Restore extension funds

By Michael Frerichs

I am in full agreement with The Daily Illini editorial that was published on April 18 concerning funding that Governor Blagojevich is withholding from University of Illinois Extension offices.

The University of Illinois Extension is a valuable asset to the students, parents, families and communities of our state. The Extension’s various offices throughout the state provide services to more than 2.5 million residents each year, including 300,000 young men and women who participate in 4-H youth programs. The Governor’s funding cuts could force U of I Extension to start laying off 450 employees as early as next week.

The current threats to the Extension’s budget are endangering much more than jobs. In 1862, when President Lincoln signed the Morrill Land Grant Act and laid the foundation for institutions like the University of Illinois, he did so with the goal of having such schools pursue the “practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” Through its 77 offices statewide, the U of I Extension helps the University to accomplish this goal by providing the public with access to valuable training and information in areas like healthy living, environmental stewardship and sustainable food production.

Two weeks ago I participated in a joint Senate and House hearing on the governor’s cuts to U of I Extension. My colleagues and I heard testimony from several groups who will be negatively affected by the funding cuts. I am well aware that Illinois is faced with a budget crisis and that we need to tighten our belts, but we should not do so by haphazardly slashing funding for necessary programs. I urge Governor Blagojevich to consider the negative consequences of these funding cuts and reverse his decision.