Bruce Rauner’s War on Education

The title of this blog is merely an opinion however; it is the opinion of many people who call the state of Illinois home and attend and work at its many public universities.

Last week, I wrote an article which reflected my job search as a new college graduate looking for a job in my fields of study. I was fortunate enough to graduate before Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s war on education was fully waged. There are now thousands of college students in Illinois who risk not graduating and not finishing college due to the budget crisis in the state. Many of these students come from low income families, and education may very well be the only path to successful careers and a life inside of an office building instead of the streets and in the prison system. But that is not the concern of Mr. Rauner, his concern is corporate welfare and tax cuts for the rich first, all else is secondary.

Bruce Rauner was elected governor of Illinois on November 4, 2014. He promised to “Shake up Springfield” which is without any doubt perhaps the most corrupt state capital in the Union. He promised to eliminate wasteful spending, cut cronyism, bring business and industry back to the state, and reduce the deficit. After one year in office, he has not done any of that. His failure thus far is not entirely his fault, he is up against a General Assembly which has a super majority of Democrats, and House Speaker Micheal Madigan is another person who doesn’t like to budge on the issues. However; as the Chief Executive and head of the state, it is Rauner’s duty to bring people together, not to divide and  to pass a budget which the state constitution calls for.

Illinois has been without a budget since July of 2015. The main cause of this issue is due to Mr. Rauner’s demands of getting his way and what he wants, otherwise he refuses to pass  a budget. Millions of Illinoisans are suffering as a result, social services are quickly running out of money putting low income families at risk, funds for community centers which provide essential services such as English lessons for the immigrants who call such communities home and offer GED services are cutting back, closing several days out of the week or shutting down completely because the state funds they rely on to operate are not available. The Albany Park Community Center in Chicago is just one example. Albany Park, a neighborhood on Chicago’s north side is a very diverse community, many of its residents are immigrants who rely on the center to learn English, many others rely on it as mentioned, for GED services.

Despite all of the state services which are not being paid for and the many state workers who are receiving paychecks only because of court orders, not to mention the Secretary of State does not have the funds to mail out notices for license plate expiration, perhaps the hardest hit are the state’s public universities. This has resulted in drops in enrollment because students simply cannot afford to pay tuition on their own and with the Monetary Awards Program (MAP Grant)  which is funded through the state budget and given to low income students with excellent academic performance has no funding, many low income students simply cannot return to class, this may very well result in further crime and violence in Chicago which has already seen far too much this year already. Studies have proven, poverty leads to crime. If it were not for government aid and grants, I would not have been able to attend college. Chicago State University which serves mostly low income African Americans says that they may have to close their doors soon because they can not operate much longer without funding (Progessillinois.com). The Chicago Urban League has set forth provisions for the governor and the General Assembly which can be found here, http://progressillinois.com/news/content/2016/01/19/illinois-budget-impasse-impacting-higher-education-enrollment. Other universities in the state are dipping into reserves, laying off professors, and cutting programs, and are also on the brink of closing their doors. This quote from the Wall St. Journal shows the General Assembly wants to fund education but Rauner will not budge.

“Democrats last week asked for $168 million to pay the schools back the money they fronted to cover the grants. Mr. Rauner shot back that the state’s public higher education system was filled with cronyism, waste and inefficiencies that need to be rooted out.

A memo signed by his deputy chief of staff and circulated among Republican lawmakers says university tuition rates have tripled in 14 years, producing $1.5 billion in new revenue over which the general assembly has no control” http://www.wsj.com/articles/illinois-budget-deadlock-hits-college-enrollments-1453160940.

I don’t know what else to call this other than a war on education, and this is even more evident as Mr. Rauner refuses to talk to Mayor Emanuel and fix the CPS system instead of attacking it.

There is no doubt that there is cronyism in some of the public universities in the state, there is corruption, even at the community college level, just look at what happened at DuPage County College. There is no doubt that cronyism and corruption needs to be rooted out and tuition rates frozen, but this is no reason to not fund the state’s universities and allow millions the right to education, after all, education is the key to success. If Mr. Rauner truly cares about the young people in this state and those who are parents going back to college to better provide for their families, he will at least agree to fund the universities and then deal with the issues that lie within them and continue to negotiate a budget. However; it seems that Mr. Rauner will continue his war on higher education and lower education for that matter putting millions at risk and digging an even deeper hole for the state. He will continue to wage his war on unions until they no longer exist and worker rights are merely fantasy and attack teachers. I fear for those undergraduates who will have no aid to pay their tuition, and those who like myself, once we pay down some of our undergraduate loans and go back for our Masters Degree, may be paying for it out of our own pockets.

All I and all Illinoisans are asking of you for Governor Rauner is to do your job, to abide by the Illinois State Constitution which you swore to protect and to follow. Allow people the right and the privilege to education and success and put your demands aside until a budget is in place. This is all we want Mr. Rauner. Illinois needs reform, but not at the expense of millions of people suffering.

In my mind, if there is no budget in place by July 2016, the one year mark of Illinois operating without a budget, the General Assembly needs to send a message and hold and pass a vote of no confidence against the governor, this madness simply cannot go on.

SPRINGFIELD, PLEASE PASS A BUDGET AND FUND THE FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN.

-Brett T. Mazzoni

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