In the intensifying debate over Illinois’ K-12 budget, Karen Lewis, the fiery president of the Chicago’s Teachers Union, compared Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to a terrorist Thursday.
“Rauner is the new ISIS recruit,” Lewis said during a a rally at the state capitol in Springfield, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Yes, I said it, and I’ll say it again. Bruce Rauner is a liar. And, you know, I’ve been reading in the news lately all about these ISIS recruits popping up all over the place—has Homeland Security checked this man out yet? Because the things he’s doing look like acts of terror on poor and working-class people.”
Catherine Kelly, a spokeswoman for Rauner, a Republican, denounced the statement.
“This kind of rhetoric has no place in American public discourse and sets a terrible example for our kids,” Kelly said.
The state’s legislature is debating two proposals that would alter the amount of money Chicago Public Schools, as well as suburban and downstate districts, would receive annually. The state’s districts suffer from a ballooning pension debt.
Rauner has proposed increasing state aid to public schools by $120 million all at once rather than prorating it as the state has done for the last seven years amid financial turmoil, according to the Associated Press. CPS, as well as some Chicago suburban school districts would lose $74 million under that plan.
The state’s Democratic legislators have proposed to completely overhaul the funding formula to provide more money to poor districts—including $300 million to CPS—and less to wealthier ones, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
The legislature has still not been able to negotiate a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year with Rauner, a deadlock that has held up millions of dollars in funding to the state’s university system and other services. Rauner released money to the schools last summer.
Chicago’s teachers’ union has threatened to strike over contract negotiations that have lasted well over a year.
A Chicago Tribune investigation Sunday revealed that districts in Illinois have accrued more than $20 billion in debt over the last several decades because of a quirk in the state law that allows districts to carry over debt from one year to the next.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.