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The "Crisis of Confidence" series is a multi-year effort by the Tri States Public Radio to document the impact the two-year state budget impasse had on Western Illinois University and the ongoing recovery efforts at WIU. State support for public higher education institutions has been steadily declining in Illinois for more than a decade. But the issue was compounded, during the state's historic two-year budget impasse during Fiscal Years '16 and '17 which left public colleges and universities with little state financial support. At Western Illinois University, that drastic cut in state appropriations resulted in significant budget cuts, employee furloughs, and layoffs.

WIU Professors to Join Higher Education Rally in Springfield

Photo of Macomb rally from spring 2016

College professors across Illinois will step away from their classrooms to rally in Springfield on Thursday, April 27. The event called Teach Out for Illinois Higher Education is in response to the state budget stalemate.

Illinois has gone 22-months without a spending plan. In that time, public colleges and universities have scraped by on infrequent payments from the state. Many schools have also had to cover the cost of MAP grants for low-income students.

The event was organized by teachers unions including the University Professionals of Illinois and other organizations that advocate for education.   

Bill Thompson, President of Western Illinois University’s UPI chapter, said Western has been hit hard by the state budget impasse. “It’s not like, oh if we don’t do something soon terrible things will occur,” Thompson said. “No, terrible things have already occurred.”

Thompson noted last year’s layoffs, the ongoing employee furloughs, and the number of staff and professors who have left the university for jobs elsewhere. “You don’t want to lose that many young faculty because that’s the future of your institution right there,” Thompson said.

He said two buses will take about 70 people from Macomb to Springfield for the rally. He said the first bus should be back in time to allow professors to make their evening classes.

The rally kicks off at 11:00 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda, where rally goers will share how the impasse has affected them, their research, students and schools.

After that, they will rally at the park outside the capital building.

Thompson said the state needs to pass a state budget that prioritizes spending for higher education. 

“We want people to stop leaving Western, we want students to stop leaving Western, we want faculty to stop leaving Western, we want staff to stop leaving and we want students to start coming back and we want the university to hire the faculty that they need to hire and the staff that they need to hire," he said.

WIU spokeswoman Darcie Shinberger said the more people advocating for higher education in Springfield, the better. But she said anyone who goes should claim it as a personal day off.

Thompson called the rally, “One of the biggest teaching moments of the year.” He said that by participating educators are teaching their students not to be passive citizens.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.