Social Work News

Monday, April 26

April 2010 - State Budget News Update


Around the state today, the Responsible Budget Coalition (of which the NASW Illinois Chapter is a member) is holding press conferences in eight different cities throughout Illinois. The RBC brings together many diverse organizations that represent and serve millions of Illinois residents. The NASW Illinois Chapter, along with its fellow members of the RBC, is committed to building the support needed to solve Illinois' budget crisis, prevent harmful cuts to essential public services, save jobs, eliminate the state's long-term structural deficit, and make taxes fairer.

Around the state today, the Responsible Budget Coalition (of which the NASW Illinois Chapter is a member) is holding press conferences in eight different cities throughout Illinois. The RBC brings together many diverse organizations that represent and serve millions of Illinois residents. The NASW Illinois Chapter, along with its fellow members of the RBC, is committed to building the support needed to solve Illinois' budget crisis, prevent harmful cuts to essential public services, save jobs, eliminate the state's long-term structural deficit, and make taxes fairer. The message at today’s Press Stand-Ups is simple—Go back and do the job right. Pass a responsible budget. The alternative is unacceptable. NASW Illinois members are participating in these conferences taking place in Chicago, Rockford, Moline, Peoria, Quincy, Decatur, East St. Louis, and Vienna. I attended the Chicago news conference in which a wide variety of agencies were represented including Lutheran Social Services, Erie Neighborhood House, Heartland Alliance, and others. Long time NASW Illinois member and school social worker, Galen Thomas, spoke at the Vienna news conference this morning in southern Illinois. The following are his remarks:


The state of Illinois currently owes Williamson County Special Education over $2 million in special education funding. We provide all the special education services to the five school districts in Williamson County. Herrin School District, where I provide most of my social work services, is owed over $800,000 in state funding. My director, Stephanie Dillard, informs me that our region has the highest poverty rate in the state of Illinois at 40%, and we have the highest percentage of our students receiving special education services. But our region receives the least amount of state education funding per capita. Chicago receives $4300 student special education funding per capita while our region receives only $2100. When the funding formula actually cuts funding to impoverished districts like Cairo, something is very wrong.

Our students suffer every time they cannot find a dentist because the state funding has been delayed so much it is hard to find a dentist to take the medical card. They suffer when they have to be put on a waiting list because the budget has been cut at the community mental health program. They suffer when they cannot get enrolled in a pre-kindergarten program to prepare them to learn when they reach mandatory school attendance age. And the list goes on.
   
Personally, when I retire this year, my position will not be filled because of budget shortfalls. I feel sorry for the remaining school social workers and psychologists who will have to figure out how to provide services to the five schools that I have been serving. But some school districts are cutting positions even more drastically up and down the state.

Some people are upset that the legislators cut the spring session short rather than stay in Springfield and work on the budget. I would recommend that the legislators not return to Springfield until both Republicans and Democrats are ready to pass a fair, responsible budget. How much money could be saved if they simply stayed in their local districts where they would be more readily accessible to their constituents?

Thank you for the opportunity to express these comments.

Posted on 04/26/10 at 04:23 AM

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