Bruce Rauner ad promotes charters, but CPS clout call dogs him
BY NATASHA KORECKI AND ROSALIND ROSSI Staff Reporters December 30, 2013 9:00PM
Bruce Rauner is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Illinois. | AP file photo
Updated: February 3, 2014 2:56PM
In a new ad, GOP gubernatorial contender Bruce Rauner talks about the benefits of charter schools in Illinois, merit-based pay for teachers and his role as an education reformer.
“There’s no excuse for failing schools. Zero. None. Period,” Rauner says in the TV ad, which was shot inside a school. “I got so fed up, I helped start charter schools like this one.”
But when it came to choosing a school for his daughter, Rauner didn’t go the route of a charter. Instead, he chose an elite public high school in Chicago.
According to a CPS source, an investigation by the Chicago Public Schools inspector general indicated that Rauner called the office of then-Schools CEO Arne Duncan about his daughter’s chances of getting into Walter Payton College Prep, and she was admitted after a top Duncan aide called Payton’s principal.
At the time, the daughter had not made the list of students accepted based on a strict formula involving test scores and other academic factors, the source said.
The incident was one of dozens involving clout-based admissions investigated by the inspector general.
“She was admitted within days of him making a phone call,” the source said.
At the time, Rauner used the address of a Chicago condo — despite having a residence in Winnetka, where New Trier, one of the best high schools in the nation, is located. Rauner dismissed the whole episode last summer, telling the Chicago Sun-Times it was “just minor. It’s stuff that doesn’t matter.”
On Monday, Rauner’s campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf said Rauner’s daughter “was admitted off the principal’s list, the same way many students have been admitted.”
The principal’s list was a way that a small number of students could bypass the normal rigors tied to selected enrollment schools that have limited open seats and thousands of applicants and require near academic perfection. Last year, students needed a minimum 896 out of 900 score as well as straight A’s to get into Payton.
The new Rauner ad, according to a source with knowledge of the strategy, is part of another “significant buy” of TV ads that the Rauner campaign is beginning to unroll. It’s expected to only fuel a looming battle between Rauner and public employee unions.
On Sunday, the Sun-Times reported that a series of anti-Rauner attack ads — supported by unions — are expected to counter Rauner’s ads.
Rauner’s new spot takes a direct shot at “union bosses” and works to appeal to families, saying he backs merit pay and reform that wrests control from unions and places it into the hands of parents.
“Demonizing teachers shows once again how out of touch Rauner is, and saying he’s devoted to education is as believable as his Carhartt jacket with the tags still on,” Aviva Bowen, spokeswoman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers told the Sun-Times on Monday. “Illinois voters know better.”
There’s no question that the Chicago Public Schools have some of the best- and worst -scoring schools in the state. There’s a long, heated debate over how well all its charter schools perform. Charters are publicly funded but run with many of the freedoms enjoyed by private schools — including not employing Chicago Teachers Union educators.
Rauner has ties to many charters, and he sits on the board of the Noble Network of Public Schools, which operates charter schools in Chicago communities, including one named for him. Rauner College Prep enrolls 86 percent Hispanic students and 9 percent African-American students, according to the school’s website. Rauner’s campaign reports that the venture capitalist has donated millions of dollars to charter schools and toward funding merit pay programs.
“No one thinks all Chicago Public Schools are giving every student the education he or she deserves,” Schrimpf said. “The fact is charter schools and merit pay are bringing greater opportunities to children throughout the school system and Bruce has been a leader in the education reform movement, fighting for more and better options for all students — but there is much work left to do.”