J.B. Pritzker has made a name for himself as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, including leading in the creation of a non-profit small business incubator called 1871 that has resulted in 7,000 new technology jobs in his home state of Illinois over the past five years. But ask him what’s the smartest investment a society can make and he’s quick to answer: education. That’s a major reason why the 135,000-member Illinois Education Association recommended him for governor in the Democratic primary. Said educator Kathi Griffin, IEA president, “It was Pritzker’s strong commitment to funding K-12 education, his promise to invest in higher education, his pledge to protect collective bargaining rights and his willingness to enact a progressive income tax that matched our goals for public education in Illinois.”
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Pritzker is locked in one of the most closely watched governor races against incumbent and private school voucher supporter Bruce Rauner. Following are five useful facts about Pritzker for education voters.
Advocating for Access to Early Childhood Education for 20 Years
“I believe there isn’t a better investment we can make as a society than to invest in our youngest children. Study after study shows how important education is for kids age three and under,” said Pritzker. He and his wife, M.K., are funding a research-based policy initiative to “promote high quality early learning and development.” The early childhood education initiative is partnering with several national organizations that have strong community ties to enhance
local support for children from birth to age three and their families. The Pritzkers put up $6.5 million to support a one-year pilot. Additionally, Pritzker has proposed a comprehensive birth-to-five educational system.
Vows To Eliminate State’s Private School Voucher Program
Pritzker has vowed to eliminate Gov. Rauner’s voucher program, euphemistically called education tax credits. “I am opposed to that $75 million tax credit, that school voucher program he’s [Rauner] created,” Pritzker said. “We should as soon as possible do away with it.” Pritzker called Rauner’s program a “backdoor voucher program.” Rauner “took it [funding] out of the public school system. That is what he did. He took it out of the public school funding and moved it into this private tax credit. That is a problem because we are already underfunding our public schools. So to take it out and put it into this private tax credit system seems to me very unfair to public schools.”
Sees Investing in Education as a Priority
Pritzker plans to increase K-12 public school funding, because “the state hasn’t done enough to help children in every school thrive,” he said. “I’m focused on … making sure that every child in the state of Illinois gets a quality education. And that means passing a progressive income tax so we can lower people’s property taxes and lower our dependency on property taxes for our education system.” Illinois currently has one of the least progressive tax systems in the country.
Will Use Tax System To Create Equitable Education Funding
Pritzker wants to put an end to Rauner’s budget brinkmanship when it comes education and other vital public services and implement a progressive tax system that taxes wealthier people and corporations at a higher rate. “Last year Bruce Rauner forced a school funding crisis on Illinois,” Pritzker said. “Rauner has taken every opportunity to jeopardize funding for our schools, destabilizing our education system and creating division in our state.” He explained, “We have to change the flat tax system – the regressive system that we’ve got in the state of Illinois of income taxes to a progressive income tax system, but simultaneously, we’ve got to lower local property taxes. I think this collectively will allow us to reduce the burden on middle-class families and those striving to get to the middle class and also increase the amount of funding that we get for K-12 education.”
Opposes Janus Court Ruling Silencing Educators, Public Service Workers
Often unmentioned in news stories about last month’s blockbuster Janus v. AFSCME decision by the U.S. Supreme Court was the role of Rauner in initiating the case. Described as a “blatant political attack to further rig our economy and democracy against everyday Americans in favor of the wealthy and powerful,” the case and Rauner’s involvement was panned by Pritzker. He said Rauner “used the Supreme Court as his instrument to attack working families, to lower wages, to lower workplace safety.” He added, “This case is a clear attack on workers’ ability to stand up for better conditions at work, and it all started with Bruce Rauner, who was the original plaintiff in the case.”