An early test for a governor wannabe

Four years ago today, August 27, 2004, I issued a challenge that I’ll once again repeat: any Republican considering a run for governor needs to get serious about education reform.

My favorite story from the 2006 election cycle was when one of the Republican candidates asked his highly paid consultants, “Can I win without the teacher unions?” A clear thinking staffer told me afterwards that the better question was actually, “can he win with the teacher unions?”

There isn’t any reason to elect Republicans who will work against genuine school reform, so no GOP candidate should bother running if he or she is going to take teacher union campaign donations.

Even though the 2010 race for Illinois governor won’t begin in earnest for a while, there is an opportunity for would-be candidates to show leadership right now. Unfortunately, the Republican bully pulpit on state issues is not currently being used.

With one piece of legislation, Illinois politicians are attempting to raise the state personal income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent, and the state corporate income tax from 4.8 percent to 8 percent.

One school of thought holds that since Gov. Rod Blagojevich is too smart to sign a law increasing the income tax by 67 percent, enough Republican legislators could be won over (with goodies promised to schools within their legislative districts) to help provide a veto-proof majority.

It’s not enough that the public school establishment has a monopoly over education tax dollars, control of every student whose parents can’t afford private school, and has enjoyed between 6 and 7 percent increases in funding levels for better than 20 years.

They want more and they want it now.

Ralph Martire, a former Mike Madigan staffer who heads the Democrat/union front group ‘Center for Tax and Budget Accountability’ is continuing his disinformation tour throughout the state.

No doubt there are districts out there with legitimate budget problems. Note I say legitimate. Most school districts operate in the red because they are undisciplined spenders and don’t have the ability to stand up to the administrators or unions.

Thus, compensation packages are so far out of touch with reality that “structural deficits” occur.

Incessant cries to the contrary, there is plenty of money in the public school system to meet the needs of those districts with genuine needs. This is where the General Assembly has a role to play. Rather than rewarding the inefficiency of the over-spenders, the spigot should be shut off and the tax money sent to where the needs are real.

The public is wising up to the lie that more money equals better schools. Parents and community leaders are increasingly aware that rather than the money being “for the kids,” it winds up in enormous pay increases for administrators and teachers and has zero impact on the quality of education.

Here is where our Republican leaders need to step up. It’s easy for tax-eaters to organize – they’re paid to do so. It’s not as easy for those of us who earn the money that funds the schools to find the time to organize opposition.

When it comes to hot button issues like the funding of public education, some Republican legislators seem to think they are neutral observers. They set themselves apart from the debate and pretend to be honest brokers. That silliness might be okay for those who are content to be useless backbenchers, but anyone who sees a governor in the mirror must show leadership on this issue.

Previously we’ve said this: “Now is the time for incumbent legislators to stand up and speak the truth about government sponsored education in Illinois: we do not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.”

The good news for any potential Republican leader is that they don’t have to invent or reinvent the wheel – they need only learn about solutions already outlined.

It’s not too early for the wannabes to start impressing us with their leadership abilities and to show us why we should invest money, trust, and energy into would-be campaigns for governor. If a candidate doesn’t get this issue, they probably won’t get much else. And if they won’t lead here, hope for their leadership in other areas is probably a waste of time.

Again, I said much of this exactly the same way four years ago, but it has to be said again.