Biss calls for education reform, criticizes Rauner at campus discussion


Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

Gubernatorial candidate and State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) speaks at Fisk Hall on Saturday. At the event, part of Biss’ ongoing college tour, he criticized Gov. Bruce Rauner and expressed his ideas for reforming Illinois.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Reporter

State Sen. and gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) condemned Gov. Bruce Rauner’s policies and promoted his own proposals to reform Illinois at Northwestern on Saturday.

Biss responded to questions from audience members and philosophy Prof. Jennifer Lackey, who moderated the event. The discussion, held in Fisk Hall with about 40 people, was part of Biss’ 10-day “Road Forward” tour of college campuses across the state.

“This is a completely unique moment in our state’s history,” Biss said. “I’ve been in the legislature throughout (Rauner’s) time as governor, watched as he’s taken the state apart brick by brick, watched as he’s viciously harmed social services, higher education and much, much more.”

Biss’ main competitors in the Democratic primary, which will take place March 20, are businessmen J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy. Both Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), have already endorsed Pritzker, who is currently leading in the polls.

Biss, however, has gained ground in recent weeks, moving into second place with nearly 40 percent of the electorate polled still undecided.

“(Durbin and Duckworth) are two people I respect, and that hasn’t changed,” Biss said. “But we’ve got to beat Bruce Rauner. … I think that the best thing that Bruce Rauner could possibly hope for from his point of view is to run against J.B. Pritzker.”

Higher education was a focal point of the discussion. Funding for state colleges fell 61 percent during the 2015-2016 school year, prompting Biss to call Rauner “the best governor the University of Wisconsin has ever had.”

Students have been leaving Illinois for college in increasing numbers, and Biss said that counselors at Evanston Township High School are telling students not to apply to public universities in the state.

“Illinois is leading the nation in harm to higher education,” Lackey said. “Issues that students are facing on job prospects later on are questions that will be salient to young people.”

Biss also pointed out that most people in their 30s today are doing worse economically than their parents were at that age. To combat this, he said he supports raising the minimum wage in Illinois to $15 an hour, and that Rauner had previously vetoed a bill that would have increased the minimum wage.

He also repeatedly claimed that healthcare should be a right rather than a privilege, and voiced his support for universal access to healthcare.

Marta Cattaneo, an Integrated Marketing Communications graduate student who attended the event, said she was inspired by Biss and his set of values.

“There is no reason why Illinois should be doing this badly as far as budgets and tax systems and growing inequality,” Cattaneo said. “Daniel today tapped into people’s hopes for a better future for Evanston, Chicago and the overall state of Illinois.”

Following the discussion, much of the audience stayed to make phone calls for Biss’ campaign. Allie McRaith, a field organizer for the campaign, said she believes the enthusiasm and excitement Biss has been building among volunteers will help him as the primary campaign enters the stretch run.

“We are surging in the polls and we have momentum on our side,” Biss said. “We have a lot of work left to do, and we are now doing it in the right kind of environment.”

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