A group of Illinois lawmakers from Chicago's North Side invited Gov. Bruce Rauner Thursday to take a tour of a local public school, Brentano Math and Science Academy in the Logan Square neighborhood.
Illinois Democratic State Reps. Jaime Andrade, Will Guzzardi, Rob Martwick and Ann Williams, all of Chicago, held a press conference at Brentano and wrote a letter to Rauner, explaining that the Logan Square school is "a wonderful neighborhood school performing exceptionally well despite serious budgetary pressures."
The state representatives invited Rauner to tour the school in light of comments he made this week in which he called some CPS schools "crumbling prisons."
The invitation also comes as Illinois public schools face funding uncertainty. The state legislature ended its regular session last month without passing a budget or spending plan for K-12 education. For its part, CPS is facing a $1 billion budget deficit and is planning deep cuts if financial help does not come through from Springfield.
Brentano could have its budget cut by $900,000 in the coming academic year, according to the lawmakers.
"The Democrats in the legislature have passed plans to get hundreds of millions of extra dollars to CPS next year," Guzzardi said in a statement. "We've done our part. The only proposal Gov. Rauner has put forth has more money for the richest districts and a $75 million cut to Chicago. If he's so heartbroken about our schools, why is he trying to make even deeper cuts?"
The state representatives wrote the following letter to Rauner:
We are joining the chorus of Chicagoans who have reminded you in the last few days that our public schools are not 'crumbling prisons.' They are not 'dark and depressing.' You should know; you took great pains to ensure that your daughter attended one.
As a reminder, we are inviting you to join us on a tour of a wonderful neighborhood school performing exceptionally well despite serious budgetary pressures. Brentano Math and Science Academy serves predominantly low-income Latino students and is a vibrant, high-performing academic community. We will be in touch with your office this afternoon to schedule a tour of Brentano with us.
If you truly shed tears for the students of Chicago, we are baffled by your adamant refusal to provide them equitable funding. Your K-12 funding proposal would have cut tens of millions of dollars from Chicago Public Schools at a time when the district is already severe budgetary constraints. It is unclear how that would help our students, for whom you profess to care.
Rep. Will Guzzardi
Rep. Ann Williams
Rep. Rob Martwick
Rep. Jaime Andrade
The Illinois Republican Party, meanwhile, called the Democratic legislators' school tour a "political stunt."
Steven Yaffe, spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party, released this statement Thursday:
For those that claim to care about giving every child a quality education, it is stunningly hypocritical that Democratic State Reps. Will Guzzardi, Ann Williams, Jaime Andrade and Rob Martwick would spend this morning playing politics, rather than working in Springfield to pass a clean education bill. This is nothing but a political stunt to distract from the fact that House Democrats have failed to even vote on legislation to ensure that schools open on time in the fall. Instead of spending their morning conducting a politicized school tour, these representatives should get down to Springfield immediately and work across the aisle to pass a balanced, paid-for education bill.