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Illinois Gov. Rauner Calls Chicago Teachers 'Illiterate,' Apologizes

This post was written by Stephen Sawchuk and originally posted on the Teacher Beat blog.  

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has landed in hot water for emails dating from 2011 in which he claimed that half of the Chicago district's teachers "are virtually illiterate." 

The emails were released July 21 to the Chicago Tribune as part of the newspaper's open-records request pertaining to the SUPES Academy principal-training contract. (That no-bid contract ultimately led to criminal charges against Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett for a kickback scheme.)

Rauner made the remarks to high-powered, wealthy members of the Chicago Public Education Fund, which has helped fund some of the district's major education initiatives. A Rauner spokesman issued a quick apology for the remarks, explaining that the governor's email was "sent out of frustration at the pace of change in our public school system."

It's not the first time Rauner has alienated parents, teachers, and others for remarks on the city's schools: Just recently, he received a barrage of criticism for likening CPS schools to prisons.

Tensions have ratcheted up between Illinois and Chicago officials over school funding, as my colleague Denisa Superville and I reported recently for Education Week. A few months ago, it was an open question whether schools would even open in the fall. Since then, the state agreed to a stopgap measure to provide $300 million in funding and pension relief for the city's schools.

But the deal doesn't solve all of the district's financial problems, and wrangling over the state's education funding formula and pension woes are likely to continue—as are disagreements about the steps CPS should take to balance its budget. The Chicago Teachers' Union has threatened to strike if certain teacher benefits are scaled back.

The CTU has, unsurprisingly, issued a bunch of aggrieved press releases over Rauner's remarks. Even more to the point, it also sent reporters the following photo. If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, you'll hear loud and clear what this one is saying.


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