Illinois looks to shift pension, healthcare costs to K-12 schools, higher ed
- Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget plan would shift pension and healthcare costs currently picked up by the state to school districts, community colleges and universities — though he says other parts of the plan would allow the state to spend a record amount on Pre-K and K-12 while more equitably distributing another $350 million.
- At the time of the announcement, estimates of the plan’s impact were not available for several colleges, but some officials argued that the shift equates to a cut in their appropriations. Under the plan, the governor said schools would get an additional $205 million dollars in funding to help cover new costs, according to the Herald & Review.
- The plan preserves funding levels for a need-based grant program for college students and asks for an additional $100 million for deferred maintenance costs on college campuses.
The stalemate over Illinois’ state budget has wreaked havoc on school districts and universities. Schools have operated without millions in expected funds with serious consequences for students and workers. As a result, furloughs, layoffs, and pay cuts have plagued universities in Illinois. Last year, Federal Title I funding supporting school districts with a high number of low-income families was reallocated to pay for pension costs.
If Rauner’s plan becomes law, schools might have to offer less generous retirement benefits. While research is on the issue is mixed, overall studies suggest that pensions help public colleges recruit and retain faculty. With budget crunches putting administrators in difficult situations when it comes to recruiting and retaining top faculty, administrators must look to identify other incentives to bring in and keep faculty. More engagement and shared governance practices can help. College presidents say that more buy-in from faculty on a range of issues can ease transitions when changes come, and faculty feel better about working in a place where their voice matters.
The move also comes amid ongoing concerns about many states' education funding remaining below pre-recession levels, as highlighted in a recent AASA survey, and a suggested 5% cut to federal education funding in President Donald Trump's FY19 budget proposal.