MOLINE — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner wants to shake up the state's education system by introducing more charter schools and taking on teachers unions.
Mr. Rauner, who has degrees from Harvard and Dartmouth College, is the former chairman of GTCR, a major Chicago-based private equity firm. The first-time political candidate campaigned in the Quad-Cities on Thursday and met with reporters at St. Giuseppe's Heavenly Pizza in Moline.
St. Giuseppe's is owned by former GOP Congressman Bobby Schilling, who spoke favorably of Mr. Rauner but fell short of endorsing his candidacy for governor.
Mr. Rauner has long been involved with the charter school movement in Chicago. If elected to the governor's office, he said he would push for more competition among schools across Illinois.
"I think we've got to create competition and choice to the broken monopoly that's our system," he said. "We need charter schools, we need vouchers."
Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run and usually have more freedom in choosing a curriculum than public schools. They also often hire non-union teachers.
Illinois has a cap of 120 charter schools, with a maximum of 75 allowed in Chicago and 45 for the rest of the state. That cap, Mr. Rauner said, is supported by teachers' unions and should be lifted.
"The reality is our school districts are controlled by the teacher's unions and their allies," he said. "The schools in Illinois are run for the benefit of the adults in the building rather than for the benefit of the schoolchildren and their parents."
Mr. Rauner said parents should be allowed to choose which public school their children attend.
"We should have vouchers, so that when a school is failing parents can afford to take their child to whatever schools work for them," he said.
Mr. Rauner also said teachers should not be forced to join a union if they don't want to. In Illinois, teachers can be required to pay a fee to a union as a condition of continued employment.
He also said he would work to end the tenure system for teachers, which critics say makes it harder to fire teachers.
"I don't believe there should be tenure for teachers," Mr. Rauner said. "Nobody should have a job for life guaranteed."
Mr. Rauner is running against state senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard and state treasurer Dan Rutherford for the 2014 Republican nomination for governor. On the Democratic side, Gov. Pat Quinn is being challenged in the primary election by Bill Daley, the former White House Chief of Staff.