Saturday, April 23, 2016

90 minutes with Senator David Luechtefeld

Now with Luechtefeld spelled correctly! And a note re K-12.

State Senator David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) is nearing the end of a 21 year career in Springfield (one that followed a career in secondary education). I was one of a group of IEA activists that met with him for 90 minutes on lobby day in Springfield on Wednesday--just a couple of days before the legislature acted to provide stop-gap funding for SIU. As we spoke, Luechtefeld was guardedly optimistic about stop-gap funding coming through. He voted for the eventual bill--as did everyone else in the Illinois Senate (there were a couple of dissenting votes in the House). We spoke to Luechtefeld essentially because others were speaking to other legislatures, and while Luechtefeld is nearing retirement he's respected by others in the local GOP caucus, so is influential.

Luechtefeld began smartly by saying that he recognized that SIUC was the 'most important institution' in his district, one he knew had been suffering for a long time from declining state funding, and declining enrollment, even before the current crisis. He noted the importance of SIUC to Carbondale in particular, describing the decline facing Carbondale in terms nearly as dire as those in my op-ed for the Southern the other day. Note his quote at the end of the Carbondale Times story on the stop-gap bill:
“Irreparable damage has been done to our universities and community colleges,” he said in a statement. “There are no real winners with today’s budget bill, only a sliver of relief is being provided. No one should applaud this solution or be running to take the credit.”
So Luechtefeld gets it--and he thus anticipated our main talking points. This is a good thing, of course. He could have mouthed some of the anti-higher ed rhetoric coming from the Governor's office, which essentially blames bloat, redundancy, and waste in higher ed for the state's failure to fund higher ed. But the fact that we all agreed on the problem made for a curious conversation . . .

Friday, April 22, 2016

Reprieve for Illinois Higher Education

Updated & revised at 4/22 at 9:00 pm following my being pointed to a fuller statement from President Dunn on the impact on SIU. 

Big news: the Illinois General Assembly has approved a stop-gap funding measure for public colleges and universities and MAP grants. Votes were all but unanimous in favor in both houses. Rauner will sign the bill.

Colleges and universities will get about 3o% of what the Democratic budget passed last year and vetoed by Rauner would have given them. MAP funding is at about 40%. CSU, the worst off of the universities, got 60%. And this funding should arrive soon.

A Carbondale Times story quotes Randy Dunn as follows:
“For SIU, this well appreciated stop-gap measure will give us the ability to operate into the remainder of the year without having to enact, at least for the next six months, the draconian layoffs and budget cuts I presented before the Board of Trustees last month. It also allows us to plan for operations with an uncertain level of funding now as well as for next year. It is by no means a final spending plan for this fiscal year — a fact acknowledged by almost every legislator who rose to speak on the bill’s behalf. We thank them for their acknowledgement that there is still work to be done and look forward to continuing our efforts with our campus and state-wide elected officials as they continue to fix this state budget and live up to the covenant the State of Illinois has with its public universities."
So it looks like Dunn is ruling out significant layoffs for the fall semester. That's important good news. Of course if the state doesn't provide a decent FY 17 budget, we may be right back in the same mess, but Dunn seems to think that this stop-gap will see us through the fall.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Higher ed funding tomorrow?

Update: WSIU carries a story on the last-minute failure of the bill on Thursday, including a quote from Randy Dunn. 
The Senate and the House are scheduled to adjourn for a week after Friday's session. There is great pressure on them to get something done for higher education, particularly given that Chicago State will apparently shut down by the end of the month absent state funding.

The result was a crazy day at the capitol. A bill that would have authorized $600 million for higher education (enough to pay something like 30% of the FY 2016 allocation, plus some MAP funding) seemed on the verge of passing, and had the approval of the governor's office. Details are murky, but it looks like a bipartisan compromise worked out by rank and file GA members was shot down by the Democratic leadership (Madigan), at least for the moment, because Madigan was (a) attempting to get more money from Rauner? (b) perfectly willing to prolong the crisis in order to do so?  (c) unwilling to support anything Rauner would sign? The compromise bill had better be reconsidered today--if it isn't, the closure of CSU and massive cuts at other universities will rest  squarely on the Democrats. You'd think that would be enough to pressure them to pass something after today's debacle.

There are fairly clear summaries of where we stand tonight in the Tribune and the Daily Herald. Capitol Fax had a story that was updated updated several times during the day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lobby day in Springfield

A stub of a post on lobby day in Springfield, which I attended. More later. For now a picture showing one of the more effective visuals from the day: SIU medical school students wearing their lab coats. I took a picture of them myself but here steal the better one from the State Journal-Register.

The SJR story reveals the unfortunate fact that Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago Teachers Union, slandered Rauner by saying he is "the new ISIS recruit . . .  because the things he's doing looks [sic] like acts of terror on poor and working-class people."  Thanks, Karen, for making your reckless rhetoric one of the main talking points from the day. That sort of crazy talk makes Rauner's day, making him look like the grownup in this debate (which is no easy achievement).

Medical students from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine listen to speakers during a rally supporting increased funding to education held near the state Capitol complex in Springfield on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Western and its faculty union agree on pay deferral

Western Illinois University's faculty union (UPI, a.k.a. AFT, affiliated with AFL-CIO) and administration have reached a tentative agreement on two years of deferred pay for faculty. The agreement sets  guidelines for conditions under which pay would, or would not, be paid back. Assuming the union members vote in favor of the agreement, faculty would take 3% cuts (for now) for the next two fiscal years (FY 17 and FY 18), as well as foregoing a scheduled 1% pay hike (for now) for FY 17.

To the best of my knowledge no talks are under way at SIUC about this sort of thing, though of course the contract is being extensively discussed, and those negotiations may result in this sort of proposal being considered. At this point, though, discussions of cuts to college budgets, as far as I can tell, are not factoring in any wiggle room thanks to furloughs/deferred pay, meaning that tentative plans for cuts are almost entirely coming in the form of layoffs.

Local professor notes sky is falling

I just can't get enough of my own rhetoric on a mere blog.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Springfield update

A story in the Springfield State Journal-Register says the Rauner-Madigan rivalry is worsening and "leaving little hope that the state will have a spending plan any time soon".

Others however suggest what Rich Miller at Capitol Fax calls "green shoots". Despite the public sniping, there have been private meetings, both of the principals and their staffs. 

If private conversations don't produce anything productive, perhaps threats will. Miller notes the impact from a threat by Democratic Senate President John Cullerton, who has said he will hold back K-12 funding until the rest of state government gets a budget.

Finally, there's now a democratic proposal on the table for redistricting, a long-time desideratum of good government folks. That's also an item on Rauner's Turnaround Agenda. If passed, it could conceivably allow Rauner to declare victory and engage in real negotiations about the budget.

This all in addition to other pressures: the Comptroller's decision to put legislative salaries on the slow track, and the likely legal challenge from the Attorney General to question whether the state has the authority, absent a budget, to pay any employees. Not to mention angry and fearful constituents.

So after 10 months of chaos, the pressure starts to build. Those 10 months have already done great damage, and funding on the level the Governor has proposed--a 20% cut--would not turn things around: it would just slow our decline. We need a decent budget now. Every extra day means more students who go out of state or give up on college, and every dollar cut from the eventual budget undermines our potential to rebuild.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pay for legislature & top officials to be delayed

UPDATE: Politico predicts Illinois Comptroller race will be Rauner-Madigan proxy fight. 

Our State Comptroller, Republican Leslie Munger, announced today that she'll force Illinois' six "constitutional officers" (including herself) and all state legislators to get in line to get paid like state vendors, who currently wait at least two months to be paid.
Comptroller Leslie Munger

The (conservative) Chicago Tribune gives its interpretation of the story in the first word of its article:
Election-seeking Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger plans to delay monthly paychecks for lawmakers and statewide officials, saying there isn't enough money to pay the state's bills and other services should go to the front of the line.
And here I was not realizing that "election-seeking" was an adjectival phrase in regular use! Munger is indeed up for election this fall, as she was appointed by Governor Rauner to fill the position left vacant by the death of Judy Baar Topinka, who was probably the most respected high office holder in Illinois of either party. Munger hopes her plan will push leaders (or at least their less wealthy followers in the General Assembly) to resolve the budget crisis sooner rather than later; she also no doubt doesn't mind getting her name out there as a do-gooder before running for election.