Budget impasse prompts WIU to delay contract renewals

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MACOMB — Wednesday not only marked a missed deadline for the Legislature to pass a state budget without a supermajority. It also marked a delay to contract renewals for non-tenure track faculty at Western Illinois University.
William Thompson, WIU chapter president of University Professionals of Illinois, placed the number of affected faculty at 118 in an email sent Wednesday evening to union members. Darcie Shinberger, Western’s assistant vice president of advancement and public services, placed the number at 117.
President Jack Thomas cited the “unprecedented state budget impasse” as a prompt for the university to consider “fiscal adjustments” in an online statement addressed to the university community. At this time, the university is delaying contract renewals for non-tenure track faculty or “Unit B” faculty. Thomas pointed to Article 30 of the WIU/UPI agreement, and indicated the notice delays a decision on staffing levels for Fall 2017. Impacted employees will receive written notification.
“While we face funding challenges, Western Illinois University is committed to continuing to provide a world-class education to our students,” Thomas stated in a media release. “On numerous occasions, we engaged the governor and state legislators about the need for funding. As recently as Sunday, May 28, I testified before the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee. We continue to advocate strongly for our university.”
The letter, which was circulated to affected faculty with more than five years of service, states: “As an Associate Faculty member who has completed five or more years in the bargaining unit, you are being notified prior to June 1, pursuant to Article 30.3.b. of the WIU/UPI Agreement (extended through 2017), that as of this time, due to financial constraints, the decision to automatically renew your contract for the next academic year will be delayed. You will be informed as soon as possible regarding your 2017-2018 employment status. I wish to assure you that this delay of reappointment is unrelated to your job performance and your contribution to the University is greatly appreciated.”
According to Thompson, a letter with slightly different language was to be sent to faculty with five or fewer years of service.
Thompson stated in the email to union members, “UPI is currently considering its response and will do all we can to protect our members’ interests…We regret that the administration has come to this decision. The real blame for it belongs in the governor’s office. Governor Rauner continues to dismantle higher education in Illinois dollar by dollar, student by student, faculty member by faculty member, program by program, school by school in pursuit of his middle class destroying agenda. As a result, university administrations are being led to make these sorts of decisions. Let us, then, productively focus our anger at its source in the Governor’s Mansion.”
Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, told the Voice on Thursday that other state institutions may be giving similar notice to some of their faculty as Western has done. Hammond, who is on the House Appropriations for Higher Education Committee, also confirmed May 31 was the deadline to pass a bill by simple majority. Now the state has until July 1 to pass a budget, and this time with a three-fifths majority.
“We have to have one by July 1 or the entire state implodes,” Hammond said. “In the House, we are working on a lot of issues in a bipartisan manner. But we are having a problem with getting leadership to come into accord with the rank and file. Everyone wants the situations resolved, but we can’t get the cooperation.”
Hammond noted there has been a call for a $36.5-$40 billion tax increase. She also said the taxpayers are “up in arms” demanding accountability.
Within the next few weeks, the House has five appropriations committees meeting.
“It’s higher ed, it’s K-12, it’s social services; it’s human services,” she elaborated.
With the simple majority cut-off of May 31 gone, Hammond said legislators will have to rely on each other more than ever to do the people’s business.
“It’s going to be a situation where it’s much more difficult, but we are being put into a situation where we really need each other,” she said. “Nobody wants to see this fail.”
Hammond noted meeting with a group of school superintendents yesterday. Many of the superintendents were in favor of SB1 as a funding bill for K-12 education. But, Hammond noted SB1 calls for codifying block grants with the City of Chicago. The bill puts Chicago Public Schools in Tier 1.
“They will be able to get the bulk of the money going to K-12,” she said. She also stated a significant amount of the money also goes to cover Chicago pensions.
“I’m hopeful we can find the right balance. Everybody got the best they they could even though they didn’t get everything they wanted.”  

Reach Jared DuBach by email at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.

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June 2, 2017 at 02:09AM

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Budget impasse prompts WIU to delay contract renewals

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