Illinois State students are planning two trips to Springfield in the next week to raise their concerns about the impact of proposed budget cuts on higher education.
The budget cuts, proposed by Governor Bruce Rauner in February, would equate to a 31 percent cut for Illinois State and other public universities. While calling the proposal just “a starting point in a long process,” Illinois State President Larry Dietz said in a letter to the campus community that “this is obviously disturbing news for our campus community.”
In response, senior theatre education majors Katherine Apperson and Kyle Kolling and their Stand Together for Education Progress (STEP) student committee are organizing a rally in Springfield on Friday, April 17. They hope to fill the Rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol Building with students from ISU and the other state universities.
STEP understands that the state’s budget situation is not good, but the 31 percent cut is “devastating” and simply too much, said Kolling, a Des Plaines native who will be student-teaching next semester.
“We want to put a face to the cuts,” said Kolling, one of 11 students leading STEP. “I don’t think it’s a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It’s an education issue.”
They hope to bring up to 250 students to the rally from across Illinois; a related petition on Change.org has 670 signatures. They’ve been on the Quad all this week handing out buttons and pamphlets about how the cuts would affect ISU.
This is Apperson’s first big step into political activism, other than an email she once wrote to her high school district’s school board about fine arts education funding.
“I’ve not really been one for politics,” said Apperson, a Champaign native. “But there are certain causes that would push me to go in on it further, and education is one of them. I will fight for it.”
Students interested in attending the STEP on Springfield rally should email SteponSpringfield@gmail.com or join STEP’s Facebook group.
SGA’s Lobby Day
Meanwhile, the Student Government Association is planning its own Lobby Day in Springfield on Wednesday, April 22, in partnership with the Illinois Board of Higher Education Student Advisory Committee (IBHE-SAC). SGA will provide transportation and food for students interested in going.
“I think the proposed budget cuts will hurt the state of Illinois in the long run and will damage the higher education system in the state,” said new SGA President Ryan Powers.
Students who are interested in going to Lobby Day should contact Powers or Miles Spann, SGA’s secretary of governmental relations.
Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.