Saturday, April 23, 2016

What's Next?: Will We Ever Get a Budget? Will Social Services Ever Be Funded? Will the State Universities?

Now many of the politicians in our state are busy high-fiving each other over temporarily “saving” the state’s public higher education system. Republican Senate leader Christine Radogno claimed ". . . I do think we deserve some legitimate credit for coming together." Coming together to do what exactly? The Chicago Tribune described the stop-gap funding as a “life preserver.” More like a bone. Obviously something is better than nothing, just ask the providers of social services this state government continues to starve, just ask the hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents dependent upon those services. So things could be worse.

I don’t know how anyone else feels about this theater of the absurd, but watching elected officials in this state turn their collective backs on our young peole and most vulnerable citizens does not make me want to celebrate. In a state notable for its political disgraces, the fiasco that continues to unfold in Springfield must rank right at the top. I think it fair to say that the Illinois state government has become the gold standard for dysfunction in a nation with numerous political systems that have virtually ceased to operate.

Whenever there is a difference between rhetoric and behavior, behavior is the truest indicator of a person’s feelings. Using that yardstick, here are some of the messages I take away from the state’s ongoing budget crisis and yesterday’s action:

First, higher education is not important. Universities and Community Colleges must beg for money because they are filled with undeserving and parasitical employees and students who don’t deserve to be educated (unless, of course, they can afford to go to a private or for-profit college). Remember, a few months ago, our governor famously described one state university’s spending as “throwing money down the toilet.”

Second, since students are not deserving of an education, the message that there is nothing for them in Illinois comes through clearly. Therefore, parents of potential students and students making decisions about where to attend college should consider alternatives to our state universities. I’m sure we’ll see this borne out in the fall.

Third, a number of good, hard-working persons have already or will soon lose their jobs. For no other reason than our state officials failed to do theirs. Legislators, please ask these men and women how they feel about your solution to the ongoing budget crisis, about your “life preserver” or newfound bi-partisan accord. Please ask persons who must take huge pay cuts to retain their jobs the same thing.

Fourth, unless a budget agreement comes soon, all the at-risk universities and their remaining students will be facing the same crisis again in a few months. This time, however, they will have no reserves with which to operate while the legislature and governor twiddle their collective thumbs. The result will obviously be catastrophic.

With the state university system in crisis, our pusillanimous lawmakers came up with a temporary fix that cannot even be called palliative. More like a band-aid on a gunshot wound. If our legislature’s intent is something other than the destruction of the state university system, they had better figure out a way to solve this problem. After all, don’t they get elected to do that?

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