IEA President: Gov. Rauner should stop campaigning, start governing

Many people have told me they are puzzled by the behavior of Gov. Bruce Rauner. They can’t understand why, five months after winning the election, he is still campaigning.

I’ve seen this behavior many times in my classroom. It’s called task avoidance, defined as purposefully avoiding something because of fears that it’s too hard or that it can’t be done without help.

This is the only rational explanation as to why the governor spends his days promoting ideas no one wants to solve problems that don’t exist.

For example, almost daily, the governor tells local government leaders they should designate areas in their communities where employers can cut wages and benefits without worrying about unions defending working people against exploitation.

By seeking local approval of these misleadingly named “right-to-work zones” (even though they provide no right to a job), the governor is asking communities to commit hurtful acts against their own citizens to achieve an undesirable outcome that will damage local and state economies.

According to a just-released report by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, if half of Illinois’ counties became right-to-work zones:

• total labor income would fall by $1.3 billion,

• the economy would shrink by $1.5 billion,

• state and local tax revenues would be reduced by $80 million, and

• racial-income and gender-income inequality both would increase.

Understandably, most local governments are unenthusiastic about this idea. Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the concept is illegal. Yet the governor acts as if none of that matters. His campaign continues.

Then there are his relentless attacks on the free-speech rights of public employees.

One of the ways that education employees advocate for students and schools is by supporting candidates who believe in public education. There are hundreds of thousands of tax-paying education employees who seek to be heard on education issues, as they should. After all, who knows more about what students need than teachers?

Yet, if the governor has his way, the voice of teachers through their unions would be silenced. He prefers that those seeking to use massive personal wealth to support politicians who want to cut public school funding and privatize public schools not be challenged by those who are experts on students’ needs.

It’s time for Gov. Rauner to face his task-avoidance problem. Illinois still needs more and better jobs with good pay and benefits. Our pre-kindergarten through grade 12 public schools remain underfunded. The governor’s proposed cuts for Illinois’ colleges and universities are an outrage.

He must accept a simple fact: these problems won’t be solved by silencing teachers or attacking unions.

It’s time to govern. That means, in addition to providing his own ideas for solving problems, Gov. Rauner should listen to what others — who are experts in their fields — have to say.

It’s time to end the campaign and start solving problems together.

— Cinda Klickna is president of the Illinois Education Association, which represents 130,000 current and retired teachers and education professionals. She lives in Springfield.