Gov. Quinn tells teachers they won’t suffer during budget cuts

By Don Babwin

ROSEMONT, Ill. – Gov. Pat Quinn didn’t have any real specifics to share with hundreds of teachers Thursday, but his assurances that he was on their side and would fight for more funding for education brought them to their feet.

“What a difference a real governor makes, huh?” Ken Swanson, president of the Illinois Education Association, yelled over the loud standing ovation Quinn received.

As Quinn prepares to present a budget plan next week in which he needs to address a deficit of at least $9 billion, he stressed to teachers that it won’t come at their expense – and will push for at least a little more money for education.

“I think you will see from the budget address next week that I’m willing to stick my neck out and take big chances on behalf of the kids of Illinois, their parents, their teachers …” he said.

Quinn also told members of the audience he agrees with them about changing the way education is funded in the state – that the current system in which property taxes account for most school funding is unfair to rural and poor school districts.

“People in this room are on the front line of helping us raise our kids, so we have to put the proper investment through the proper tax system,” he said.

Quinn vowed to push for more money for higher education and repair school buildings.

He also dismissed any talk of consolidating pension systems, something the crowd was nervous about, particularly since earlier this week Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias said he wanted to lump the management of five pension systems.

“I don’t believe that that will go forward, the part about consolidation of pensions,” he said to loud cheers.

Quinn repeatedly talked about the financial crisis the state finds itself in, as if reminding the educators that they shouldn’t expect his budget to include any dramatic increases in spending for education.

When he did talk, for example, about increasing funding for higher education, he included the word “modest.”

Educators in the audience weren’t bothered by the fact that Quinn never once mentioned any dollar figures for education.