By ALAN J. ORTBALS
Nearly half of college-bound Illinois high school graduates leave the state to attend four-year institutions, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. And, the IBHE estimates that half of those who leave will not return to the Land of Lincoln.
Those figures are from 2015 before the state became embroiled in a budget stalemate between Gov. Rauner and the Legislature. It’s gotten worse since then, according to Randy Pembrook, chancellor of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He said that college recruiters from surrounding states are using the Illinois budget crisis to lure students away.
“The thing that scares me the most,” said Pembrook, “is you lose the brainpower, those creative individuals, the college-educated folks. If we are hemorrhaging numbers like that and they don’t come back what does it mean for the future of the state? Who’s going to be living here? What does that mean for the tax base? If you lose your young people, you lose your future. That’s the message I’ve been trying to send to people in Springfield.”
That message appears to be falling on deaf ears. The state, at press time, was headed to a second straight year without a budget. Spending has been drastically curtailed and even still some bills are going unpaid.
Pembrook said that the last year higher education was fully funded was FY 2015 (2014-15). In FY 2016 state funding dropped by 71 percent. For the current year, FY 2017, the funding stands at 53 percent and, Pembrook said, he didn’t know if there would be any additional funding forthcoming or not at the time of the interview.
“There is something called a ‘lifeline bill’ that has gone through one of the houses and is being considered by the other,” Pembrook said. “I think the governor might veto it because he is trying to get to a real budget rather than another stopgap. We don’t have any idea what the budget for FY 2018 will be.”
In real numbers SIUE received $60 million in state funding in FY 2015, just $19 million in FY 2016, and $30 million in FY 2017.
“There are all kinds of numbers being bandied around for next year,” Pembrook said. “Probably the best we would get would be 90 percent. I’ve heard 80 percent. There was number of 70 percent tossed out originally. And that’s assuming a budget would get passed.”
All of the public colleges and universities in Illinois are hurting from lack of state funding — some worse than others. According to the IBHE, 23 Illinois colleges and universities have been downgraded by the financial rating agency Moody’s. Southwestern Illinois College has announced two rounds of layoffs and Southern Illinois University Carbondale is seeking a loan from its sister SIUE.
While Lewis and Clark Community College has not been faced with layoffs, college President Dale Chapman said that workforce has been reduced by more than 40 through retirements and attrition.
“I would say Illinois is currently in the ICU,” said Chapman. “There are certain things keeping the patient alive. The revenues coming into the state are the equivalent of oxygen. We — meaning Illinois community colleges — are supplying the oxygen. We are not a tax eater, we are a tax contributor. So, we are applying the economic engine to the state. I have the numbers for us because we’ve had studies done. Lewis and Clark has a total economic impact on its district of $369.4 million. We’re saying to the state, ‘Get your feet off the oxygen hose’.”
The state currently owes LCCC $8 million, said Chapman, and that number is growing. He said that the state used to contribute about one-third of the college’s budget. Now it’s 16 percent and they’re not receiving that.
“We have 42 degree programs here,” Chapman said. “Plus, the transfer programs where people from our region get baccalaureate degrees and advanced degrees. A process operations tech person can start at $70,000-80,000 a year after a two-year degree from LCCC. A nursing graduate would earn $50,000 and be able to stay here and raise a family, buy a home, buy cars and create economic well-being in our district.”
He said the 1,000 students that graduated in May with those technical skills are seeking employment in the St. Louis area and want to live where their families are.
Chapman said that their high school dual credit program has been a savior for them. Under the program, high school students can take college credit classes at no extra cost and that has helped attract them to Lewis and Clark and keep them in the region. LCCC currently has 3,000 students enrolled in the dual credit program.
Even private colleges are being hammered by the state’s budget crisis through the Monetary Award Program.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
It will take more than a governor’s signature to restore confidence among Illinois’ social service agencies that have suffered so much during the two years of a budget impasse.
It might take the sweep of a magic wand.
Some experts say it will take years, not just months, for a rebound of agencies that have trimmed budgets and closed programs, even if state leaders resolve their differences immediately.
The struggle is reflected in a survey conducted this spring by United Way of Illinois among 463 human service agencies across the state, members and non-member agencies both. Among the findings:
St. Clair County Child Advocacy in Belleville is now working with fewer counselors.
The Lessie Bates Neighborhood House in East St. Louis cut services for older adults, utility assistance and homeless outreach.
The Wells Center in Jacksonville, which offers drug abuse and mental health treatment among others, says more people are becoming involved with police or going to hospital emergency rooms.
“We know that across the state 69 percent of agencies have received no or only partial payment for services delivered in Fiscal Year ’17. In Southern Illinois that number is closer to 73 percent,” said Dayna Stock, the senior vice president of regions and initiatives for United Way of Greater St. Louis.
Agencies have been forced to reduce the number of clients that they serve and take other measures, such as not filling vacant positions and using cash reserves.
In Southwest Illinois, 44 percent of responding agencies in the spring survey said they were not filling vacancies. Thirty-nine percent were using cash reserves.
“That could pose more problems down the road if they spend down their cash reserves,” Stock said. “Cash reserves are their backup. Spend that down, and if this goes on much longer they won’t have anywhere to go to make up the difference. It’s hard to have a crystal ball and predict how much longer they can survive, but it’s certainly been very taxing.”
Agencies generally fight against spending reserves because there are enormous costs to restarting closed programs.
“It’s really hard for them to staff back up again and get that going,” she said.
Even when the budget situation is resolved, nonprofits will be months, perhaps years rebounding, she said.
United Way of Greater St. Louis serves about 300,000 people in a nine-county area of Southwestern Illinois, and supports 60 agencies.
“We know 54 percent of agencies in Southwestern Illinois have had to reduce the number of clients that they are able to serve,” Stock said.
The survey was conducted in March, 21 months into the budget battle and less than three months after a stop-gap budget that released funds owed from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2016.
At issue is the money still owed to human service agencies that do work under contract with the state. The amount is part of the overall $14.3 billion in bills that the Illinois Comptroller’s Office says are backlogged.
Last month, Comptroller Susan Mendoza encouraged agencies to regularly report liabilities to her office, including late interest penalties associated with outstanding bills. She said there has been an increase of bills for medical, corrections, state group health insurance, human services and other state agencies.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
SCOTT AFB — At the region’s biggest employer, they are some of the biggest birds flying, yet their importance can be measured in about 16 feet.
That’s the tiny crucible of maneuvering distance between the mammoth KC-135 Stratotanker and the trailing aircraft it serves on refueling missions.
In baseball parlance, that’s about a quarter of the distance from home plate to the pitcher’s mound at Busch Stadium.
The refueling missions are only part of the responsibility of the 126th Air Refueling Wing, which is a unit of the Illinois Air National Guard. The wing has more than 900 personnel (about 500 drill status Guardsmen; 250 full time; and more than 100 active duty members). Several of the members work in support of other commands and operations on and off base.
Very few of the personnel actually live at Scott AFB, but a good number live in the surrounding community.
“Our recruiting base is better here than it is in Chicago,” said Col. Tom Jackson, commander of the Operations Group overseeing the wing. “The folks in the community are pretty impressive. About 95 percent of our wing lives within 50 to 75 miles,” Jackson said.
The heritage of the 126th can be traced to the 108th Observation Squadron, which was formed in 1927 and is celebrating its 90th year in July.
The KC-135 will be on display along with many other craft during the 100th anniversary Air Show and Open House at Scott AFB on June 10 and 11.
There are nine KC aircraft in the fleet assigned to Scott, but they are almost never at the base at the same time. Some are deployed around the world, some are on in-state assignment, some are in maintenance. The circumstances change with a phone call.
About 1,000 people are involved with the wing’s mission, either directly as part of the wing are through affiliation with other base operations.
“We touch everything here at Scott,” Jackson said.
The wing’s mission is to defend the nation, protect the state and serve the community — in that order. Pilots fly all over the world in nuclear support roles for the United States Strategic Command; perform inter-theater and intra-theater air refueling, including in combat zones; and provide military support to civil authorities and in state emergencies. The missions can involve airlift, transport, reconnaissance and more.
“Nuclear support is our No. 1 mission. It’s what we train for every day,” Jackson said.
Simmons Hanly Conroy is pleased to announce Deborah Rosenthal, a shareholder based in the firm’s San Francisco office, has been named to the Daily Journal’s 2017 list of Top Women Lawyers in California.
Each year, the editors and editorial staff of the Daily Journal legal newspaper select the “Top Women Lawyers” who have made a difference to their clients, their firms and their profession. Rosenthal, along with the other 2017 honorees, was recognized at an awards reception May 23 in Beverly Hills, Calif. The Daily Journal publishes editions in San Francisco and Los Angeles.