Local college layoffs stand despite state budget progress

  • Layoffs announced by Harper College in Palatine won't be reversed in spite of the legislature's move Friday to send colleges and universities some funding.

    Layoffs announced by Harper College in Palatine won't be reversed in spite of the legislature's move Friday to send colleges and universities some funding. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 4/22/2016 8:52 PM

Layoffs announced by two suburban community colleges in recent weeks won't be reversed in spite of state officials' move Friday to approve an "emergency" budget for colleges and universities intended to keep them afloat at least for the coming months.

Lawmakers voted to send Gov. Bruce Rauner $600 million in spending, divvied up among community colleges, state universities, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, and a key state scholarship program many colleges have had to float for low-income students while state officials have battled over the budget since July 1.


Harper College in Palatine and College of Lake County in Grayslake have sent some workers layoff notices in recent weeks.

Twenty-nine Harper employees will exit June 30. The layoffs and unfilled positions are permanent, Harper College Chief Media and Communications Officer Phil Burdick said. The legislative action "won't have any effect on that at all," he said.

Burdick called the legislation "a really good step" but "not a permanent solution."

"We're already planning our budget for the next fiscal year," he said.

The same goes for College of Lake County, where 20 jobs were eliminated in March, of which 15 were vacant. Those positions won't be replaced, but the state ration should at least allow the college to hold off on further layoffs, College of Lake County President Jerry Weber said.

"We're hopeful we will see additional funding come forth," he said. "We want to get back the focus on student success and student learning."

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Schools won't get a full year's worth of money, but Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger's office said payments will be made quickly.

It's unclear how much each school will get.

Community colleges had expected $300 million before the budget crisis, Weber said. The legislation provides $75 million in state aid and will be divvied up among 48 community colleges by the Illinois Community College Board.

The legislation marks a break in the historically long Springfield budget stalemate and could get enough cash flowing to colleges and universities to keep them from closing their doors.

Many are set to get about 30 percent of their yearly state funding to get them "through the summer," state Rep. Rita Mayfield, a Waukegan Democrat, said.


The Illinois House voted 106-2 and the Senate 55-0 to send it to the governor, who has backed it.

"The governor applauds the members in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle who are coming together to deliver emergency assistance to our universities, community colleges and low-income students," a statement from Rauner's office read.

Democratic state Reps. Jack Franks of Marengo and Scott Drury of Highwood were the lone dissenters, with Franks arguing the stopgap measure only put off tough budget decisions.

"We have created a political freak show and a financial armageddon for our state," Franks said.

"We haven't shot the hostages yet," he later added. "We're giving them a temporary reprieve because the funds that are here may, may -- we're not positive -- get them through to Sept. 1."

The floor speech drew a sharp rebuke from Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly, who said Franks' opposition is the "worst kind of politics we've seen in Springfield in years, and he should be ashamed."

"Today's statements from Rep. Franks are what we've come to expect from someone whose actions speak louder than words when it comes to bipartisanship," a statement read.

The action came the morning after a dramatic, surprising move Thursday night to call off a vote, putting the future of the plan in question.

Friday morning, the proposal moved after a short House debate reflecting widespread agreement.

Some lawmakers, though, remain concerned the legislation provides temporary relief to one state problem while leaving another undone. Spending for drug treatment programs, mental health services and help for the homeless was absent from the plan, but the Senate started moving a budget plan for those programs later in the day.

The university proposal came out of separate efforts from Republican Rep. Mike Fortner of West Chicago. Fortner's idea to pay for the spending out of a particular state education account ended up being a key to the final solution.

"It sounds like a positive development," College of DuPage spokesman Joe Moore said. "But we have not yet seen a breakdown as to how much money would go to individual colleges."

• Daily Herald staff writer Robert Sanchez contributed to this story.

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