Hundreds Head to Springfield to Demand Rauner Fund Higher Ed

Legislative Chair, Sean Noonan

Hundreds of faculty, staff and students from across Illinois rallied in Springfield on April 27 to demand Governor Rauner fund higher education. Students aren’t receive Map grants, colleges are closing programs, laying off faculty and staff due to Rauner’s efforts to starve our colleges and universities. Rally attendees sent a clear message to Rauner and his supporters that the time is now to fund education.
Under the leadership of Gov. Rauner, Illinois has been without a state budget for two years, with Rauner opposing even temporary stop gap measures that might help higher education. In the past two year, state funding for Illinois community colleges has been cut by a staggering 73%, and 160,000 Illinois students who qualify for higher education MAP grants have been denied funding.

The rally on April 27 began early, as demonstrators performed a Teach-Out on the first floor rotunda of the State Capitol building, forming groups and sharing experiences with one another. Local 1600 members shared how community colleges have felt the strain as enrollment has dropped, staff have been reduced, positions are going unfilled, and colleges such as Prairie State and South Suburban have shuttered their child care programs. Our Union brothers and sisters from Eastern Illinois University talked about their 413 cut staff positions, and faculty from NEIU talked about mandatory furlough days and their 18% pay cut. One thing was made abundantly clear: the budget impasse is destroying higher education.

After the Teach-Out, the demonstration moved outside in front of the State Capitol building. A crowd formed around the Lincoln statue as speakers called out the Governor for his continued assault on higher education. Speakers included Democratic candidates for governor Daniel Biss and J.B. Pritzker, State Representative Chris Welch, Illinois Federation of Teachers Dan Montgomery, and staff and students from colleges and universities across Illinois.

Although the rally on April 27 was a strong show of force from the colleges, universities, and unions across Illinois, there is much more to be done. We must continue to organize and push back against Rauner’s anti-education agenda and inaction on the state budget. Moreover, with Illinois Democrats in a deadlock with Gov. Rauner over the budget, and neither side showing signs of relenting, it may be that this crisis won’t be resolved until a new Governor is elected to office. Hope for higher education may well reside in efforts to elect a pro-education, pro-union governor in November of 2018. Be on the lookout for more opportunities to join us as we fight for the future of higher education.

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