2008 Higher Education Legislative Report
By Leo Welch
The following is a bill summary of actions on bills by the General Assembly that relate to Illinois public higher education. Although the General Assembly has officially adjourned, the leadership of both the House and Senate has periodically been recalled for various legislative matters.
House Bill 4189, Pritchard (Maloney)
Amends to State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. Classifies community college districts as units of local government that must adopt resolutions regulating the political activities and the solicitation and acceptance of gifts by their officials and employees. Community college districts were classified as State agencies subject to the entire Act’s regulation and enforcement by the Executive Ethics Commission and the Governor’s Executive Inspector General.
Due to lobbying efforts by community college faculty, trustees and college presidents, this bill was passed this year. The governor vetoed the bill in 2007, but this time his veto was overridden by an overwhelming vote in both the house and the senate. This “ethics act” changed the community colleges from State agencies requiring that community college employees take an annual ethics test to units of local government. Most faculty considered the test a sham and waste of time. In addition the section in the original act on prohibited political activities probably violated First Amendment components of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment to this bill that reclassified community colleges had no effect on public universities. They are still under the language of the original act.
House Joint Resolution 36 (amended), Eddy (Righter)
Directs the Illinois Board of Higher Education to establish a task force to study issues related to dual credit classes and requires the task force to report the findings to the General Assembly on or before December 1, 2008
A dual credit course is taught in a local high school by the high school faculty member and awards both college credit and high school credit to a high school student who is enrolled in this program. Dual credit was initiated by the Illinois Community College System administration by changing their “rules.” Dual credit was never authorized by action of the Illinois General Assembly. This program should not be confused with dual enrollment where a qualified high school student attends a class at a community college taught by a community college faculty member.
Both the high school administration and community college administration love this program because the state funds both the high school and the community college for the same course. In other words this is a classic example of “double dipping.” When a transcript is sent by the high school student to a receiving institution it will simply show a college level course was completed. The only real opposition to dual credit classes is from community college faculty since this represents “out sourcing” of their jobs.
In an era where accountability and academic quality are buzzwords this program as it currently exists is suspect.
Senate Bill 2691 (amended), Sullivan (Pritchard)
Amends the Campus Security Act. Requires each public university, community college, and independent, not-for-profit higher education institution to develop a National Incident Management System (NIMS) compliant, all-hazards, emergency response plan and an inter-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional campus violence prevention plan in partnership with the institution’s county or major municipal emergency management official. Requires annual exercises of the emergency plans. Requires county and major municipal emergency managers and Illinois Emergency Management Agency regional coordinators to assist in the planning and training process for the plans with all resources available to them and to provide the higher education institutions with appropriate standards and guidelines, training, and exercises for these plans.
This bill passed easily and has been signed into law by the Governor in the wake of tragedies at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University.
In review of the text of the amended Campus Security Act, a component should be of special interest to faculty since it requires a Violence Protection committee to be formed at each campus. It would behave important for faculty to seek representation on this committee since they best know the environment of their classrooms, laboratories and other work sites. It is discouraging to think that this type of committee is necessary, but this is the climate that currently exists.
Senate Bill 1908 (amended), Maloney (Miller)
Increases the maximum Monetary Award Program award by $500 in each of the next three years (FY09, FY10, FY11). The bill also guarantees that students who aren’t eligible for the maximum award will receive an increase of the same percentage by which the maximum is increased. Senate amendment provides that the maximum grant amount is subject to appropriation and restores the provision that limits the MAP grant amount to an amount that equals 2 semesters or 3 quarters tuition and fees.
House Bill 1434 Harper (Community College)
Allows Harper College to offer Bachelors Degrees in selected areas. There were a number of requirements in the language of the bill that would severely limit what Harper could offer. The House voted to approve, but it was killed in the Senate. The bill was initially pushed by the president of Harper and then endorsed and supported by the Cook County College Teachers Union, who represents the full-time faculty at Harper. There are expectations that this bill will be re-introduced in 2009.
Fiscal Year 2009 Higher Education Budget
The fiscal year 2009 budget approved by the Governor includes $307.9 million in state general funds for community college grants and initiatives and for operation of the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB). This represents a decrease of $2.1 million, or 0.7 percent, from the fiscal year 2008 appropriation.
Funding for unrestricted grants to colleges (Base Operating Grants, Equalization Grants, Small College Grants, and a grant to the City Colleges of Chicago) remain at fiscal year 2008 levels. Funding for restricted grant programs for Workforce Development and Retirees Health Insurance remains at fiscal year 2008 levels; however, the $2.8 million provided in fiscal year 2008 for P-16 Grants was eliminated. The fiscal year 2009 budget also includes funds for the College Career and Readiness Pilot Program and Illinois Veteran Shortfall Grants at fiscal year 2008 levels.
A total of $2.1 million in state general funds is included in the fiscal year 2009 budget for ICCB office operations, which is unchanged from fiscal year 2008.
The fiscal year 2009 budget includes $1.4 billion in state general funds for public university operations. When compared to fiscal year 2008 appropriations, the budget for public universities represents an increase of $36.5 million, or 2.7 percent. This increase includes funds intended to address faculty and staff salary issues and designates some funds to specific purposes.