Focus on Illinois Education: Gathering Budget Victims’ Impact Statements

July 19, 2010

Today we have a guest blog by Jim Broadway, publisher of the State School News Service in Illinois. (To subscribe to Jim's free updates on public education in Illinois, click here.) At HSC, we know that education budget cuts can have a real impact on kids' wellness and opportunity to learn. We encourage you to share your experiences through the State School News survey; we'll keep you posted on the results.

When
Illinois legislators finally get around to generating the revenue for a
realistic budget, probably around January, they may also decide whose pain most
needs to be addressed.

Folks
affected by education program cuts will need to have spoken up.

For
example, Agriculture Education was zeroed out of the FY 2011 budget even though
this low-cost line in the ISBE budget has helped nurture 26,000 future farmers
in nearly 320 high schools and served up to a half-million Agriculture Literacy
Coalition participants each year.

That’s
a lot of outreach pouring from a program directly related to Illinois’
important farm economy for a measly $3 million. But the money’s gone now. Can
it be brought back? What about all the others?

After
school and summer programs, arts and language, school breakfast incentives,
mentoring programs for teachers and principals, National Board Certification,
Grow Your Own Teachers, bilingual education and early childhood – all took a hit [pdf] or were erased entirely.

Why
doesn’t SSNS just write compelling articles about the value of each program
that has fallen victim to the budget axe of legislative timidity? I’d love to,
really. It would please me greatly to spin out an ode to agriculture. But I
don’t know beans about raising beans.

The
same is true of all the other budget axe victims. I need to hear from teachers
and administrators, sure, but also from students, from their parents and
others, practitioners of affected professions, from citizens whose concern
arises from a personal sense of loss.

Here’s
how witnesses for these programs can testify without having to sign in at a
legislative hearing. Click this link, complete the brief survey form and click
“submit.” It’s that simple.

For
each program that gets a response, I’ll write a summary and attach all
witnesses’ statements in the order they are received – identifying the writers
only by their first names and the county where they live. The most popular
programs will evoke the most powerful stories.

There’s
no hurry. We’ll leave the survey form on line throughout the summer, and we’ll
update you on a regular basis as testimony is received and stories about
important educational programs, stories from the heart of those affected, are
posted and begin to grow.

What
do you have to do? Just be sure to share the survey form link with everyone you
think would like to have a say about a program of concern to them. We’ll do the
rest. By the time the legislators return to the Capitol freshly reelected,
we’ll give them something to think about.

Is
this just a ploy to get someone else to write while I’m gone this week? Maybe
it is. But if anyone out there cares about budget victim programs, we’ll be
sure to communicate that concern where it will do the most good. Thank you in
advance.

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