Day 307: Destroying The Town To Save It While Eating The Seed Corn

Bryan Murley
May 5, 2016 · 5 min read

As some may remember, a couple of weeks ago, the Illinois State Legislature passed and alleged Governor Bruce Rauner signed SB2059, which provided “stopgap” funding for Illinois’ colleges and universities to the tune of about $600 million that apparently nobody in Springfield knew had been lying around for months in the Education Assistance Fund.

For the schools that had been starving for funds for 10 months, the funds were a welcome meal. But lost in all the hallelujahs before the TV cameras was the measure was not enough, and it wasn’t going to last long.

I’m going to quote extensively today from Eastern Illinois University President David Glassman’s remarks this week before the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee, as reprinted in this article from Tom Kacich of the (Champaign) News-Gazette. I’m doing so because, frankly, I can’t paint the frustrating image of what our alleged Governor’s malfeasance is doing to Illinois’ proud colleges and universities as well as Glassman does here.

“In fact, the stopgap funding in real dollars is so low for EIU that it will likely necessitate additional layoffs beginning in late summer. This is the only way we can achieve the cost reductions necessary to make up for the absent appropriations,” he said. “Insufficient funds equal more layoffs.

But what about all that “fat” the universities have in their administration?

EIU “has gone so far beyond efficiencies that we’re cutting people that we need in the financial aid office, the student affairs offices, the student support offices, our advisers. It is a very, very deleterious staffing situation we have right now.”

Glassman took over almost one year ago, June 1, 2015, and he has eliminated 363 positions — about 23 percent of the total workforce.

EIU was already a very efficient university. This is the equivalent of an athlete at optimal weight for her height being forced to lose another 23 percent of her body weight to keep her position because the coach wants the concession stand to serve ice cream during games.

As has been pointed out time and time and time again, the budget uncertainty isn’t just affecting current employees, students and parents — it’s affecting the future of all of these universities.

Glassman: “Even though our applications were right on target, our admits were right on target, but the deposits — and that’s what we use to predict enrollments — are down in the neighborhood of about 25 percent. We are told by parents that they are still making decisions up to this time and they’re going to make them through May. They have been nervous as can be. I have letter after letter saying, ‘We loved EIU. We had a great visit day. You are our first choice institution but we can’t be confident that you’re going to be here for four years for our student.’

“And therefore, they will say we’re now selecting Indiana State, we’re now selecting (Southeast Missouri State), we’re now selecting Missouri. They are afraid to commit to the school which is their first choice, and they’re apologizing to me, which I think is very telling and very interesting. They want to come. They’re not willing to commit.”

We in Illinois — whether it’s Eastern, Western, Northeastern, Southern — we’re all facing the same situation, and we need to assure these kids: Come to Illinois universities. Because now they’re saying, ‘Well, you might be here in the fall because everybody says they’ll be open in the fall. But are you going to be open next year? Are we going to have an impasse? Is this going to happen every year? And we keep hearing that you might have to eliminate some programs if you don’t get full funding. Is it going to be my program?’”

And the alleged Governor’s hostage-taking ways have not gone unnoticed by current students and employees, either.

“Many students are nervous about when and whether the state budgetary impasse will be completely resolved and how it will affect their ongoing education. These students do not need the added stress of wondering whether their program will still be operating by their senior year. To make matters worse, we are losing our best and brightest faculty at an increasingly alarming rate. And we aren’t left to wonder what their reason for leaving is. They tell us up front: too much uncertainty, not enough trust.

There’s now a new bill working its way through the legislature that appears to have bipartisan support. It would provide an additional $400+ million in funding to schools over the summer.

The hostage-taker-in-chief was non-committal to the Chicago Tribune:

A spokeswoman for Rauner said that while he is “open to discussing emergency bridge funding” for higher education and other services, he is focused on a more comprehensive budget deal, which has remained elusive.

It remains elusive because the opposition-led Legislature won’t include Rauner’s non-budgetary, anti-worker, anti-union pet agenda in a budget.

Meanwhile, Rauner thinks it’s fine and dandy to burn down the state to save it, meanwhile eating the seed corn — the future of the state — by tacitly encouraging Illinois’ youth to go elsewhere to pursue their higher education, perhaps never to return. I’m sure Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa and Kentucky welcome them all with open arms.

That’s some turnaround Rauner is accomplishing.

Meanwhile, several social services agencies have taken the only action that Rauner understands, apparently, suing in court for “breach of contract.”

From a CapitolFax roundup of info about the lawsuit:

The lawsuit, which also targets the directors of the Department on Aging and the departments of Human Services, Public Health, Healthcare and Family Services and Corrections, claims Rauner created an “unconstitutional impairment” of the contracts in his June 25, 2015, veto because the administration subsequently insisted on enforcing contract terms despite having no money to pay.

I hope they win. At some point, somehow, some way, a lightbulb has to click in this obstinate Governor’s skull that he can’t ransom the state’s vulnerable citizens because he has a raging hate-on for unions. That’s not governance. That’s not even human.

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Bryan Murley

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