Rauner Wants Private Investors To Pay For U of I Expansion

Gov. Bruce Rauner standing in front of a laboratory and speaking to a crowd.

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks following a tour of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's electrical and computer engineering building on Wednesday, June 13, 2018.

Lee V. Gaines / Illinois Public Media

Gov. Bruce Rauner said he wants to expand the University of Illinois system with billions of dollars from private investors. Rauner shared his plan with students and staff at the U of I’s Urbana campus during a tour of the university's electrical and computer engineering building on Wednesday. 

Rauner heaped praise on the U of I’s research facilities.

“I have to say -- because we were just taking a tour -- gosh, I wish I was young again. I want to come here," he said. 

The governor also lauded the state's $500 investment in the Illinois Innovation Network -- a U of I-led initiative intended to boost economic growth in the state. Rauner said he also plans to "raise billions from the private sector from entrepreneurs from business owners from corporations from around American and around the world, invest in the university of Illinois - expand here in Champaign-Urbana.”

He said he personally plans to donate to the U of I and knows many other business leaders who will do so as well. Rauner said private investment will increase research capabilites and lead to the creation of more business ventures based in Illinois. 

The Republican governor has long favored using private donations -- instead of public tax dollars -- to fund repairs to the Illinois State Fairgrounds, the governor’s mansion - and now the expansion of the state's higher education system. 

When asked what he plans to do to tackle the statewide K-12 teacher shortage, Rauner said: "I want to work out ways to pay our public school teachers more.”

The governor says schools should be able to use increased state funding to boost teacher salaries. But many districts are struggling to pay for basic materials and curriculum.

Rauner would not say whether or not he supported a bill that would raise the entry level minimum salary for K-12 teachers to $40,000 by 2022. The measure is intended to help curb the state’s teacher shortage. The bill passed both chambers and is awaiting the governor's signature. 

Rauner has long opposed teachers unions, and he’s a backer of charter schools. The governor has also pushed to expand funding for private schools -- arguably at the expense of public schools. 

Story source: WILL