Quinn Gets Teachers Union Support, Despite School Cuts

07/06/2010 11:30 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Less than a week ago, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a budget that included $241 million in cuts to the state's public schools. Programs will be eliminated, and teachers across the state will lose their jobs.

Still, on Tuesday, Gov. Quinn won the ringing endorsement of the Illinois Education Association, one of the two major teachers unions in the state.

The IEA approved of the governor's ultimately failed efforts to increase taxes as opposed to cutting education. But perhaps more strongly, it opposed the more radical cuts and privatizations proposed by Quinn's opponent, Republican Bill Brady.

"There never has been a more clear-cut choice for governor and lieutenant governor of Illinois," union president Ken Swanson said in a statement. "The Illinois Education Association enthusiastically recommends Governor Pat Quinn and Shelia Simon to our members and to everyone who supports public education."

The Chicago Tribune explains the move in greater detail:

The backing of the IEA, one of the two major politically active teachers' unions in Illinois, is a big victory for Quinn. Odds of the union backing Brady were slim, particularly since he opposes tax increases and backs dismantling the state's education bureaucracy. ...

Besides voicing opposition to Brady's efforts to make reductions in the state budget rather than increase revenue, Swanson noted the recent call by Brady, a state senator from Bloomington, for state employees to have self-funded 401(k) plans without a state employer contribution. Swanson also criticized Brady's support for making Illinois a "right-to-work" state that is an anathema to unions.

In March, Governor Quinn argued to the legislature that draconian cuts in school budgets would be required unless the income tax were increased from 3 percent to 4 percent. But in an election year, few legislators were eager to back a tax increase.

Quinn's most recent budget has scaled back the cuts significantly -- his March budget had a whopping $1.3 billion in school cuts. Still, the state is faced with one of the most glaringly unbalanced budgets in the country. And the $1.4 billion in total cuts to schools and human services announced by the governor on July 1 comes nowhere close to ending the $13 billion deficit.

The IEA, which represents mostly teachers in suburban school districts, did not endorse a candidate in the Rod Blagojevich-Judy Baar Topinka governor's race in 2006. It endorsed Quinn's opponent, Dan Hynes, in this year's Democratic primary, over a divisive pensions issue.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers, which represents the Chicago Teachers Union among others, has yet to make an endorsement in this race, with pensions still a major bone of contention.

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