An unconfirmed report from an insider in the Illinois State government has indicated that a proposal to address the state budget was made Wednesday night by Mike Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House of Representative. As proposed, funding would be restored to last year’s level for education. But because tax increases will not be considered, the plan is to instead further reduce preventative health services. So far all discussions have remained private, with only Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton participating. So it is difficult to confirm these reports. But if true, this would be catastrophic for the state!
Preventative human services in Illinois directly contribute to increased health and education of children. Programs begin with prenatal care and early intervention for birth to three year olds with developmental delays. They include programs that work with families to prevent homelessness. They include programs that help prevent teens from making choices that lead to systemic involvement with crime, and help those teens who have engaged in criminal acts from becoming repeat offenders. They engage with youth to foster strong educations and help them enter the work force and earn a living wage. And just to be clear, these are not programs that only are for the economically disadvantaged in our society. Ask around YOUR block and you’ll likely find at least one household who has benefited from one or more of these services.
Strategic borrowing can be a useful way to help spur the economy in financially troubled times. But there is much talk today about the reckless debt that is often incurred to curry favor but that ultimate burdens future generations to the detriment of societal well-being. Underfunding Human Services amounts to such a reckless debt. Significant decreases in these services will mean more children with untreated developmental delays who enter into school behind and ultimately unable to catch up. It will mean more families who end up homeless, and all the negative impacts to multiple generations that come from homelessness. It will mean fewer youth completing high school and more youth becoming repeat offenders. These lost youth will eventually themselves become parents, but ones that statistically will be less able to help their own children develop fully when compared to youth who come from intact families with stable homes.
The interest to be paid in underfunding preventative human services is increased cost for emergency services for an extended period. But more significantly, it’s a loss of engagement of youth and families as productive members of society for generations to come.
It is good and proper that educational funding is proposed to be restored. It cannot come at the expense of preventative human services. That would be the definition of injustice put into practice.
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Update 5/18/10: No budget from the state, yet. But at this time it appears that the focus is still on severe cuts to Human Services.