Education, finances focus of new 49th Senate race
BY ERIKA WURST firstname.lastname@example.org October 25, 2012 5:00PM
49th District state senate race
Current office: Plainfield village trustee
Current office: Will County Regional Superintendent of Schools
Updated: November 27, 2012 11:03AM
As Will County Regional Superintendent of Schools, Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant has always valued education. And that won’t change if she’s elected to the state Senate seat in the newly drawn 49th District, she said.
Bertino-Tarrant is facing off against Republican candidate Garrett Peck, a Plainfield village trustee.
Both candidates say education and job training will help fuel the economy, and will be key issues to focus on if they are elected. The way they will tackle these issue is quite different, however.
As a former teacher, principal and current regional superintendent, Bertino-Tarrant said she will fight to preserve early childhood learning programs that give local students a head start on academic success. She said she will use her experience in education to ensure the area gets a fair share of education funding, and will continue to protect resources for education in Springfield.
During his campaign, Peck has proposed eliminating the cap on charter schools to help get local education back on track.
“Charter schools are a proven-effective public school system that functions under less bureaucracy,” he said.
The best overall strategy for improving public education is to allow money to follow the student instead of bureaucracy, he said.
In addition to education reform, budget reform is on each candidate’s high-priority list. Spending in Springfield needs to be curbed, and budgets need to get under control, they both said.
“There appears to be a haphazard approach to the budgeting process, and politicians need to remember there are faces behind every cut,” Bertino-Tarrant said.
She said the budget needs a thorough review in order to eliminate waste and set priorities. During her five years as regional superintendent, Bertino-Tarrant said she reduced the budget every year while maintaining services. She also gave up her salary for five months while the state struggled to meet its obligations to educators. She said she understands that when legislators don’t provide sound fiscal leadership, it’s working families who feel the effects.
Peck said he decided to run for higher office to fix the mess in Springfield.
“I was finally so fed up with over a decade of mismanagement. I just couldn’t take it anymore and decided to try and do something about it,” he said.
The most perilous issue is the state budget, he said.
“The continued practice of borrowing to pay bills has to stop,” he said. “The accumulation of debt by the state in relation to pensions must stop, and our Medicaid providers must be paid on time.
“We can’t spend more than we take in. We have to stop the borrowing and start paying our bills on time,” he said.
If elected, Peck said he will work to repeal Gov. Pat Quinn’s 67 percent tax increase — which Peck said has been driving jobs out of state.
He supports a uniform tax policy that will provide a level playing field on which all employers can compete. Reforms to worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance are also key economic growth and job creation issues, Peck said.
In order to get the state on track, Bertino-Tarrant points to small business and job creation as key.
“We need to provide incentives to our small businesses to promote job creation, reduce red-tape by reviewing regulations and promote meaningful job training programs,” she said. “Years of mismanagement have created this problem, and it will take people willing to work with others to get it back on the right track. Extreme politics will not solve the problems and concerns that I am hearing as I walk neighborhoods and listen to voters in my area.”
When it comes to human services, Peck said his aim is to reattain and maintain high standards which will protect the state’s most vulnerable residents.
“Despite our high taxes in Illinois, we rank near the bottom of the country in regard to funding the mentally disabled,” Peck said. “Our state has answered budget shortfalls with devastating cuts to these citizens and our families while refusing to address corruption and waste that annually cost this state hundreds of millions of dollars, simply because to do so is politically inconvenient.”
Bertino-Tarrant said she has made a career of working with a diverse group of people. She said she has never let partisanship interfere with what is needed for the task at hand.
For Peck, compromise is also an important tool that “must be employed by both parties for the greater good of the community.”