Illinois Educators Try Positive Reinforcement On Lawmakers In Advance of Budget Vote

Jul 6, 2017

Dan Cox, superintendent of Staunton schools, speaks at a press conference attempting to persuade lawmakers to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget veto.
Credit Dusty Rhodes/NPR Illinois

More than a dozen school leaders from across Illinois gathered at the state capitol Wednesday to thank lawmakers who went out on a limb to raise taxes and send more money to schools. They held signs and banners saying “thank you.” However, gratitude wasn’t their only motive.

If you deal with children, you're probably familiar with the concept of positive reinforcement. You reward children for good behavior as a way to encourage them to continue doing it.

The school leaders staged the event to encourage the 15 Republican lawmakers who broke with their party not to change their votes this afternoon. That’s when the House of Representatives will try to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget veto.

Nakia Hall, a school board member in the Crete-Monee district, said it's not just about dollars.

"These votes are votes for humanity,” she said. “They are votes about understanding the fact that we have children in our state who need equitable funding."

Jeff Craig, superintendent of the West Aurora school district, tried an admonition teachers often use to get kids to clean up the classroom or the playground: Leave the place nicer than you found it.

“I would strongly encourage all of our legislators and our governor to remember that, however long or short their term is, they leave the state of Illinois better than they found it,” Craig said.

Schools have struggled with reduced state funding since 2009, and some districts have notified the state board of education that they won't be able to make it through the coming school year without a state appropriation. The state owes schools more than $1 billion.

Rauner has blasted the proposed budget for raising income taxes.