Photo: Rich Saal, State Journal-Register

Background: The state budget crisis has caused the reduction and/or elimination of a number of state services and programs including the cutting of money (about $7,300) to pay for the annual stringing of holiday lights around the dome of the Statehouse. 

A leader of a far right wing advocacy group has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise private money to string the lights at the Statehouse, despite the fact that thousands of Illinois families are suffering as the result of cuts to the state programs that help them.
In reaction, IEA President Cinda Klickna sent the following letter to area media outlets:

Cinda KlicknaInternet sites that facilitate the donation of small amounts of money by large numbers of people, known as “crowdfunding,” are a wonderful innovation. Many teachers, for example, use crowdfunding to purchase classroom resources and fund field trips in an effort to give children in less wealthy school districts access to learning tools they would not otherwise have.

Crowdfunding levels the playing field for the less advantaged, which is why the current effort to use it to pay for Christmas lights over the Statehouse is, frankly, in bad taste.

As a long time Springfieldian, I love it when the lights go up. But it won’t be as cheerful this year with so many families and students hurting as a result of the state budget being held hostage by our governor.

Nutritional assistance, mental health programs and childcare, along with other services that help keep families functioning through difficult times, have been reduced or eliminated due to the budget crisis.

When families are in turmoil, students bring those troubles to classrooms. Though teachers will always do their best to make sure students learn despite the problems at home, the state budget impasse is clearly hurting families and is, therefore, impacting education.

When you consider what these families are trying to overcome, raising money to string “pretty lights” over the Statehouse seems less like a holiday celebration and more like a metaphor for the misplaced priorities of the Rauner administration.

The holidays are nearly upon us. I hope the generous people of our area will choose to support worthy organizations that truly make a difference for Illinois families. Just a few examples are, the Illinois Coalition for Community Services, the Central Illinois Foodbank and the United Way.

Helping organizations like these keep their lights on will do far more to make Illinois a better place than stringing lights over the Statehouse.

Cinda Klickna
President, Illinois Education Association