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Hidden Costs of the Illinois Budget Crisis

Submitted by Kendra Schroder, Independent Living Coordinator

I was a good student growing up. I paid attention and studied hard. Things were relatively easy for me (until advanced math courses came along in high school – ha!). I took for granted the fact that I would finish high school and go to community college, thanks to help from my parents. Eventually, I would complete my bachelor’s degree, which would cost me a fair amount in student loans – but I still always knew the opportunity was there for me, and I never questioned the fact that I would have some sort of an education.

For people with disabilities or limited financial means, an education may not be so easy to come by. It can take a lot more effort, time, patience, and resources to simply complete high school. An individual is then at risk to enter adulthood without even a GED, a basic requirement for many employment opportunities. When this is the case, the cycle may then be perpetuated. People who have low income and poor education remain oppressed, and as a result, their children are at risk for the same, and so on…

At PACE, we can work with our consumers who have educational goals and may need a bit of guidance from a facilitator to accomplish goals they’ve set for themselves. I was in the midst of this recently with a current consumer, who is interested in acquiring her GED but has been struggling in her current program. We decided to reach out to Parkland College, one of many local community colleges that offer adult education programs such as GED completion and English as a Second Language. We were excited to get her set up and ready to start the program, and to also utilize the additional resource of Parkland’s Office of Disability Services for an added extra layer of support for her educational goals.

Upon contacting Parkland, we were informed that all Adult Education courses were postponed until further notice. Any guesses as to why?? If you guessed lack of state funding, you were right. Sadly, my consumer has hit yet another road block on the path toward her educational goals because the State of Illinois cannot come to an agreement on how to solve the budget crisis.

I would like to take a moment to remind our readers to reach out to state legislators. Let them know that the budget crisis is effecting thousands of people in need of services across the state, and that they need to reach an agreement before it’s too late. Opportunities are being lost. Families, people with disabilities, and the elderly are all at risk. It’s time for legislators to come to an agreement so that the people who need state services can move on with their lives.

It takes a lot of bravery to reach out as an adult and attempt to further your education. With help from facilitators at PACE, consumers can navigate the steps toward reaching their educational goals, but until a budget agreement is reach, we are all on hold. Contact state legislators today and flex your advocacy muscles! If you need information on who/how to contact them, give us a call at 217-344-5433. Thanks in advance!

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