Legislation for undocumented students perceived as distracting
Republican state Senate candidate Michelle Smith of Plainfield believes two recent bills concerning undocumented students is a distraction from the real problems that Illinois colleges and universities are facing, namely lack of state funding and climbing costs due to the seemingly unending state budget impasse.
Senate Bill 2204, which will allow non-citizens to serve as student trustees at public universities, passed the House and Senate and is on Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk. Senate Bill 2196, which would provide state-funded financial assistance to undocumented students, is still being considered by the House.
“We have great universities here in Illinois, which attract students from all over the world,” Smith, who is running for the state legislature in Senate District 49, said. “The problem is that our schools here are more expensive than many state schools for even the residents of Illinois. Illinois students are finding tuitions lower at schools in neighboring states. SB 2196, while altruistic, does not consider the importance of making sure all of our Illinois students have the opportunities they deserve before we extend those same opportunities to non-citizens.”
Illinois lawmakers have been locked in a budget impasse since last summer. As a result, state-funded programs, including those for public colleges and universities, have been forced to lay off employees and cut services.
Last week, House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-22) led a caucus of fellow Democrats in passing a proposed budget that calls for $40 billion in spending and only an estimated $33 billion in revenues. Rauner said he will veto the bill if it lands on his desk.
Rauner, in turn, suggested a temporary budget be approved Tuesday - the last day of the legislature's spring session - in order to stave off a shut down of the state's schools in the fall.
“We are billions of dollars short in our budget,” Smith said. “The fact that any legislator would find allowing non-citizens to sit on the board as a student trustee a priority shows exactly where the priorities lie. The priority is not with the people of Illinois who are concerned about jobs leaving the state, the people getting taxed out of their homes or not even those who are dependent on vital services. The answer is simple: I disagree with a bill that allows non-citizens to make decisions for citizens. In no other country is this an issue.”