Lobby Day in Springfield is an annual tradition for educators to meet and greet state lawmakers and have their voices heard. But this year Lobby Day was inflected with a real urgency as 15,000 teachers, staffers and school workers converged on Springfield to express their frustration with Illinois’ unprecedented budget crisis and the threat of cuts to education at all levels. CFA members decided to take our fourth and final furlough day on April 21 in solidarity with Illinois Education Association and other U. of I. campus unions, and so we got up early and got on the bus.
Lobby Day was surprisingly fun, in large part because of excellent IEA organization that got us and our banners there comfortably, with plenty of donuts and coffee. We enjoyed a huge march and rally, addresses by state leaders, and visits to lawmakers’ offices inside the stunning Capitol building. We met and congratulated our allies (in the CFA’s case, Mike Frerichs) and faced heated if not well-reasoned resistance in discussions with our very pressured opponents. Illinois Education Association members gave everyone lunch with amazing efficiency.
For CFA members who had not participated in lobbying before, this was an eye-opening event. Not only did we speak face-to-face with central Illinois State legislators about the importance of a fair tax increase, but we felt surrounded by and connected to many other kinds of people who work helping, teaching, counseling and supporting Illinois students from preschool to graduate school. We were reminded that as University of Illinois faculty we are part of a much larger structure of public education that is, ideally, a structure of opportunity and personal advancement for everyone in the state. At least that’s what I felt. Rather than production workers in a credential factory, or ivory tower technocrats, we‘re connected to educators across the state as we try, in straightened circumstances, to help students learn and grow. While it’s true times are hard in Illinois, it’s also true that the opportunity for a strong public education, up to and through university, should be expanded not narrowed. I’ll be in Springfield next year, and for as long as it takes.
Professor Susan Davis
Department of Communication
CFA Executive Committee Member