Top administrators at Illinois public colleges and universities "are enjoying extensive perks and a lack of accountability."
That's according to a report released Friday by the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus detailing the cost of executive benefits and compensation at the state's higher education institutions.
Examples highlighted in the report include an annual housing stipend of $35,000 for the president of Governors State University in south suburban Chicago, memberships at the Sangamo Club and Illini Country Club for the president of Springfield's Lincoln Land Community College and $887,000 in total compensation provided in one year to a former University of Illinois at Chicago chancellor.
Illinois, and nearly every other U.S. state, is spending less today on higher education than when the Great Recession started, according to new research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
CBPP's report, issued last week, details how state-level cuts to higher education funding over recent years have been a key cause of "steep tuition increases that threaten to put college out of reach for more students." The center's research comes at a time when Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed deep cuts to higher education as part of his 2016 budget plan.
"College-educated workers are essential to our nation's economic success," CBPP policy analyst and report co-author Michael Mitchell said in a statement. "States must reinvest in their colleges and universities now to build the workforce they need to compete in decades to come."
Organized labor's power and effectiveness is still significant in Illinois despite unions having 97,000 fewer members in the state than a decade ago, local economic and labor experts argue in a new report.
"The labor movement's presence is still keenly felt in Illinois," said Frank Manzo with the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, which jointly released the "State of the Unions 2015" report with researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago.
"Unions continue to increase incomes across the state and advance a strong, middle-class economy," he added.
Former Chicago mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia urged those attending a teach-in on the state's budget to use the grassroots momentum gained from the city's hotly-contested mayoral race as a means to combat austerity measures that could adversely impact vulnerable communities.
The Cook County Commissioner forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a historic runoff when Emanuel failed to get the votes needed to secure an outright win in February's municipal election. Garcia lost to Emanuel in the April run by 12.4 percentage points.
Garcia spoke at the teach-in held at the McKinley Park Branch Library, 1915 W. 35th St. The McKinley Park Progressive Alliance hosted the event.
"This mayoral election was one of the most contested in recent history ... and one that has created space for community groups to be active in and for different movements to amply their voices and exert some influence and power," Garcia said.
Carrying signs reading, "Mental wellness is a human right," a few hundred Illinoisans took to the Thompson Center Wednesday afternoon to rally against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget cuts to mental health services and other crucial programs.
At the event, spearheaded by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Chicago, speaker after speaker denounced Rauner's 2016 budget plan, which seeks to slash funding for the mental health division of the Illinois Department of Human Services by 15 percent. That works out to be a proposed cut of $82 million.
Cash-strapped Illinois faces a $6 billion budget deficit in the 2016 fiscal year, beginning July 1. To plug that hole, Rauner wants to significantly cut funding from a range of budgetary items, including $1.5 billion from Medicaid.
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