Faith in Action Day for Education Funding Reform

Our Faith
in Action Day for Education Funding Reform, a partnership of PCG and
the Community Renewal Society, was a memorable experience. We had an
important message, some great speakers (especially Representative David
Miller, D-29), an enthusiastic crowd, and gorgeous weather.

We had
state-wide participation. Almost 700 people from 95 legislative districts
(out of a total of 118) signed onto our Principles and Call to Action
for Education Funding Reform, and nearly 100 advocates traveled to Springfield
to lobby their legislators. Many came from northern Illinois, e.g.,
Elgin, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Northbrook, and Chicago, but we
also had strong representation from several downstate areas, such as
Decatur (mid-state), Chester (southwest), Granite City (near East St.
Louis), and Lawrenceville (southeast).

We began
the day with a training session on lobbying and an outdoor rally at
the Lincoln Statue in front of the Capitol. With high spirits, we divided
into district teams and, with maps and fact
in hand, went to meet with our legislators. We held a press
in the Capitol Press Room, and we sent two groups to
meet with staff from governor’s office along with the legislative leaders
of the House and Senate.

We re-convened
later in the afternoon to share our experiences. Comments ranged from
“We never got to talk with our representative” to “Our senator took
genuine time to listen to us and ask questions about the bill.” Other
reports demonstrated the depth of disagreement among legislators about
how to deal with the state’s financial crisis. A sampling of these reveals:
“We must solve the Medicaid problem before solving anything else.” “The
current economic atmosphere is not conducive a tax hike.” “I want to
be sure that health care and human services are also funded.” “We can’t
do anything unless we get campaign finance reform.” One legislator expressed
frustration that the Democrats won’t discuss the budget with Republicans
and said, “We can’t form consensus if we aren’t included in the discussions.”

Some legislators
said that they support a tax increase, but indicated that they need
to hear from more constituents that support a tax increase. Most of
their calls are coming from those who oppose a tax increase. Faith in
Action participants quickly learned that there is no clear consensus
in Springfield. Regardless, most were energized by their lobby day experiences.
They knew that they had done important work!

One of
the teams reported that their representative said, “It’s good to see
people of faith doing something besides praying.” We know that there
are many forms of prayer! Advocating for increased fairness for school
children across the state – especially those in under-funded districts
– is one way of praying for justice.

We ask
that you add your active prayer to ours by:

you for all the ways you pray and act for the common good in Illinois.

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