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Backlash to Governor Rauner’s Proposed Budget Cuts

“Honor the contract!” “Save our jobs!” were phrases shouted at a protest in front of the James R. Thompson State of Illinois Center Tuesday afternoon in response to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts to social service programs.

About 100 people outraged at the funding cuts were called to the protest by Rev. Michael Pfleger, a priest and activist at Saint Sabina Church on the city’s South Side.

They were heard chanting from blocks away as they held up signs reading: “Governor [Rauner] Don’t balance budget on backs of the poor!” and “Boots on the ground, students in the seats.”

A flyer handed out at the protest stated that while the governor is subtracting funding for youth employment, day care and after school programs, he is adding pay hikes for his staff and a highly paid chief of staff for his wife.

“Children lost out on their drama classes, nutrition classes, and arts and craft classes. We don’t have any funding for those,” said Kimberly Smith, a youth mentor of seventh and eighth-grade pupils at A Knock at Midnight, a nonprofit organization that stands to lose 10 employees due to the cuts.

A Knock at Midnight serves the South Side, especially Englewood, Auburn Gresham, West Englewood and West Chatham providing children in grades 3 through 12 with free meals and other after-school services.

Daniel Powell, 25, an employee and coach at a recreational center run by St. Sabina, said after- school services were crucial to help “kids stay out of trouble and (give) the kids a lot of opportunities for future jobs.”

Charles Scott, from the Faith Community of Saint Sabina, had personal connections to the loss of after school programs.

“This is needed in the black community,” Scott said. “I have children who are 12, 13 and 20 years old — all of them were in after-school programs. There’s music programs, art programs, basketball programs, programs that help kids with their resumes,” Scott said.

Members of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless also were at the rally “to show Gov. Rauner the concerns people have in the choices he is making,” said Rachel Ramirez, an organizer with the coalition.

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