Following Gov. Bruce Rauner's comments on Monday criticizing teachers' unions, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis swung back at the Republican over his decision to cut funding for social services while refusing to ask the wealthiest Illinoisans to pay their "fair share" in taxes.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Lewis compared Rauner to Mr. Burns, the rich villain in the cartoon The Simpsons.
"It's ridiculous to say he's out of touch because it's a cliche. But he's such a cliche. He's got that whole Montgomery Burns thing going on," the labor leader said of Rauner.
Speaking in Chicago on Monday before the Education Writers Association, Rauner slammed the Chicago Public Schools system for spending too much money on "bureaucracy" and for functioning in the past as a "political patronage operation." He also took jabs at teachers' unions.
"I love teachers. Teachers union -- you know what? The schools don't belong to the teachers union. They have a voice. They should have a voice," the governor said. "The schools don't belong to the teachers union. They belong to the parents and the taxpayers of the system. That's where the power should be. That's where the decisions should be made. We gotta change that whole conversation in Illinois. The power should be with the people."
In response to Rauner's comments, Lewis told the newspaper, "I agree with that. Power to the parents and power to the community," adding that, "When he says 'taxpayers' I don't know what that means because I don't know anybody who doesn't pay taxes -- except for his class."
Earlier this month, Rauner suspended some $26 million in grant funds to social services and public health care providers in an effort to plug this year's budget deficit. A few days later, Rauner decided to grant $100 million in corporate tax breaks that were OK'ed under former Gov. Pat Quinn, but had yet to be awarded.
"Cutting autism programs on World Autism Day? Who does that?" Lewis said of Rauner's funding suspensions. "The problem is revenue. If members of his class pay their fair share," that would help ease Illinois' budgetary pressures.