It would seem redundant to state that the governor’s and legislature’s inability to come up with a state budget yet again has put Illinois at peril.
As we approach yet another year without proper funding, the situation facing our community colleges has gone from dire to devastating. While the powers that be continue to play political games in Springfield, high-quality educators are losing their jobs and long-valued programs are being cut. This is not only catastrophic for the people losing their jobs, but it is as well for their families and, most importantly, their students. It is time for this nonsense to end. We need a budget now, and our community colleges need their state funding.
Illinois’ community colleges play a vital role in the economic well-being of our state. Our system is the third largest in the nation, educating nearly 1 million students each year. Nine out of 10 of the state’s community college graduates live, work, pay taxes and raise their families in Illinois. Our community colleges educate 65 percent of the students in Illinois public higher education system.
In the past, when our state was in an economic downturn, it was community colleges that stepped up to correct the situation. We offered employee training and provided economic development for local businesses and their communities. Illinois cannot improve its business environment while at the same time neglecting its most important resource — its community colleges.
In the upcoming days and weeks, there will be a multitude of articles documenting the cuts our community colleges are forced to make due to this ineptitude. As stated by the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents in a letter to the governor and legislative leaders last November, “The damage is both real and measurable. Payrolls will not be met, programs will be closed, staff and faculty will be reduced to mere shells. To be clear, we are far beyond the point of reducing administrative costs and suspending travel.”
We, as your locally elected community college trustees, are asking for your support in demanding that our elected state leaders step up to the plate and iron out a budget now with proper funding for our community colleges.
Tim Black is chairman of the West Central Region of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association and a trustee at Black Hawk College in Kewanee. He lives in Galva.