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Higher education reform package becomes law in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – A recently signed series of laws will make the hiring and firing process of college administrators more transparent and fair to both taxpayers and students, supporters say.

The package includes a proposal that would require community college boards and university boards partake in a minimum of four hours of professional development training that ranges from labor laws to ethics training.

“We need to protect taxpayers and tuition payers,” Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, said. “Tuition is on the rise in part because of abuse in the hiring and firing of chief administrators of our state universities and community colleges.”

After learning about an outlandish severance package given to an outgoing community college president by a lame duck board of trustees, Cunningham said he knew something had to change.

Cunningham represents portions of Worth, Orland and Palos Townships in the southwest suburbs and the neighborhoods of Mount Greenwood, Beverly, Morgan Park and Auburn-Gresham in Chicago.

Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, sponsored measures in response to the repetitive reports of abuse and misuse of taxpayer dollars at the state’s universities and community colleges, in particular the College of DuPage, located in Cullerton’s backyard.

“These new laws are necessary first steps to stop waste, fraud and abuse at our state universities and community colleges, “Cullerton said. “We need to put an end to the days of college administrators banking on executive perks at the expense of our college students.

One of the new laws will prevent a lame duck community college board from entering into a new contract with a college administrator starting 45 days prior to Election Day through the rest of their terms.

The reform package would also require that community college and university boards be required to take four hours of professional development training in topics that include labor laws, open meetings act requirements, or ethics training.

“We need to find ways to make a higher education more affordable in Illinois,” Cullerton said. “These new laws were a long time coming and will help keep some control on the rising costs of higher education.”

Here are particulars:

External Audits (Senate Bill 2155) – Amends existing laws to require the auditor general to audit one-third of all community colleges every year.

Community College Trustee Training (Senate Bill 2157) – Requires new college board trustees to complete four hours of professional development training that range from labor laws, open meetings act, freedom of information regulations, ethics and financial and accountability oversight.

Preventing Lame-Duck Decisions (Senate Bill 2158) – Prohibits community college boards from entering into new employee contracts or changing existing employee contracts 45 days prior to Election Day for trustees and extends through the lame-duck period until the first meeting of the new board.

In 2009, Former DuPage Community College President Breuder’s contract extension was approved by a lame-duck board.

Transparency at Community Colleges and State Universities (Senate Bill 2159) – Promotes transparency by requiring contract terms, annual performance reviews of administrators and forbids contract buyouts in cases of pending criminal charges.

University Board Training (Senate Bill 2174)- Requires every voting member of a public university governing board to complete a minimum of four hours of professional development leadership training that range from labor laws, open meetings act, freedom of information regulations, ethics and financial and accountability oversight.

— From the Illinois Business Journal

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