Aurora's IMSA directly caught in state budget crisis

Officials in Aurora and elsewhere are raising concerns about how the ongoing state budget war might affect the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, a high school that draws students from across Illinois.

“How are we going to keep getting good teachers to come here and teach?” state Sen. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat, said.

The school is part of the state's higher education budget and, as a result, hasn't gotten much of its expected state money since Illinois missed a budget deadline way back on July 1.

Illinois Board of Higher Education Executive Director James Applegate this week praised officials at IMSA for keeping the doors open and making things work, but he made the comments as part of a push to get lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner to finish up their long-delayed work.

“They are in extremely dire straits right now,” Applegate said.

‘Remains open'

A recent “reflection” posted online by the school's president, Jose M. Torres, began with an exclamation that qualifies as good news in the state's financial climate.

“It's the end of March and guess what? IMSA remains open even though our unpaid bills now exceed our locally held funds!” he wrote.

He uses the statement to say: Yes, the school will stay open through the end of the school year and reopen after the summer break.

“I believe that IMSA is too important to too many people,” Torres wrote. “We're too important to Illinois and the world to ‘fail.' While we're not ‘too big to fail,' we're ‘too important to too many people to fail.'”

Blame game

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont this week said that if the budget stalemate continues, it'll be suburban Democrats who will be “paying a price” in the November election.

Top Republicans argue rank-and-file Democrats should be pressuring their leaders to compromise with Rauner.

“When you talk about suburban Democrats, they need to get activated and engaged because they're going to be paying a price if we have this mess come November,” Radogno said.

Why? House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs responded, too. He argued Democrats are telling independent voters they're with Gov. Bruce Rauner on some issues.

“They're not going to support the governor,” Durkin said. “But the fact is they're going to sell themselves for campaign purposes as being conservative Democrats,” he said.

The response

Democrats of course, disagree.

State Sens. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park and Melinda Bush of Grayslake are seen as two of Republicans' top targets in November.

Cullerton said he thinks Republicans should remember he carried legislation to try to consolidate government, one of Gov. Bruce Rauner's top priorities.

“I don't think I'll pay the price in showing people they're getting more value for their dollars,” Cullerton said.

“I would say there's plenty of blame to go around on both sides,” Bush said.

Cullerton's opponent is Seth Lewis of Barlett. Bush's is Michael Amrozowicz of Gurnee.

‘Many people'

Last month, we detailed here a set of emails that showed Rauner's interest in being a part of picking a new trustee for the College of DuPage board after the surprise resignation of Kathy Hamilton.

The pick was up to Illinois Community College Board Chairman Lazaro Lopez, an administrator at Northwest Suburban High School District 214.

“The statute is clear that it is your appointment,” a board leader wrote to Lopez. “The governor's office has also made it clear they want to be a part of that process.”

This week, Lopez said in response to a question about Rauner's level of involvement: “I literally received countless, countless letters of interest and individuals calling the agency, calling my office. (He) was one of many people that were very interested in it.”

Pension cut coming?

In response to a column last year by the Daily Herald's Jake Griffin that showed an Illinois Association of Park Districts lobbyist was in line to get a six-figure public pension, state lawmakers this week moved to end the practice.

The legislation was approved by a House committee this week and moves on for further debate.

“It's time to stop giving perks to lobbyists and stop wasting hard-earned tax dollars on those who don't work on behalf of the taxpayer,” state Rep. Marty Moylan, a Des Plaines Democrat and the plan's sponsor, said in a statement.

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