Teachers back Giannoulias for Senate

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Illinois Education Association endorsed Democrat Alexi Giannoulias for U.S. Senate late Friday over his Republican opponent Mark Kirk.

The endorsement from the union representing 133,000 teachers around Illinois is not really a surprise — the union endorses Democrats far more often than Republicans. But the union has actually endorsed Mark Kirk three times in the last eight years when he ran in his Congressional district in the northern suburbs.

“Today’s endorsement reflects our belief that Alexi Giannoulias is the only candidate in this race who is a true fighter for Illinois public schools and students,’’ IEA President Ken Swanson said in a written statement. Swanson also credited Giannoulias with saying the state needed to raise taxes to fund education.

“Alexi Giannoulias shares our belief that America will only remain strong if we invest in our next generation, and that means ensuring teachers have the resources they need to succeed,” Swanson said.

Giannoulias has said he would support a state income tax hike for education if property taxes are lowered.

Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski seized on Giannoulias support of a tax hike.

“Alexi Giannoulias cannot hide his support for higher taxes on Illinois families,’’ Kukowski said. “The IEA says it is endorsing Alexi Giannoulias because of his call to raise the state income tax. We take them at their word.”

Giannoulias’ campaign points out that the IEA is one of at least five organizations that at onetime endorsed Kirk but have abandoned him for Giannoulias in this race.

That list includes Planned Parenthood — Kirk favors abortion rights, but not as strongly as Giannoulias; the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters — Kirk has cast more pro-environment votes than many other Republicans but has reversed himself on at least one major environmental initiative since this race began; and the Human Rights Campaign — Kirk voted to keep the U.S. Military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy on automatic expulsion for gay soldiers who go public. Giannoulias wants to end the policy.

“When you vote for cap and trade then say you didn’t mean it; when you say you’re pro-choice then vote . . . for the Stupak Amendment [prohibiting Health Care reform to cover abortion]; when you tell teachers you will protect them from pink slips and then vote the other way, people stop trusting you,” Giannoulias said. “Congressman Kirk continues to have a ‘truth’ issue with voters and it’s showing. The Sierra Club, the Human Rights Campaign, the League of Conservation Voters, and now the Illinois Education Association know that I say what I mean and I stand for what I believe.”

Giannoulias is finishing a swing through downstate Illinois and will hold a news conference today at Earth, Wind and Solar Energy LLC.

Likewise, Kirk is finishing a swing through downstate Illinois — he attended the Arcola Broomcorn Festival and was hitting the SIU/IU football game. He plans to march in the Mexican Independence Day Parade in Chicago Sunday.