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Advocates Push Gov. Rauner to Restore Education Funding

Illinois community activists want public funding restored for education and after school programs. (iStockphoto)
Illinois community activists want public funding restored for education and after school programs. (iStockphoto)
January 27, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Ahead of Gov. Bruce Rauner's second State of the State Address today, community activists are calling attention to how the Illinois budget impasse is affecting their lives. Illinois is about to enter its eighth month without a budget, which has led to severe cutbacks for many state services.

Teen Reach, a statewide after-school program, has seen more than a dozen sites shut down due to lack of state funding. Chicagoan Rosalina Chavez says she and her 12-year-old son James relied on the Teen Reach program at Burroughs Elementary, until it was shuttered last year.

"It is very hard for me to be at work and knowing that my son has to walk five blocks in not such a good neighborhood, and constantly calling him to see if he made it home OK," says Chavez.

Community groups, including the Grassroots Collaborative, are asking Gov. Rauner and the General Assembly to take responsibility for ending the impasse and restoring funding for these programs.

Also this week, the Pew Charitable Trusts published its "State of the States" series, which focuses on local policy fixes. Scott Greenberger, executive editor with Pew, says in addition to social services cuts, one of Illinois' biggest issues is lack of funding for higher education.

"Really, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Governor Rauner and legislators to figure something out," says Greenberger. "It's an issue that affects so many thousands of Illinois families who have children in the public colleges and universities."

According to the local watchdog group Reboot Illinois, in Rauner's first year in office, the higher education budget was slashed by almost a half-billion dollars, money that has sat unused since last July due to the budget impasse.

Chavez is urging Gov. Rauner to reconsider his suspension of millions of dollars in grants to social services, after-school and public health programs.

"He needs to realize that I'm not the only one, there's plenty of working parents that don't have a place for their kids to go to, after school," she says. "And child care is very expensive; we cannot afford it, either."

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL