Friday, February 27, 2015

Thank Goodness I'm Not the Governor

I stink at budgets.


You would think, since I like things to be orderly, tidy and uniform, that I could stick to a budget.

But, nooooooooo.

I'm terrible at keeping track of my spending. I'm very YOLO (did I really just use that term?) when it comes to expenditures. Pottery Barn? You bet! Need a new pair of shoes? Go ahead! Grocery budget? We need food.

Good think I'm not running for a public office of any kind any time soon, especially in this great state of Illinois.

Strike that, maybe I COULD run for office in Illinois! For the past, well, as long as I can remember, our great state hasn't had a balanced budget. Evidently, living in the red is simply living in Illinois. We even have a couple of governors in jail, so the fact that I can't seem to follow a budget doesn't seem to be that big of a deal. There you go, Emily Webel, 2018!

Anyway, our state is in dire straits. Friends of ours who live in Iowa, North Dakota, Texas, etc., are all baffled by Illinois' history of corruption and poor fiscal responsibility. Where's Dave Ramsey when you need him? When can Illinois finally have financial peace?

Well, with financial peace, comes a big, icky conversation with the population. Kind of like the one I get when the credit card bill comes. While I know that when you're living on a budget, cuts have to be made, leaders in our great state need to consider carefully what and where to cut.

This is where I would make a terrible governor. One cannot YOLO (Twice in one blog!) oneself through a budget crisis.

However, education is one budget line where I cannot stand to see cuts be made. Drive around the Illinois countryside, and you'll see nearly every school has one of those electronic, scrolling signs (maybe that's a good item to cut. Does anyone else hate those things?). Each one, I guarantee, will have some sort of dollar owed amount. When we first moved here, our district's amount was around the $200,000-$300,000 mark. Currently, we're over one million dollars owed to our district from the state. And our district is in the BLACK! We're doing a lot with a little, but we're still not getting our fair share of the deal from the state.

Now, I know that money cannot be poofed into an account, believe me, I've tried to pray for it.

It doesn't work.

Belts have to be tightened. Certain programs need to be reevaluated. Staff needs to be addressed. Uniforms should be worn a few years in a row. I get that. But to have a school experience where there's no extra, no opportunity for students to shine outside the classroom, to grow as artists, agriculturalists, athletes, actors, is just ridiculous. From my very basic education classes in college, we were taught to teach students, the whole child: not just the reading child or the math child, but the child who loves to sing. Loves to move. Loves to run. Loves to grow things and make things and make people laugh.

Sending a child to a bare bones school is cruel. These are CHILDREN we are talking about. Children need to express and explore.

One specific line in the Illinois budget that is on the governor's list of "to go" is the Ag Education line item. I obviously have a soft spot for Ag Ed in my heart, but am especially aware of its significance because Joe used to be on the state staff for agriculture education. He and four other supervisors traveled their particular section of the state and supported teachers, offered guidance and wisdom and opportunities for growth as an educator. The framework for Ag Education in the state of Illinois is something to marvel. Teachers, from first year to nearly retired, are kept abreast of the latest trends and topics thanks to the ongoing professional development and support by the FCAE (Facilitating Coordination in Agriculture Education) staff. This staff is also supported by the ILCAE committee, a committee of professionals with the best interest and finger on the pulse of agriculture, to keep this facet of education up to speed. It's truly something to admire.

So cutting something that builds teachers up and ultimately betters student outcome and performance seems wrong to me.

This is another reason why I wouldn't want to be the governor. He'll have to mess with me, and a whole bunch of other disgruntled folks should this line item be cut.

Education is a hot button topic during the election, so don't mess with it. Find another way to trim the fat. I get it, you have to make tough choices in government, but shouldn't a greater investment in education equal a better return ultimately? If we have better schools with more opportunities and happier, better performing kids, we'll have better citizens. Ones who are less likely to be convicted felons or become unemployed. They'll leave school with a skill. They'll leave school with confidence. They'll graduate thinking they can do something to make a mark on this world.

So, please, Governor Rauner, and all you other government officials who have to make tough choices, think about the long term. Think about your life. Think about who you would have been would you have not been able to be a part of a team, had a teacher who felt supported, or had the opportunity to learn a skill that would be a job some day.

Would you have turned out to be the governor?

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