Rauner: State Could Get Deal With Teachers If It Took Over Chicago Public Schools

CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Bruce Rauner said the Chicago Teachers Union’s rejection of what its own leaders described as a “serious offer” from the Chicago Public Schools is evidence the state should take control of the district.

The governor said the CTU “Big Bargaining Team” turning down a four-year contract offer from the district should serve as a wakeup call that it’s the teachers union calling the shots at CPS, not Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

On Monday, CTU’s 40-member negotiating team rejected a four-year deal that would have given teachers modest raises and capped the number of charter schools in Chicago, but required union members to pay more toward pensions and health care.

CTU President Karen Lewis acknowledged she was surprised the bargaining team turned down the proposed contract, which she had earlier described as a “serious offer.” Lewis said the main issue was a “lack of trust in CPS.”

“If the mayor can’t get a deal done with the teachers union, I guarantee you we – working from the state – can get a deal done,” Rauner said Tuesday.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Karen Lewis said Rauner has no budget and no authority to take over Chicago Public Schools.

“Please don’t pay any attention to the ravings a madman because that’s what he is,” she said.

The Illinois General Assembly hasn’t even considered, much less approved, proposed legislation that would authorize the Illinois State Board of Education to remove the Chicago Board of Education from authority over CPS, and appoint a new panel to run the district.

The state already has authority to take control of other school districts in Illinois if they meet certain financial criteria, but CPS was exempted from that law.

Even so, the governor has asked the state board to prepare for a possible CPS takeover and start looking for an interim CEO for the Chicago Public Schools.

“Let’s begin a process to review Chicago Public Schools, to see where they qualify for state oversight. I believe they clearly already qualify, based on my review, but it’s the state board’s job to do it. I’ve asked them to do it,” Rauner said.

Rauner and Republican lawmakers also are pushing a separate measure to allow CPS to declare bankruptcy, and the governor said he would fight hard for both proposals.

“The state should be able to take over the schools, manage those contracts properly, restructure things, and bankruptcy should be an option. There is support for it. It’s the right thing to do. We need it around the state, and we’re going to fight real hard for that right now,”

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan already have made it clear Rauner’s plan is going nowhere with the Democratic-controlled legislature. Cullerton said the governor’s CPS takeover plan “is not going to happen,” and Madigan said it is “not the path we want to follow in Illinois.”

Emanuel has rhetorically asked how the state can be trusted to take over CPS when it doesn’t have control of its own budget.

“Would you turn to a state that is $8 billion behind in its bills?” said the day after Rauner first pitched the school takeover plan last month.

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