Illinois governor touts education plans during local high school visit

Illinois is approaching nine months without a budget, and the battle between Republicans and Democrats is heating up.

With deep cuts hitting higher education, including area colleges, Democrats are calling on the governor to stop playing politics and pass a budget.

Visiting Murphysboro High School Wednesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner says funding for education must come first.

From repairing Mustangs to learning how to build robots, Rauner got a hands-on look at what high school students are capable of. Murphysboro High School Principal Tony Wilson says he’s proud to show off what his students learn every day.

"We’re very excited, you know, any time we get a chance to show what our students can do, because that’s what it’s all about," said Wilson.

One of the governor’s tour guides Wednesday, senior Emily Novara, says it’s an honor to show off what her classmates are doing.

"There are so many cool things happening here. It meant a lot that he cared to come and see how it was going," said Novara.

From the libraries to the classrooms, Rauner says the tour emphasized the need to continue funding for schools like this one.

"Nothing is more important than education. Nothing. And that means K to 12 schools, early childhood education, community colleges and universities," said Rauner.

Rauner says investing in education is investing in Illinois’ future. Wilson says his students are a bright spot in southern Illinois during an otherwise dark year.

"You know, everybody’s talking about budgets and cuts or no budget. So, just to hear something on the positive end, it gives you a bit of a glimmer of hope, which is enough to hold on to right now," Wilson said.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps said Wednesday that Rauner has repeatedly blocked efforts by the legislature to pass a budget or any kind of education funding that would prevent higher education cuts and restore funding to MAP grants and community colleges. Phelps said the governor’s plans to cut agriculture education funding don’t "make a lick of sense."

Phelps said he and many others around southern Illinois are sick of the politics and just want to see an end to the impasse and funding cuts.

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