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Bruce Rauner: The Extortionist

Yesterday, it was reported that due to the budget stalemate in Springfield, created largely in part by Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts, Rantoul’s Lincoln’s Challenge Academy would be forced to close its doors indefinitely until the stalemate is over and funding for the school can be secured.

At first, this may sound like another school closing in the vein of Rahm Emmanuel’s arguably terrible decision to close nearly 50 of Chicago’s public schools in wake of budget shortfalls last year, but Rauner’s decisions are even worse.

What makes this worse, however, is that Lincoln’s Challenge is not just any public school. It’s an academy located on the former Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, and caters specifically to at-risk youth, providing them with housing and education. Students at the academy go through a 22-week program, which seeks to instill values of community service and academic excellence, among other things.  This isn’t just a regular public school, but rather provides many pupils with necessary guidance in order to improve their lives as a whole — not just academically.

On July 15th, a class of 400 students is set to enroll at Lincoln’s Challenge Academy — a number larger than many high schools in Central Illinois. At present, due to Governor Rauner’s massive cuts and government shutdown threats, none will be able to enroll until funding is secured and a government shutdown is quelled. The same goes for the 90 employees at the school who rely on state money to pay their own bills and contribute to the local economy.

Please don’t misconstrue my point; I’m not saying that the state legislature is free from blame. In any stalemate, both sides have to take a share of the responsibility, and the Democratically-led legislature certainly is contributing to the political stagnation in Springfield. The reason that much more of the fault can be placed on Rauner, however, is that his proposed budget cuts are so ridiculous in the first place.

Bruce Rauner, photo by Terrence Antonio James (Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)

These cuts include slashing funding for legal council for victims of domestic violence, after school programs, and vital mental health services. You can’t really blame Democrats for wanting to keep these services afloat. So many people rely on them who would otherwise have no option, and if Rauner has his way, these people will be left high and dry without important state services.

The most important bottom line in this is that the at-risk youth, like those who attend Lincoln’s Challenge, are in dire need of support from the state. Rauner is holding these underprivileged groups hostage by threatening a shutdown if his ludicrous budget isn’t passed, and then blaming it on Democrats in the state legislature when they don’t want to pass a budget that will cripple many state services. Honestly, I can’t think of a more despicable thing to do.

The Governor’s job is to serve the citizens of Illinois, not to use them as a tool to pass his own strict budget. Quite frankly, when he fails those who need help the most, he’s failing his job as a whole.  Those who rely on the government’s services are not pawns in some political chess match; they’re human beings with jobs, lives and families just like you and I — a fact Governor Rauner seems to ignore. Lincoln’s Challenge is just an example of one of these vital services. If Rauner can go after at-risk kids, what’s next?

How the hell did we vote Rauner into office? We’re better than this, guys. I know it’s a long way off, but please, for the love of everything we hold dear, get out and vote in the next election so our state isn’t run by a ruthless out-of-touch ass-hat who values money more than human beings.

Top photo of Lincoln’s Challenge graduates in 2013 by Jason Dorsey, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detatchment.

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