From Illinois Public Radio - News Local/State -

Most Illinois Universities See Small Funding Increases

Foellinger Auditorium a the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Foellinger Auditorium at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Wikimedia)

Illinois lawmakers have advanced a spending plan that prevents steep cuts for schools, but Republicans say students outside Chicago are getting shortchanged.

The Senate approved spending plans for education --  from elementary and high schools to colleges and universities -- will pretty much maintain last year's funding level.

Most state universities would see fractional increases -- the University of Illinois' appropriation would increase by .02 percent.

Northern and Southern Illinois universities saw slight decreases -- in the tens of thousands of dollars out of budgets that are respectively 93 and 203 million dollars.

Chicago State and Western Illinois universities saw the biggest increases -- greater than one percent.

This is all significant because education spending, like most areas of the state budget, has been cut in recent years. Gov. Pat Quinn's budget proposal said even deeper cuts would be necessary in the coming year.

Republicans, however, say level funding is not good enough. They object to what they say is a disproportionate share of state money going to students in Chicago. 

"I take your endorsement of the status quo as being a lack of concern for Downstate kids," said Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon).

But Democrats, like Sen. John Sullivan from Rushville, say it is easy for Republicans to stand across the aisle and throw stones.

"You've got the ability to introduce a budget," Sullivan said. "Where’s your budget numbers that fully funds all these programs, and how are you going to pay for them? You’ve not put that forward; I think it’s hypocrisy at its best."

The budget was negotiated by Democrats in both the House and Senate; Republicans have uniformly voted against it.