Dems fire in on Rauner’s Education Secretary

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Words were said, offense was taken and nothing was settled in a hearing Thursday on why a governor’s top staff member was being paid by the state’s Department of Human Services.

Committee chairman Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, noted Beth Purvis, a contracted employee who holds the title secretary of education, was being paid $250,000 annually by way of a department that provides services to those most in need even though it almost took a $26 million budget cut this spring.

Rich Goldberg, Rauner’s deputy chief of staff, took after the committee in his testimony, saying it was practicing a double standard.

He cited the total compensation of some top male legislative Democratic staff — which, with pension and healthcare included, reaches roughly $300,000 in two cases.

“I will not sit by and watch you berate and belittle an incredibly successful woman like Beth when those in control of this committee refuse to look in the mirror,” Goldberg said.

Several female Democratic members of the committee didn’t care for that, saying Goldberg was playing the gender card.

And, given their own successes and their earned seats in the House and on the committee, they suggested he stifle that talking point.

From there, the hearing went into closed loop.

Democrats repeatedly pressed Goldberg on why Purvis — who did not appear before the committee — couldn’t simply be paid from the primary and secondary education budget or the governor’s staff budget.

Goldberg said Purvis was a recognized child development and early childhood education expert, even a “superstar” in her field and there was nothing inappropriate about paying her from the human services budget.

He also noted that other governors, including Democrats Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn, had paid gubernatorial staff with funds from other agencies. And, he said, the  Republican Rauner administration was doing so at a rate to date about $500,000 less than Quinn had.

Democrats weren’t satisfied with what they considered the lack of an answer to a simple  question.

“My only request is that you go back to the governor’s office, speak to your counsel and find another place to pay Beth Purvis out of the state budget,” said state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago.

Republicans decried the hearing as a “sham, charade and show trial.”

The panel adjourned with Harris reminding the Rauner administration that it would like a list of all of the governor’s staff paid from other departments’ budgets.

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