MOLINE, Ill. – Bruce Rauner gets it.
The Illinois businessman and 2014 gubernatorial candidate believes competition in education is the key to lifting academic achievement, and he wants to bring in more charter schools and introduce private school vouchers to the state.
“I think we’ve got to create competition and choice in the broken monopoly that’s our system. We need charter schools, we need vouchers,” Rauner, a Harvard graduate and chairman of a major Chicago equity firm, told the Dispatch-Argus.
Not only does Rauner, a Republican, understand what needs to happen to truly improve the state’s education system, he also understands what’s standing in the way: the Chicago, state and local teachers unions.
“The reality is our school districts are controlled by the teacher’s unions and their allies,” Rauner told reporters during a campaign stop in the Quad-Cities recently. “The schools in Illinois are run for the benefit of the adults in the building rather than for the benefit of schoolchildren and their parents.”
That perspective was reinforced in 2012 when Chicago’s unionized teachers refused to educate the city’s students over disagreements about pay, benefits, and other work issues. But, as Rauner points out, the solution to fixing the failing system is stunningly simple: school choice and freedom in education.
Rauner believes the state should lift its 120-school cap on charter schools. He believes parents should have access to quality education options for students, whether they’re charter, private or traditional public schools.
“We should have vouchers, so that when a school is failing parents can afford to take their child to whatever schools work for them,” Rauner told reporters, according to the Dispatch-Argus.
While parents should be free to send their children to a high quality school, teachers should also be free to choose whether or not they want to participate in their local teachers union. Currently, Illinois teachers must pay union dues or a fee to the teachers union as a condition of employment.
In essence, Rauner wants to increase accountability for public schools by increasing competition for students. Parents would have direct input into the direction of the district by where they send their children to school, and all schools would be forced to continuously improve academics to recruit or retain students.
Taking accountability a step farther, Rauner wants to end teacher tenure in the Land of Lincoln, a move that would signal war to the state’s teachers unions, but is necessary to ensure educators remain motivated to constantly improve their craft.
“I don’t believe there should be tenure for teachers,” Rauner said, according to the news site. “Nobody should have a job for life guaranteed.”
While we’re certainly impressed by Rauner’s unflinching desire to inject accountability and competition into the state’s education system, we know that puts him in direct opposition to the teachers unions – perhaps the most powerful political force in the state.
We expect the Illinois Education Association and the Chicago Teachers Union will campaign hard against Rauner in the run-up to the 2014 elections, likely with nasty personal attacks and other dirty tricks.
But Illinois parents and taxpayers should take the union’s opposition as a sign that Rauner is serious about improving education, and he’s willing to put parents and children above the union interests that have dragged down the state’s schools for decades.