Speakers at NIU Rally Tell State Lawmakers: Get A Budget Now

Feb 12, 2016

DeKalb-area education leaders, students, and service providers held a rally Thursday at Northern Illinois University to send a

DeKalb mayor John Rey talks about cuts in local services caused by the state budget impasse.
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

   message to state lawmakers: end the budget impasse.

There were no organized chants, no waving signs -- but there IS a social media hashtag: #RallyForIL

Students from NIU and Kishwaukee College were among the community members who spoke up about how the lack of a state budget hurts them, especially the hold on MAP grants, which help pay for their schooling.

Briana Smith is just one year away from earning her degree from Northern. But that’s only if her MAP grant is restored, because she cannot afford classes without that stipend. Bianka Rios is in an interesting position: she is a MAP grant recipient who also works in Kishwaukee College’s financial aid department. So she sees how the budget crisis affects the lives of other students, not just her own. She is in the process of transferring from Kishwaukee to Northern and is doubly-hit by state budget delays: she also has a small child and counts on state-supported childcare.

Kishwaukee College graduate and soon-to-be NIU Huskie Bianka Rios
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

NIU president Doug Baker says so far, there are no plans for layoffs at his school. But Kishwaukee College president Laurie Borowicz says she faces cutting 17 percent of her school’s workforce because of state funding delays.

Rally participants had a lot to say: students can’t pay for college. The drug court can’t get off the ground. And as Kishwaukee United Way’s Dawn Littlefield sees firsthand, 85% of not-for-profits are cutting clients and programs.

It’s not just the world of social services and education, according to Cohen Barnes. He has owned an IT services business in DeKalb for 25 years. He says state budget problems have never hurt his private sector business…until now. Many of his clients are in state-assisted industries, such as hospitals, and no longer have the money to upgrade technology.

Barnes says the long-term effects on education at NIU and Kishwaukee College could also harm his business, since he hires so many local graduates.