Legislature delayed the demise of the program by two years.
  • On higher education, the University of Wisconsin Extension (UW-Extension) maintains a presence in all 72 Wisconsin counties, providing assistance to Wisconsinites in areas such as agriculture, 4-H youth development programs, and family living. Walker’s proposed funding cuts to the entire University of Wisconsin System (UW-System), which includes the UW-Extension, could result in the loss of 65 to 80 county-level Cooperative Extension positions, making it harder for Wisconsin’s farmers to get help they need from the UW-Extension.

Pointing out how Republican policies hurt people who live in small communities and rural areas is something I wish Democrats in Wisconsin and other states did much more often. However, unlike some other states, reaching out to rural voters is a necessity for Democrats to win statewide in Wisconsin for two reasons: Hard-partisan voters and the urban Democratic strongholds of the state don’t provide Democrats with enough votes to win statewide in Wisconsin, and suburban areas, outside of the heavily-Democratic suburbs around Madison, are some of the most Republican areas in the entire country. This is something that isn’t a necessity in, for example, my home state of Illinois, since the Chicago suburbs aren’t as staunchly Republican as the Milwaukee suburbs in Wisconsin are, so Illinois Democrats can win statewide with either an urban-suburban coalition or an urban-rural coalition, with most Illinois Democrats preferring the former, which, sadly, leaves rural voters in Illinois mostly ignored by Democrats. However, the urban-suburban coalition can’t be formed in Wisconsin, because the Milwaukee suburbs are the strongest of the GOP strongholds in Wisconsin, so it would take an urban-rural coalition for Democrats to win statewide in Wisconsin.

In short, Scott Walker proposed a budget that either would or would have cut funding to rural school districts, septic tank replacement programs, rural road maintenance, rural health care, local government property insurance, and university extension programs in Wisconsin. This would result, or would have resulted, in a lower quality of education for rural children, rural Wisconsinites having a harder time paying for septic system replacement, lower-quality rural roads, rural Wisconsinites having a harder time getting the health care they need, taxpayers having to pay more for insurance of local government property, and Wisconsin farmers having a harder time getting help from the UW-Extension. While Rob Brooks, a Republican member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Saukville, has outright admitted that Walker proposed a “crap budget”, the Republicans who run the Wisconsin State Legislature intend to keep some of Walker’s budget cuts that will make life for rural Wisconsinites harder.

Bruce Rauner thinks Illinois children are lab rats, threatens to veto opt-out bill

Later today, the Democratic-controlled Illinois House of Representatives is set to vote on legislation that would make it easier for Illinois parents to opt their school-age children out of state-mandated standardized testing.

However, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has publicly threatened to veto the legislation if it hits his desk, claiming that Illinois would risk losing over a billion dollars in federal education funding if such a law were to be enacted. As Jim Vail, a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher and the author of the progressive education blog Second City Teachers, pointed out, Rauner’s claim is absolutely false for several reasons:

  • Seven states, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin, already have laws on the books explicitly allowing for parents to opt-out their children from standardized testing, and efforts are underway in an eighth state, New Jersey, to enact a opt-out bill there.
  • The federal government has never withheld a state’s Title I education funding for low participation rates in standardized testing or for any other reason.
  • Illinois is currently operating under a federal waiver from portions of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The waiver exempts Illinois from the risk of facing federal penalties for low participation rates in standardized testing.
  • Congress is currently working on legislation that would completely eliminate the threat of states and school districts losing federal funding for having less than 95% of students participating in standardized testing.

It’s 100% clear to me that Rauner thinks that our state’s schoolchildren are laboratory rats who should be subjected to standardized testing and other neoliberal education policies that make education less interesting for our schoolchildren, shame teachers and students, and make a total mockery of K-12 education in this country. It’s time to end the plantation mentality in our education system by eliminating mandatory standardized testing altogether, ending the overemphasis on career preparation, and crafting strong education standards where teachers teach to the standards, not to standardized tests.

Scott Walker has yet another terrible, no good, very bad day

Scott Walker has had yet another terrible, no good, very bad day.

That’s because the new Marquette University Law School (MU Law) poll shows that 56% of Wisconsinites disapprove of the job that Walker is doing as Governor of Wisconsin an unofficial presidential candidate who spends very little time doing his actual job of Governor of Wisconsin. Two factors are primarily driving home-state opposition to Walker, both of which are part of Walker’s most recent state budget proposal. First, the Walker budget’s proposed cuts to education funding are very unpopular with Wisconsinites, with 78% opposing Walker’s cuts to K-12 education and 70% opposing Walker’s cuts to higher education. Second, the Walker budget’s proposed corporate welfare giveaway to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks for a proposed new Milwaukee arena is wildly unpopular across the entire state, with 79% of all Wisconsinites, 67% of Wisconsinites who live in the Milwaukee local television market, and a whopping 88% of Wisconsinites who live outside of the Milwaukee local television market opposing corporate welfare for a proposed Bucks arena. In addition to those two items, many of Walker’s other policies, such as wage theft, state takeovers of Wisconsin public schools, and expanding unconstitutional school voucher programs, are also unpopular with Wisconsinites.

Walker can’t even get a majority of the Republicans in his home state to support his presidential bid. Walker is only at 40% among Republicans in a hypothetical Wisconsin Republican presidential primary poll that included Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Carly Fiorina. For comparison’s sake, Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, got 72% of the vote in the 2012 Republican presidential primary in his home state of Massachusetts.

If this trend continues, it could be game over for Scott Walker’s political career.

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.