State Senator David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) is nearing the end of a 21 year career in Springfield (one that followed a career in secondary education). I was one of a group of IEA activists that met with him for 90 minutes on lobby day in Springfield on Wednesday--just a couple of days before the legislature acted to provide stop-gap funding for SIU. As we spoke, Luechtefeld was guardedly optimistic about stop-gap funding coming through. He voted for the eventual bill--as did everyone else in the Illinois Senate (there were a couple of dissenting votes in the House). We spoke to Luechtefeld essentially because others were speaking to other legislatures, and while Luechtefeld is nearing retirement he's respected by others in the local GOP caucus, so is influential.
Luechtefeld began smartly by saying that he recognized that SIUC was the 'most important institution' in his district, one he knew had been suffering for a long time from declining state funding, and declining enrollment, even before the current crisis. He noted the importance of SIUC to Carbondale in particular, describing the decline facing Carbondale in terms nearly as dire as those in my op-ed for the Southern the other day. Note his quote at the end of the Carbondale Times story on the stop-gap bill:
“Irreparable damage has been done to our universities and community colleges,” he said in a statement. “There are no real winners with today’s budget bill, only a sliver of relief is being provided. No one should applaud this solution or be running to take the credit.”So Luechtefeld gets it--and he thus anticipated our main talking points. This is a good thing, of course. He could have mouthed some of the anti-higher ed rhetoric coming from the Governor's office, which essentially blames bloat, redundancy, and waste in higher ed for the state's failure to fund higher ed. But the fact that we all agreed on the problem made for a curious conversation . . .