More on the Illinois Budget Battle and Higher Ed

POSTED BY MARTIN KICH

These are the opening paragraphs of an article written by Elizabeth Campbell for Bloomberg News, titled “Illinois Colleges Besieged by Cuts as Budget Battle Trickles Down”:

“For Illinois’s colleges and universities, the end of a record-long political fight over the budget isn’t bringing the financial consequences to a close.

“Southern Illinois University, with about 17,000 students, is eliminating a quarter of its graduate teaching assistant jobs when classes resume next month and is letting 50 faculty positions go unfilled at its main campus. At Chicago State University, enrollment is projected to tumble after the lack of state funds pushed it to the brink of closing this year.

“And just as Governor Bruce Rauner enacted a six-month spending plan last month, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded more than $600 million of bonds sold by six public universities because of the lingering uncertainty.

“’The politics in Illinois are interfering with a lot of our opportunities,’ said Moosa Kamran, a 19-year-old biomedical major who quit his research job at Southern’s campus in Carbondale because it couldn’t guarantee he’d be paid. ‘I’m really worried about it.’

“Colleges and universities are among the hardest hit by the clash between the Republican governor and the Democrat-controlled legislature, which has drawn a line against curbs on labor unions, property taxes and workers-compensation laws that Rauner has sought to pass along with the budget. Contending with deficits left when temporary tax increases expired, the two sides remained mired in an impasse until late last month, when they agreed on a temporary spending plan to carry the government through half of the year.”

Later in the article, Campbell reports these specifics about the Moody’s ratings:

“On June 30, the same day Rauner enacted the budget, Moody’s cut Eastern Illinois, Governors State and Northeastern Illinois universities, all of which have junk ratings. It also downgraded debt issued by Southern, Illinois State and Northern Illinois. All six–as well as the University of Illinois–have negative outlooks from Moody’s, indicating more cuts may follow.”

Campbell’s complete article is available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-26/illinois-colleges-besieged-by-cuts-as-budget-fight-trickles-down.

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Illinois colleges and universities are literally getting hit from all sides, as is made clear in these opening paragraphs of an article written by Carol Herzog for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

“Three state universities in southeastern Wisconsin are aggressively turning their attention south to pull more students—and tuition revenue—from the Land of Lincoln.

Whitewater, Parkside and Milwaukee campuses in the University of Wisconsin System for years have drawn students from northern Illinois because of their close proximity to the border.

“Working in their favor is the fact tuition for Illinois students to attend a UW campus is remarkably close to, or even less, than what they would pay at their own state schools. Illinois also is in the midst of a state budget crisis with lawmakers failing to approve an annual budget beyond a stopgap that only partially funds higher education.

“It’s a perfect storm for recruiting Illinois students to Wisconsin, as Wisconsin campuses look to offset their own state budget cuts and enrollment stagnation [my emphasis]. Illinois in recent years has seen a dramatic rise in students leaving the state for college elsewhere.

“In 2004, about 15% of Illinois high school graduates left their home state for college. In 2014, 22% left — that’s 10,000 more Illinois students than a decade ago, according to national data. Illinois’ migration percentage is higher than other Midwestern states.

“Wisconsin’s flagship campus, UW-Madison, attracts the most Illinois students of the UW campuses — 2,636 undergrads last fall. But the public universities closest to Chicagoland are seeing the most significant boosts to their bottom line.”

Herzog’s complete article is available at: http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/illinois-budget-woes-spark-uw-recruitment-full-court-press-b99766353z1-388336951.html.

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Just to be clear, this undermining of public higher education in Illinois is not coincidental but reflects Rauner’s broader antipathy toward public education. Consider these first paragraphs in a post written by Diane Ravitch for her blog:

“Fred Klonsky reports on emails sent from Governor Bruce Rauner, when he was a private citizen, to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel fought in court to keep the emails under lock and key, but was eventually forced to release them by court order.

“Citizen Rauner expressed his unedited views of educators in Chicago:

“’Gov. Bruce Rauner once told some of Chicago’s wealthiest and most influential civic leaders that half of the Chicago Public Schools teachers “are virtually illiterate” and half of the city’s principals are “incompetent,” according to emails Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration released Thursday under a court order.

“’Rauner made the assertion five years ago when he was a wealthy private equity executive and an active participant in Chicago school reform. His emails were part of a discussion with affluent education reform activists connected to the Chicago Public Education Fund, including Penny Pritzker, now U.S. commerce secretary; billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin; Chicago investment executive Mellody Hobson; and Helen Zell, the wife of billionaire real estate magnate Sam Zell.’”

The complete blog post can be found at: https://dianeravitch.net/2016/07/22/illinois-governor-rauner-thinks-half-of-chicagos-teachers-are-illiterate-and-its-principals-are-incompetent/.

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And to place the stories about the budget’s impasse’s impact on colleges and universities in an even broader context, here are the opening paragraphs of an article by Blair Kamin for the Chicago Tribune:

“The overgrown gardens around the Illinois governor’s mansion are so thick with trees and bushes that you can hardly see the place when you drive by. That’s not a bad thing. The mansion is the state’s most embarrassing fixer-upper.

“Bricks are crumbling. Balconies are sagging. And spindles are missing, leaving gaps in rooftop decoration like those in a bad set of teeth. The first section of the mansion was built in 1855, six years before the outbreak of the Civil War, and it is a mirror of the sorry state of the state. But Diana Rauner wants to change that.

“Illinois’ first lady unveiled an ambitious $15 million plan Monday for a major overhaul of the Springfield landmark. The overhaul promises to open views of the house to passers-by, clarify its aesthetically muddled exterior, and modernize its interior with a visitor orientation center, a mini-museum that showcases Illinois art, and a decent kitchen in the governor’s private quarters.

“Those are worthy goals, though the optics are tricky, with political gridlock in Springfield forcing cuts in several state programs [my emphasis]. But Diana Rauner said the needed funds are being raised privately: $4.5 million has been pledged so far, including $1 million from her and her husband, Bruce, the Republican governor and a wealthy businessman.”

Kamin‘s complete article can be found at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-executive-mansion-kamin-met-0719-20160718-column.html.

 

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