During a press conference in Chicago Friday, Gov. Bruce Rauner apologized for calling half of Chicago Public School teachers “illiterate” and half of the district’s principals “incompetent."
Following a brief interruption by members of the Chicago Teachers Union, Rauner was prompted about his incendiary claims, which were revealed Thursday in e-mails released under court order by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office.
“Let me be very clear, I apologize for the statement that i made in that email in 2011,” Rauner said. “The remarks there were inaccurate and intemperate and I apologize to the teachers and I regret those comments.”
The Chicago Tribune uncovered the e-mails between Rauner and other wealthy education activists through a Freedom of Information Act request. Rauner, who was actively involved in Chicago school reform in 2011, pushed for changes to CPS' teacher evaluations in the e-mail in question.
Rauner’s office released a statement apologizing for the e-mail Thursday, but this was the first time the governor addressed the controversy publicly.
After signing a pair of bills Friday that address teacher training and standardized testing, Rauner was interrupted by members of the CTU. The teachers condemned Rauner’s comments, chastising the governor for allegedly undermining schools and social services during his first term in office.
“We are teachers and we are not illiterate,” one CTU member said during the press conference.
“Your remarks are inflammatory and Trump-like,” he added. "You need to stop this attack on public education.”
The CTU member challenged Rauner to a “read-off” based on books and literature about educational justice and civil rights. Other members of the union outlined ways the governor has “harmed education” and “destroyed” the state. The disrupters were eventually escorted out of the press conference.
The CTU issued a statement Friday, further condemning the governor for his comments.
“Contrary to the governor’s rude and inflammatory [Donald] Trump-like comments, I don’t know any illiterate teachers,” CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement. “If he thinks we’re illiterate and schools are crumbling prisons, imagine what he and his elitist buddies say about our students behind closed doors.”
Amid the backlash from the CTU, Rauner claimed he was a champion of Illinois teachers.
“I am very supportive of teachers,” the governor said during the press conference.
“We need to make sure that our system supports all teachers and to make sure our teachers reach their fullest potential and that we have good teachers in every classroom,” he added.
Rauner expounded on his commitment to education during the press conference, claiming that "the primary reason” he ran for governor was to address schools. Rauner noted that he has increased state school funding and plans to revamp the state’s controversial school funding formula.
“I am very passionate about education,” Rauner said. "Education is the most important thing we do together as a community. This is our children’s future and every child in every neighborhood in every community deserves a good education.”