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Cutting Through Extension Rumors

State Extension director continues to beat back county funding rumors.

So, I'd planned to spend my Monday in Champaign, interviewing U of I Extension Director Bob Hoeft for an upcoming story. But about 45 minutes into my drive east, Dr. Hoeft called to tell me he'd been summoned to an emergency meeting in Springfield.

And just as I'll be spending my day differently than planned, so will he. But his sounds decidedly less fun.

Dr. Hoeft will spend his day looking for face time with state legislators, in an effort to beat down a persistent rumor that's dogged Extension funding for the past couple of months. The rumor? That the massive reorganization Extension is undergoing is an effort to funnel county money back to campus.

And as Dr. Hoeft describes, it's simply not true. County money is county money, and it stays in the county or unit that provided it. The state legislature matches some of that county money (theoretically, anyway) and that's why legislators are concerned.

And I gotta say, the pessimist in me wonders why they even care, since the state doesn't have any money anyway. Anyone with ears and an Illinois address knows how far behind the state is in funding our schools. Their inability to pay Medicare bills has caused small nursing homes to close their doors, and some doctors are even beginning to reject Medicare patients. And then there's the county fairs. We'll be lucky if they have enough money to pay premiums or function at all.

But the optimist in me knows there are good legislators in Illinois, and they do care. People like Rich Myers, Don Moffitt and John Sullivan, to name a few, who know exactly how badly the state has mismanaged money. Actually, they probably know things that would make the rest of us cringe. Or be sick to our stomachs. And they know how badly the schools, the fairs, the hospitals and more need the money they're supposed to get.

So from that perspective, I'm glad they're questioning exactly what Extension will do with their money. I'm leaning towards optimism today, hoping they're asking those kinds of questions of a whole lot of people and groups beyond Extension.

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