Kurt Erickson

Kurt Erickson

Sometimes it takes a group of school kids to get to the bottom of things.

Last week, as part of an annual class visit to the Capitol, fourth-graders from Sangamon Valley East Elementary School in Harristown got the chance to ask Gov. Bruce Rauner a series of questions.

While some of them focused on politics and government, 10-year-old Laya Gordon wanted to know what the Winnetka Republican did in his spare time.

“You played the English horn in college and won several honors for outstanding performances in playing this instrument. Do you still play this instrument?” Gordon asked.

It was a question based on research the class had done before heading over to Springfield. If you were to look up Rauner's biography on Wikipedia, there's a section which says the governor played the oboe-like instrument during his college days at Dartmouth.

Rauner, however, said the entry isn't true.

“This is a good life lesson for all of us," the governor told the class. "I never — I didn’t play the English horn. This is a good lesson and it’s OK. I get asked that question a lot, and I go 'I didn’t play the English horn.'

"We changed it. In fact, we had it removed from the website twice and someone puts it back. And I’m like, 'You’re kidding me!'” he said.

This isn't to say Rauner isn't musically inclined.

“I actually played the trumpet and I played the baritone," he said. "I can’t say I was award winning. I was pretty good, but I wasn’t award winning."

Rauner said the question is a good example of why skepticism isn't such a bad thing.

"What you read online, isn’t always necessarily true," he said. "And sometimes you’ve got to kind of be careful with it and do a little homework."

ALL WET

During a hearing before lawmakers Wednesday, the new head of the state's economic development agency offered up a recipe for how he's going to lure more companies to Illinois.

Jim Schultz, an Effingham entrepreneur tapped by Rauner to run the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said Illinois has many "hidden assets" that he's going to use in his quest to replace jobs lost in recent years.

Among them: Water.

He said he wants to go to drought-affected California and tell manufacturers what Illinois can offer.

"Come to our state, I'll give you our water. We have unlimited water," Schultz said, pointing to the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio rivers.

Note: Schultz did not mention the state also has an abundance of carp living in those waterways.

"We have so many great hidden assets. We just haven't optimized them," Schultz said. "My focus is to go out and market this state."

BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE

Before leaving town last week, members of the House voted 110-5 to create a special license plate that will raise money to pay for planting milkweed along Illinois highways.

The reason: Monarch butterflies, which are the official state insect, need the plant to survive.

"Today’s vote in the House was an overwhelming victory and demonstrated broad bipartisan support for the Illinois state insect," noted Rebecca Riley, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Follow Kurt Erickson on Twitter @Illinois_Stage

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Senior Copy Editor

Jeanette is a journalist with The Times Media Co. who has worked as both a reporter and editor. She has a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.