Western Courier

State schools still need help

Brady Smith

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The bleeding continues among Illinois universities and community colleges. With the stopgap budget expiring at the end of 2016, Illinois is back to square one on the issue of a budget. A new bill is currently being discussed in the state senate that would provide funding to Illinois’ schools. The funding is attached to a large series of proposals in the senate that, among other things, range from a tax on sugary drinks to taxes on corporations and income tax hikes. Most of these items are still fluid. Should the higher education portion remain as is, it would return funding to the amounts appropriated before this entire debacle began. Western Illinois University would see over $11.5 million go its way, coupling with the November allocation from the State Board of Education. While it is fantastic to see a real possibility for funding for the state’s universities, there are several elephants in the room that must first be acknowledged.

While all state schools would receive funding equal to the level from the 2014-15 fiscal year, many of these schools will be using this money to pay off expenditures acquired previously. Schools that didn’t receive as big of a piece of the stopgap pie in the past, such as Southern Illinois University, will obtain more significant funding to match up with dollar amount from the 2015 fiscal year. The number for Southern is $93.4 million. It is a bad “I Love Lucy” episode with water pouring into a boat; we just have to decide which end of the vessel we ought to bail the water from. While the passing of the stopgap was a tremendous step in the right direction, this nightmare that Illinois schools have been dealing with is a mirror image of our state finances as a whole.

Attempting to pay off debts incurred in the past in a last ditch effort to stay afloat is exhausting. From the State’s view, it exhausts citizens and businesses that rely on state contracts and social programs. From a school’s perspective, it exhausts the faculty and staff who are sick of having to worry about if they will have a job next month or if they will be forced to furlough. It is exhausting to the students who are seeing their desired classes and programs cut, and it is exhausting to admissions numbers. What parent wants to send their child to an underfunded school? What business owner wants to invest in a state that is attempting to pay off billions in debt by raising taxes but refuses to quit spending? It is apparent that the more complex the politicians in Springfield have forced this process to become, the harder it is to keep our heads above the water. The growing size of the bureaucracy, as well as career politicians in Springfield, is what is to thank for this. If the Speaker in the State House had chosen to rise to the occasion and serve the citizens who elected him, and chose not to fall to his stubborn tendencies, we would not still be drowning. Regardless, that inflexibility is going to cause a rift Illinois’ schools for years to come as they all fight to recover from the intransigence of politicians

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
State schools still need help