Young and old rally against state budget crisis

Young and old rally against state budget crisis

By Anna Spoerre, @annaspoerre

Andrew Bynom, a lecturer at SIU’s Center for English as a Second Language, stood among nearly 100 demonstrators along Carbondale’s Main Street on Saturday to raise awareness of how the state’s budget impasse is painfully affecting southern Illinois.

Bynom, who stood next to the railroad tracks holding a sign with the words “Fair Budget Now,” said he is among the faculty in his department waiting to receive a notice at the end of the semester saying whether or not they will still have jobs next year.

“We have absolutely no idea whether our contracts will be cut or not,” he said during the rally, which was organized by the Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois and the campus’ Faculty Association. “It’s appalling because there is a complete lack of care from our politicians.”

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For more than eight months, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic Legislature have been unable to negotiate a state budget, leaving universities and colleges without funding since July 1. During the gathering next to the Town Square Pavilion, former Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon called the stalemate inexcusable and irrational.

“I think all of us have the obligation to do what we can to let folks in Springfield know that this is a crisis for southern Illinois — for all of us” Simon said.

John A. Logan College in Carterville announced last week it will lay off 55 employees this fall.

Bret Seferian, who works with about 3,600 SIU and John A. Logan employees as an Illinois Education Association regional director, said John A. Logan students are organizing protests every day next week. He said SIU students may not realize how much their school is hurting.

“People have got to be aware of the damages this is going to do,” he said. “And, more importantly, the damage that is done when you lay faculty off is not something you can just un-do.” 

Ethan Stephenson, a graduate assistant in English, said funding for GAs in the College of Liberal Arts has been secured through the fall semester, but he does not know if that will continue. He said any cuts to graduate assistants has the potential to affect the kind of education freshman get.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me to cut funding when it seems counter-intuitive for educating the next group of people who are going to take control of the state,” said Stephenson, who received his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Illinois University — one of the schools that has laid off employees because of financial uncertainty. “[Graduate assistants] are the backbone of the education system for students.” 

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While Simon called on the group to put pressure on the governor to pass a higher education bill, Kym Rangitsch, a single mother who attends John A. Logan, stood among the crowd with an arm around each of her two sons. All three of Rangitsch’s teachers this semester received layoff notices.

“I brought them because, whether they know it or not, they are affected by this,” she said of her children. 

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.

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