Gov. Bruce Rauner calls his plan to shift public retiree costs to local schools and colleges good governance, but the majority of state House members say otherwise in their pledge not to support it.
Rauner spoke to a group of business owners about his budget proposal Monday afternoon at Konen Insurance in Aurora. Part of the governor’s plan is to gradually shift the state’s pension costs to local schools and universities. He said it would give schools an incentive to insist on sustainable benefits for employees.
“You want to put responsibility for paying pensions in line with the folks who determine who gets the pension benefits and at what level, so it’s actually good policy to do that,” Rauner said. “Democrats and Republicans have both agreed that it’s the right policy to do.”
The plan did bring both parties together – but not as Rauner had hoped. State Rep. David McSweeney’s resolution opposing Rauner’s plan has 66 cosponsors.
“It would result in a massive property tax increase,” the Barrington Hills Republican said. “The only thing the governor’s doing is shifting the liabilities to local governments and they’ll be forced to raise property taxes.”
State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, calls the plan bad policy.
“Shifting billions of dollars of additional costs to our school districts would, in effect, be a property tax increase and an unfunded mandate,” she said.
Rauner said he’s proposing $350 million in additional school funding for fiscal 2019 and that would cover the higher costs. The money he’s referring to is tied to the school funding reform legislation he signed into law last year.
Higher education officials panned the plan last week, saying it would lead to tuition hikes.
House Speaker Michael Madigan proposed a similar plan to shift pension costs to local schools in 2012, leading to one memorable outburst.
Article by Cole Lauterbach. For more Illinois News Network content, visit ILNews.org
UIS leads the field at MIG
The Model Illinois Government (MIG) delegation at UIS is perennially one of the school’s strongest academic teams. Lead by head delegates Payton Raso, Chloe Compton, and Cale Bergschneider, this year was no different. During the weekend simulation in the state capitol, the team won a wide array of awards and honors.
What is MIG?
MIG is an annual simulation of all the aspects of the Illinois state government. Colleges from around the state send delegations to Springfield to model the real government. Students pass legislation in the House and Senate, try cases at MOOT court, and develop a state budget with the help of the OMB analysts. Students hold elections to fill all the normal leadership positions, including governor, Speaker of the House, and majority and minority leaders for debate.
UIS won a large number of leadership elections going into this year’s simulation:
- Zachary Sullivan was President of the Senate
- Caitlin Osborn was Treasurer
- Donnie Lewis was Comptroller
- Payton Raso was House Majority Leader
- Chloe Compton was Senate Majority Leader
- Noah Danner was Assistant Minority Leader in the House
- Joseph Partain was Minority Whip in the House
- Cale Bergschneider was Majority Whip in the Senate
Looking towards next year, four UIS students won spots on the executive board. These are the students who actually ensure MIG happens every year.
- Payton Raso will be Speaker of the House
- Chloe Compton will be President of the Senate
- Cale Bergschneider will be Comptroller
- Collin Cisco will Treasurer
The delegation was recognized for their efforts this year. The delegation as a whole took home the coveted “Outstanding Large Delegation” award. Many individuals took home awards as well:
- Payton Raso – Outstanding Member of the House
- Chloe Compton – Outstanding Member of the Senate
- Collin Cisco – Outstanding OMB Analyst
- Joseph Partain – Outstanding First Year Delegate in the House
- Garrie Allen – Outstanding Staff Member
The UIS delegation is advised by Dr. Ken Owen from the history department.
Illinois lawmakers look to change licensing, testing to find more teachers
Illinois lawmakers are looking at two reasons why they say there aren’t enough teachers in the state.
There’s a lot of focus on testing and licensing for teachers at the Illinois Capitol this year.
Lawmakers are trying to end Illinois’ teacher shortage. A recent report found 90 percent of schools have trouble finding a teacher or substitute.
Jason Helfer with the Illinois State Board of Education said they are taking a year to study the issue.
“Our year of study will focus on work teacher workforce issues,” Helfer said Wednesday. “Licensure is one part of that, but not the only part. There are three other parts that include pipeline issues. How do we get young people to enter into the field? Teacher preparation, how are they being prepared and so forth? And finally recruitment, hiring and retention once they are in the district.”
But lawmakers say they want to know why so many people who want to teach can’t pass the state’s basic skills test to start a career.
State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, said about 60 percent of teacher candidates fail the state’s basic skills test. At Wednesday’s statehouse hearing, she said that’s unacceptable.
“A lot of our college kids are unable to pass the test. They’re not going into teaching,” Mayfield said. “They are like ‘You know what, I’ve given you four years. I’ve taken this test three times, I can’t pass it. You know what. I’m just going to change my major.’ We’re losing teachers.”
Helfer said most prospective teachers in Illinois easily pass the state tests for their subject or specialty, it’s the broader basic skills test that they are having problems with.
Helfer said the the state’s licensing issues deal mostly with allowing out-of-state teachers to ease into an Illinois classroom without having to jump through additional hoops.
Lawmakers are also proposing their own fixes. There are more than a dozen proposed laws on file this spring that’d deal with the state’s teacher shortage in one way or another.
Half of Illinois Board of Higher Education’s $3.4 billion funding request is meant for pensions
While Illinois has seen a loss of it’s public university students over several years, the taxpayer cost per student is, in some cases, nearly double in Illinois what it is in other states, and one driving factor is the high taxpayer cost of higher education pensions.
During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing last week, Illinois Board of Higher Education Executive Director Al Bowman said over time Illinois has lost thousands of college enrollees.
“In 1991 we had 202,000 students enrolled in public universities,” Bowman said. “In 2014 we had 193,000. So we dropped 8,600.”
State Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said higher education is costing taxpayers per student in Illinois more than schools cost taxpayers in other states.
“We were, back in 2015, paying over $10,000 in state support per student [in Illinois],” McConchie said. “And I’m looking at Ohio, $5,100 per student, Wisconsin $5,200 per student.”
IBHE is asking for for $3.4 billion for public universities in the coming fiscal year that begins July 1, $1.7 billion of that would go to the university retirement system.
State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said that high pension cost is diverting dollars from other resources meant to attract students to Illinois schools.
“The money is being shunted,” Rose said. “It’s being shunted away from base operations, which frankly, are things like recruitment dollars to bring students to our institutions, quality of faculty, retention of faculty, it’s all being shunted into a different direction.”
IBHE’s request also includes $20 million for capital construction projects to address immediate health and safety needs. But that’s only a portion of the overall capital needs Bowman said are looming.
Rose said the buildout universities underwent from years ago trying to be all things to all students is another cost for taxpayers to bear, something he said also makes tuition too expensive for Illinoisans.
Rose said, as the experts, IBHE needs to find solutions.
Article by Greg Bishop. For more Illinois News Network content, visit ILNews.org
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