Bill to save Chicago State University fails

Leaders scramble to keep school open after bill falls short by two votes

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By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader

A bill that would have kept Chicago State University and other public universities from shutting their doors fell through on Wednesday after lawmakers came up short of passing the legislation.

In late night discussion with Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-8th), the Chicago Crusader learned “there could be a deal in the works by a bipartisan effort to fund higher education.”

It is the latest effort after the Illinois Senate voted to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of SB2043, which included $721 million for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant, but funding lost by two votes in the House.

Democrats needed 71 votes for an override of Rauner’s veto, but the final vote was 69 yeas to 48 nays—two votes shy of an override.

Voting against the override was Rep. Scott Drury (D-58th) from Highwood and absent was Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-3rd) from Chicago.

Reached in Springfield as he was leaving the Capitol Building, Ford expressed disappointment over the vote and said all the lawmakers were leaving and are due back in April.

“All of the Republicans voted against the MAP grant funding,” said Ford. “They stuck with the governor and did not vote for the override.

“I think this continues to tell us that we have to get a budget, and we have to put people first and put aside all of the differences and get a budget for people,” said Ford. “Here we are again without a way to fund higher education.

“This is just one more example of things that will go wrong in our state as a result of our not having a budget. There will be more tragedies coming our way. Universities will shut down and students will lose all of what they invested, and they will not be able to continue their education if we don’t do something soon to fund our universities.

“The next step is we have to find some money to fund our universities. We can do a supplementary appropriation bill to fund our universities if we’re not going to have a budget to do it. We have two choices: a supplemental budget or a full budget.”

Reminded that Rauner has vowed not to give in unless lawmakers approve his non-budgetary wish list, including term limits and tort reform, Ford said, “It’s tough right now. We have never seen this type of politics in governance, and we are going to have some problems.”

Instead of the governor vetoing the bill, Ford said, “He could have line-item vetoed and protected the universities, but he chose to veto that out.”

Earlier, the Illinois Senate Black Caucus, chaired by Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford (D-4th), voted unanimously to fund the MAP grant program.

In a statement, Sen. Emil Jones, III, (D-14), chairman of the Senate Black Caucus, said, “The MAP grant is designed for students who are in financial need, but are working toward a brighter, financially stable future.

“Today, we voted to ensure we are giving students the opportunity to receive an education that will lead to a good paying job by funding this program. We always say we want to prepare Illinois students for the workforce. The Senate Black Caucus showed its constituents what its priorities are. Making college affordable for students who want a hand up and not a hand out is how we will grow our state out of fiscal uncertainty.”

In another statement issued by the Black Caucus Sen. Donne Trotter (D-17th), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said, “I stood outside the governor’s office in January with students. We personally hand-delivered this funding bill to him and watched him strike down our efforts with his veto. He may be interested in sound bites, but I’m interested in keeping the students in my district and across this state in school.”

Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) said, “I proudly overrode the governor’s decision to veto critical dollars that will drive our college students out of Illinois. Students should be concerned about passing exams and graduating, not debating dropping out or transferring to another state. They did their part, now he needs to honor his administration’s commitment to our teens.”

“At the heart of competitiveness is opportunity. When Illinois provides qualified, motivated students with genuine opportunities, our entire state reaps the benefits,” stated Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th).

She went on to say, “It is infuriatingly unnecessary that in order to improve their prospects and make the most of their talents, many of our state’s young people find they must leave Illinois if they have the resources to do so. Too many do not. They live with the disappointment of a dream deferred, and meanwhile, our economic vitality, our quest for equality and our struggle for stronger communities wither on the vine.”

Senator Napoleon Harris, III (D-15th) stated, “I refuse to give up on students. Education takes young people out of poverty and allows them to become strong contributors to our economy. Chicago State is a priority for many people in my district, but the lack of funding is hurting families across the state.

“There are still students waiting for money promised to them almost a year ago. That’s unacceptable. The governor’s administration made these promises, and they need to deliver,” said Harris.

“Together, we must stand up and fight back. I urge my colleagues in the House to override the governor’s veto as well. The future of our youth is depending on it.”

When asked what the Democratic Caucus will do now, Ford said, “I think that the Democratic Caucus and the Republican Caucus will come together before it is too late in order to protect universities.”

Due to the fiscal stalemate in Springfield, Ford said, “The universities are trimming the fat off of their budgets. That is what is happening now.”

 

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