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Democrats Question Salary Of Education Secretary

WUIS/Brian Mackey

Democrats in the Illinois House Thursday held a hearing over the salary for one of Gov. Bruce Rauner's top aides.

The issue is not that Education Secretary Beth Purvis is being paid $250,000 a year, but where the money is coming from. Rather than the relatively small budget for governor's staff, her salary comes out of the Department of Human Services.

It's not an uncommon practice, but Rauner targeted human services for cuts earlier this spring.

Another Rauner aide, Rich Goldberg, says the issue is just a distraction.

"I do believe this is a sham hearing, held simply to distract the public from a $4 billion budget hole you just created," Goldberg said. "I think everybody knows that."

But Democrats like Rep. Greg Harris say it matters because so many human services are on the chopping block.

"It could have paid for a year of fully licensed daycare for 29 toddlers, or it could have fed 400 kids in daycares for half a year, or it could have housed 12 people with severe mental illness through the bridge subsidy program," Harris said.

Goldberg initially tried to portray the questions about Purvis' salary as sexist. The administration issued a statement detailing the salaries of some of the highest-paid legislative staffers.

Democratic Representative Kathleen Willis said she took offense at the attempt to make it an issue of gender.

"It has absolutely nothing to do with gender. In fact, we're not even necessarily questioning the worth of Ms. Purvis," Willis said. "Her resume speaks for itself. We're questioning why it's in this department's budget."

Purvis did not make an appearance at the hearing.

Lisa Ryan is a graduate student in the public affairs reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She previously worked at Indiana Public Radio and the college radio station founded by David Letterman. She is a 2014 broadcast journalism and political science graduate of Ball State University.
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