Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Nine Republicans Screwing Their Old Schools

Meet the nine Illinois Republican Representatives who have helped Bruce Rauner assault the state’s system of public higher education. All of these Republicans serve on the Assembly’s Higher Education Appropriations Committee, five have state universities in their districts, and all nine were educated in Illinois public universities. I wonder how they sleep at night.

1. Mark Batinick from Plainfield, educated at UIUC.
2. Thomas Bennett from Watseka, educated at Eastern Illinois, SIU Carbondale
3. Dan Brady from Normal (Illinois State), educated at SIU Carbondale
4. Norine Hammond from Macomb (WIU), educated at WIU
5. Sara Jimenez from Springfield (SIU), educated at SIU Edwardsville, UIS
6. Reggie Phillips from Charleston (EIU), educated at EIU
7. Robert Pritchard from Sycamore (NIU), educated at UIUC
8. Joe Sosnowski from Rockford, educated at NIU
9. Grant Wehrli from Naperville, educated at SIU Carbondale

Seven of the nine have served on the Higher Ed Appropriations Committee since before the recent budget crisis, while two—Jimenez and Phillips—began serving this legislative term. Since May 2015, there have been 3 committee and 5 floor votes on 4 separate bills funding Illinois public higher education and 1 bill specific to MAP grant funding. HB 4146, 4147 and 4148 in May 2015, proposed a 6.5 percent in higher education funding, as part of an overall state budget. SB 2043 proposed to fund MAP grants. All four of those bill failed to gain passage. Altogether, the 3 committee votes and 4 floor votes on those three bills garnered not a single vote from these nine legislators. Most recently, HB 2990, a proposal to fund all Illinois public universities, passed the House 70-43, with Reggie Phillips breaking ranks to vote for the bill. That bill’s future is still uncertain.

Voting on portions of the May 2015 Democratic budget proposal, 5 of these 9 (Jimenez was not in the Assembly at that time), failed to even cast a vote. Batinick, Phillips and Pritchard cast no vote, while Bennett and Wehrli were absent. The other three, Brady, Hammond, and Sosnowski, all voted “present.” A bunch of stand-up legislators, no?

While the budget vote in May 2015 demonstrated the cowardice of all the House Republicans (most either did not vote or voted “present” on significant portions of the proposed budget), the votes of only two of these nine legislators would have enabled the legislature to override Rauner’s MAP grant veto. Just think of it, if two of these persons had voted in the best interests of current students in the schools they all attended, there would be an appropriation for MAP grants. I guess once you’ve gotten yours, everyone else can go to hell.

The legislature will not return until April 4 (no urgency for anything in this state). It remains to be seeen whether Phillips’ break with his party signifies anything, but I expect these nine persons will have further opportunities to choose between voting for their own alma maters, or voting for a Governor determined to destroy the state’s system of public higher education.

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