State lawmakers, including Gov. Pat Quinn, kept us all on pins and needles this summer as they hedged on a state budget and threatened massive cuts in services.
As the budget deadline approached, we began hearing from very frightened families who called our offices saying they’d been notified they were losing their jobs or that state waivers for special needs and aid to pay for child care were among the proposed cuts.
Under the $26 billion stopgap budget the Illinois General Assembly approved, there are still too many people wondering when cuts will come and how much they will hurt.
What is clear, though, is the government borrowed its way out of making a real decision and will try to slide through with painful cuts piece by piece. Even as I write this, the Illinois Board of Education voted to cut funding for early childhood education by 32 percent, leaving about 30,000 low-income kids out of the state’s Preschool for All program and up to 7,000 staff members out of a job. With its continuing achievement gap between white and black students, early education is definitely not a place Illinois can afford to cut.
As we send our kids back into the classrooms in a few weeks, where they will encounter hard questions, harder decisions and the fiscal limitations of their parents’ wallets, they need a better message than the one our lawmakers are sending them.
Our lawmakers should show our kids—and the rest of us—how to make the hard decisions for the betterment of Illinois families, rather than covering their hind ends, and craft a budget that makes ends meet.
It’s what we do in our own households.
No one likes to think about tax hikes, which the governor proposed and likely will propose again this fall, but something must be done to secure Illinois’ financial future, the existing services so many families rely upon and the future of today’s kids. No one should be left wondering if the assistance they so badly need will suddenly vanish.
It’s time for Illinois’ leaders to step up and lead.