Candidates talking up education

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff

Editor’s Note: This story incorrectly identified Joe Parnarauskis as a candidate for the 103rd District State Representative race and Tom Abram as a candidate for the 52nd District State Senate race. Parnarauskis is a candidate for the 52nd District State Senate, and Abram is a candidate for the 103rd District State Representative race. The errors have been corrected in the text that follows.

The Daily Illini apologizes for the errors.

The candidates for the local Illinois General Assembly races this November all have said that they prioritize funding for higher education.

Naomi Jakobsson, incumbent Democratic candidate for 103rd district, said that she has a history of supporting higher education. When she came into the general assembly, Jakobsson said that there was a cut in funding for higher education in Illinois. This year, she said she has worked to increase funding by $12 million.

She said that she has introduced legislation to reduce the prices of textbooks after she heard the financial burden was on some students.

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Jakobsson also said that she prioritizes funding scholarships for students.

“I want to make sure students accepted (to the University) can come here,” she said.

She supported legislation that aids students interested in careers in nursing and forensic sciences.

Rex Bradfield, Jakobsson’s Republican opponent, is concerned with the University’s lack of funding, said Justin Scott, his representative.

“It’s tough for Illinois to budget,” said Scott, who added that last year the increase of the University’s budget was 1.6 percent, which is not keeping up with inflation. “(The state) flat out needs more money.”

Scott also said that it is expensive for students to attend the University. Scott compared the University of Illinois to the University of California systems, saying that while the universities were comparable institutions, it is much cheaper to attend University of California as an in-state student. California allocates more funds to subsidize in-state tuition, he said.

“There’s money available” to allocate to the University, Scott said. “We’re wasting hundreds of millions of dollars through health care expenditures.”

Bradfield plans to tighten the budgets on some state health care programs.

Joe Parnarauskis, the Socialist Equality Party candidate for the 52nd District State Senate race, also wants to increase funding for higher education, said his campaign spokesman Tom Carter. Parnarauskis wants to make education through the college level free.

“We view education as a basic right,” Carter said. “Higher education is becoming more and more out of reach.”

To raise the revenue, Parnarauskis hopes to levy a heavily progressive tax that targets the top 1 percent of the population and corporations.

The Democratic and Republican candidates for the 52nd District State Senate race all plan to augment higher education funding.

Tom Abram, Green Party candidate for the 103rd District State Representative race, said that he hopes to increase funding by instating a progressive tax, increasing taxes for the wealthy.

He also said if the University had more energy-efficient procedures, it would leave a lot of money in the budget in the long run.

“It would be great if the state could work with the University” to make it more efficient, he said.

Republican candidate Judy Myers plans to reinstate a capital budget and oppose plans to sell the student loan portfolio. She also wants revenue from collegiate license plates to be used for student scholarships, as they were originally.

Recently, the program changed so that a fraction of the sales went to universities. According to a Myers campaign press release, money earned from the license plates could fund 300 scholarships for Illinois college students.

Bill Cleeland, Myers’s representative, said that she wants the state to fully fund the Illinois Veterans Grant Program. Under this program, veterans would be able to attend public Illinois colleges at no cost; but with the influx of veterans from the war in Iraq, the state budget for the program has fallen short of the need.

“As more veterans are attending college, the increasing cost has shifted to the colleges,” Cleeland said. “The state should pay.”

Democratic candidate Michael Frerichs wants to make structural improvements at the University, said Michael Ruemmler, a spokesman for Frerichs. Ruemmler said that Frerichs plans to pass a capital bill to remodel Lincoln Hall.

Ruemmler also said that Frerichs supports stem cell research, which could generate revenue for the University. Frerichs wants to give the University “the funding that a flagship university deserves,” said Ruemmler.