By Chinta Strausberg
Just four days before a mass rally to save the Chicago State University (CSU) is scheduled, state lawmakers Friday passed a $21.1 million stopgap amendment that will keep CSU opened at least until September when elected officials say they hope they’ll have a budget.
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., who has been calling for an end to the budget impasse, said, “The rightness of our cause and the activity of the CSU students and their supporters made this happen. I strongly urge the governor to sign the bill so the students can devote all of their energies to getting an education.”
When contacted, Father Michael L. Pfleger said, “Springfield today did what should have been done a long time ago. The dysfunction of the state remains an embarrassment to the country and has men, women and children suffering throughout the state. It’s time for the governor to stop playing games with peoples’ lives.”
Reached in Springfield, both Senator Donne Trotter (D-17th) and Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-8th) said passage of SB2059 will allow CSU to remain open and that the amendment includes $169.7 million for the Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) grant program and enough money to keep city colleges open as well.
Altogether, Trotter said they passed $600 million to keep the doors of higher education open at least until September as they continue their fight to approve a FY17 budget.
The bill passed the senate 55-0 and in the House it passed 93-2 with Democrats, Reps. Scott Drury (D-58th) and Jack D. Franks (D-63rd) voting against it. In the House, Ford credited passage of the bill to Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-60th). “The governor has said he would sign the bill,” said Ford.
“The bill is the best that we’re able to come up with at this time. We have to keep fighting for social human services programs.” Ford predicts they will soon work that out as well.
Minutes later, the Senate passed the funding bill. Trotter said the MAP grant funding represents 43 percent of the budget that covers nearly a half-year’s MAP grant allocation. The funding should be enough to keep the doors open for these higher education institutions until lawmakers pass a FY17 budget.
Trotter, who chairs the Appropriation II Committee, said CSU’s $21.1 million constitutes 60 percent of their budget for a year.
Asked about the funding for the other state universities and the community colleges, Trotter said, “They got pro-rated numbers. They got 31 percent of their dollars because they too are in jeopardy, but we know CSU was on life support.”
When asked if the rally to save CSU scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Haven of Rest M.B. Church, 7925 S. South Chicago Avenue, on Tuesday, April 26, will still be held, Trotter said he didn’t know about the rally. However, Pastor Paul Jakes, the spokesperson for the rally, said, “The rally is still on.”
According to Trotter, the Illinois Land and Science program got funded for gifted children. “In total, we allocated $600 million for those matriculating throughout our higher educational system.”
“We are sent down here to enhance the quality of life of people; so of course I feel good that we have temporarily have laid that super effort to ensure that when we talk about quality of life…we are talking about those who are in the higher educational system.”
Trotter said they also passed a bill addressing human services. Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) praised Trotter for the bipartisan vote in the senate. “We’ve been fighting the governor since last May to keep the doors of our colleges and human service organizations open,” said Hunter who is a member of the Senate Human Services Committee. “Today, I supported keeping colleges and vita human services afloat while we continue working on ending the budget impasse.” The Senate also passed emergency funding for SB 2047 needed for human services. This bill goes to the House for further consideration.
But, Trotter said he’s not ready to “jump up and down” just yet because “these are just stopgap procedures because there are still billions of dollars still needed to take care of some of our most vulnerable citizens in this state. The fight is not over. This is just a piece of it.
“I feel good about the unanimous action taken by the Democrats and Republicans today which shows when we work together we can do some positive things here. Now, we just need the governor to sign it,” said Trotter.
The difference between today’s actions and last July when the legislators passed a budget (that Gov. Rauner vetoed) is that the governor said there wasn’t a funding stream. There is now a funding stream that we have found through the Education Assistance Fund. Before the governor hasn’t taken any action because of the budget stalemate, we have found funding for this important endeavor,” said Trotter. “There is still a lot of work to be done. This is not a backslapping time, but we have proven when we work together, we can do great things.”
Rep. Ford said Amendment 3 passed the House. “The universities say they have a $2.5 million monthly payroll budget. “This is just another example of Democrats working to provide funding for education and human services and to end the budget impasse.
“Gov. Rauner and the Republicans continue to fight to fund prisons while turning his back on the working families and people in need,” said Ford. “I applaud Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-60th) who was the champion of this and she deserves a lot of credit for this.”