February 07, 2017

Spring program marks Simon Institute’s 20th anniversary

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar will deliver the keynote speech of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s spring 2017 event schedule to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the institute’s founding in 1997. 

“We are delighted that Gov. Edgar will be joining us to reflect upon Sen. Simon’s living legacy through the Institute that now bears his name,” Jak Tichenor, interim institute director, said.  “Gov. Edgar was literally present at the beginning of the institute, and we deeply appreciate his continued support of the nonpartisan approach to public policy development that Paul began here 20 years ago this spring.” 

Edgar signed the documents that created the Institute at SIU Carbondale on Sept. 18, 1995, prior to Simon’s retirement from the U.S. Senate in 1997, saying at the time: “He will bring a strong commitment to public service, a thoughtful approach to confronting the vital issues of the day, a fundamental decency and unshakable integrity to this important, exciting venture.” 

Edgar is scheduled to speak at 6 p.m., May 4, in the Student Center auditorium.  

Other topics during the spring program mirror concerns often expressed by Simon. 

Discussions and conferences on pressing state issues of fairer school funding, the budget, children in poverty, and engaging youth in public affairs and politics, highlight the schedule as the institute celebrates 20 years throughout 2017. 

“We believe the best tribute to Paul and his legacy is to explore important public policy issues and address the issues of the day,” Tichenor said. “That is what we believe is a fitting tribute to his memory. He really felt strongly about that.” 

On March 10, the institute will host an Illinois School Funding Fairness Conference to examine the report issued last week by the state’s funding reform commission. Scheduled speakers include Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis, state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, and Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington; Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability; Daniel Thatcher, who is with the National Conference of State Legislatures; and Brent Clark, executive director, Illinois Association of School Administrators. 

Tichenor notes that Simon, as a state legislator more than 50 years ago, was concerned with school funding formulas. Legislative approval this year of some of the commission’s proposed measures would be “one of the most significant developments in school funding in more than 100 years,” Tichenor said. 

“More than 50 years ago he (Simon) was pointing out that just relying on a property tax base to fund K-12 education was inadequate for a modern-day Illinois since that was based on our agricultural past,” Tichenor said. 

Most of the institute’s events are free, and officials encourage the public and students to take advantage of these opportunities. Several events require an RSVP. More information, including registration details, is available at http://paulsimoninstitute.siu.edu/event-information/index.php

The current schedule is:

  • Feb. 16 -- 5 p.m., Institute lobby. “Decoding the Illinois Budget,” featuring Tichenor, Linda Baker, institute university professor, and John Jackson, institute visiting professor. The event will be a reaction and discussion of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Feb. 15 budget address.
  • March 3 -- 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Student Center Ballroom B. Jeanne Hurley Simon Lecture, featuring Tequia Hicks-Delgado, a former White House Senior Adviser for Congressional Engagement and Legislative Relations and SIU Carbondale alumna. Hicks-Delgado, a graduate of Carbondale Community High School, worked at the institute while earning her degree in political science. Her experience also includes working for former U.S. Senate minority leader Harry Reid’s office.
  • March 10 -- 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Student Center ballrooms. Illinois School Funding Fairness Conference.
  • March 23-24 – “Building Our Children’s Futures: A Multi-Disciplinary Conference to Address and Confront Child Poverty.” University of Illinois-Springfield. The institute and SIU School of Medicine are among the conference sponsors. Diana Rauner, president of the “Ounce of Prevention Fund,” is one of the keynote speakers. Linda Baker, former director of the Illinois Department of Human Services, will also have insight into how state spending and state policies are impacting children.
  • March 28 -- 5 p.m., Institute lobby. “Pizza and Politics: The Simon Poll.” The session will discuss poll findings on issues related to state government, including the budget impasse, children living in poverty and human trafficking.
  • April 8 -- 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Youth Government Day for High School Students, Springfield.
  • April 12 -- 7 p.m., Student Center Ballroom B. Morton-Kenney Public Affairs Lecture, featuring John Sides, associate professor, political science, George Washington University and founder of the Washington Post’s “The Monkey Cage” blog.
  • May 4 -- 6 p.m., Student Center Auditorium. Keynote address, former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar.

For more information on this or any other institute program, contact the institute at 618/453-4009 or visit paulsimoninstitute.siu.edu