September 25, 2006
University of Illinois
HE.06.15 Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting, June 23, 2006.
The FAC meeting at Chicago State University included a 90-minute discussion with Senate Majority Leader Emil Jones. He said the citizens of Illinois place stress on elementary and secondary school funding and the legislature tries to respond but there are not enough dollars to meet the needs. State revenues have not kept pace with growth in needs but the public wants to cut spending and avoid a tax increase. We have gone from 67K state employees down to 57K. The retirement systems need funding given the underfunding started in the Thompson administration. The 1995 law to increase pension funding did not tie to actual revenue growth.
“There is no doubt about it” Jones said of the need for a tax increase. Illinois has a very low income tax and “one day will have to bite the bullet. It is a matter of educating the public about the need for more revenue.” He said faculty should be taking the message to the public and students to face up to the challenge. “We have to find a revenue stream to do the things we want to do.” The bulk of available revenue goes to education, health, and social services. Wealthy property tax districts offer great schools, less wealthy districts are in dire need. Lawmakers fear a backlash of voters if there is a tax increase. He personally, given his district, “strongly supports a tax increase” to build Illinois’ infrastructure and does not fear a backlash, but as leader of his caucus he must represent his caucus and their concerns. He sees a major negative in that President Bush keeps stressing cutting taxes and that has an impact. He blamed Republicans for failure to pass HB 750—only one Republican vote for it—and for no capital budget again this year.
Asked about the sale of the state lottery, he said that the lottery is not growing and keeping pace with needs but it is not clear the sale is the route to go as not all the “kinks” are worked out. We have to find ways to get more revenue including closing tax loopholes despite the claims that this harms businesses.
Asked about the effort to form another agency or group to focus on education K-20 Jones said he did not see a need for another layer of control above the BHE.
At the close of the discussion, Jones singled me out to ask, “When are you going to get rid of the chief?” I responded that our senate had voted to retire the chief, a recent student vote favored retention, and that the Board of Trustees had taken responsibility for decisions about the chief. Jones repeated his concern about the chief to me privately after the formal session ended.
BHE liaison Gary Alexander said the FAC needed to respond as part of the strategic planning process the BHE is undertaking. He indicated that Director Erwin would be meeting the week of June 26 to discuss a possible organizational structure of a proposed new council to replace the old Joint Education Council linking elementary, secondary and community and four-year colleges. The details including the role and power of this council proposed by the Governor are not yet established nor is the role of Elliot Regenstein, the Governor’s current education person, in such a council. Regenstein may resign his current role and head the council.
The development of a website for the FAC was reviewed. Currently the materials are available at otel.uis.edu/ibhefac and include many of the policy statements adopted and material from recent years. Work on adding to the website continues.
The remainder of the meeting was spent discussing committee structure for the coming year in terms of issues to be addressed. Teacher preparation and quality standards for elementary and secondary teachers will be one focus. A second area revolves around issues of rising student debt, tuition and the students’ costs in higher education. A third area is responding to the strategic planning exercise of the BHE. A fourth is student mental health and stress. Committees were established to develop position papers in these areas. Other concerns included IBHE’s efforts to build a data bank following student progress in the educational system, transfers among schools, textbook costs and possible textbook rental programs, student preparation, and faculty issues involving tenure and academic freedom with the significant increase in non-tenure track faculty. Additional committees may be formed to deal with some of these or other issues during the year.
The meeting adjourned at 2:15 p.m. followed by brief 30-minute committee meetings.
UIUC Senate FAC Representative