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Cullerton outraged at NIU payoff

State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is outraged at the latest golden parachute payout at Northern Illinois University.
News released recently outlines NIU’s plan to pay President Doug Baker $600,000 plus benefits when he steps down later this month in the wake of the Illinois Inspector General’s investigation into illegal hires made by the university.
“As students across the state of Illinois are struggling to pay tuition and fees, our public higher education institutions are handing out golden parachutes to disgraced administrators for violating taxpayers’ trust,” Cullerton said. “What message are we sending? This needs to stop now. Illinois needs to get out of the business of paying university administrators off for their mismanagement and failing to comply with state laws.”
Under the deal, Baker will receive a full year’s salary of $450,000 and $137,000 to not serve as a member of the College of Business faculty. He also will be paid up to $30,000 for his “reasonable, unpaid expenses for legal counsel” related to his time at NIU.
“It is simple. If you mismanage state funds, you should not be rewarded,” Cullerton said.
The Inspector General’s report was publically released on May 31. The report details hires made by Baker and his administration that were paid contracts over $20,000, which are supposed to be subject to competitive bidding in accordance to state law. The jobs were incorrectly classified to get past the requirement according to the report.
The Chicago Tribune went on later to report that two of the nine employees involved in the hiring scandal made more than $400,000 for 15 and 18 months of work.In the midst of the state’s budget impasse, NIU announced in May they will be eliminating and reducing 150 staff positions, which included 30 active employees.
The active employees will have to transition to open positions across the university, exercise their civil service employment rights within their employment classifications or have contracts that will not be renewed.
“We are in the middle of a budget impasse. Every dollar, every penny, needs to be put toward the betterment and education of our children,” Cullerton said. “This deal is a betrayal of taxpayers’ trust. State dollars should not be used to line the pockets of failed administrators. ”
Cullerton is calling for tougher regulations to stop state universities and community colleges from paying out administrators while under investigation or found guilty of university mismanagement.

Education is not just another commodity

Superintendent, Glenbard Township High School District 87

As citizens, we need to be wary and vigilant as we hear Betsy DeVos and Washington continue to champion charter schools and school choice as the cure-all for our challenges in education.
While competition and free markets are core values that have grown and made our economy strong, we need to think more thoughtfully and cautiously if we expect these values to be ideal for all public institutions.
A public school system, designed for the public good, cannot be engineered by government to mimic a market. Let’s take a look at key reasons why:

Markets always
have winners and losers

In the private sector, when a business fails, the impact on the public is not always as significant as when a public school is defunded—or worse, closed.
For example, in Detroit (where Betsy DeVos played a large role advocating for school choice), many years of competition has led to reduced programming and school closures.
Taxpayer money has been channeled to for-profit charter schools. Economically disadvantaged parents, often facing the closure of their beloved neighborhood school, have worse options with no increase in student achievement.
Detroit now has “educational deserts” where parents and children must travel significant distances for children to attend school.

Market competition contributes to
growing inequalities

Schools competing for students opens the possibility of a vicious cycle in which communities with low performing schools are punished and wealthy communities receive greater funding advantages.
We cannot achieve equity and equality when schooling is organized around a model of “the more you win, the more you get, and the more you lose, the less you are given.” As money is pulled from under-performing schools and funneled into succeeding ones, the state can redistribute wealth up the socioeconomic ladder.
This competition is contributing to our country’s growing inequalities and diminishment of the middle and lower classes.

Public education
is a shared good

The idea that education is just another commodity to buy and sell on the market is flawed thinking. It is a shared good that we all contribute to and support.
If we believe student funds are portable based on consumption choices, then what would prevent the growing number of taxpayers without children in school being able to redirect more of their tax dollars outside the education system toward other public services, such as the library, dog parks or public golf courses?
For local public institutions to serve their constituents well, they need allegiance and support from all citizens.

Federal interference in local public schools doesn’t work
Historically, our public schools were designed to be governed locally. Our local public schools, overseen by locally elected boards, have been the bedrock of democracy.
DeVos should take note and stay true to her administration’s original mission of reducing federal interference in education.
Let local communities decide how to run their schools.
If DeVos and Washington want to really improve local public schools, they just need to follow the proven factors that improve and strengthen public schools. These factors include:
• Investment in early childhood programing;
• Rigorous high standards for all students;
• Strong professional development for teachers, and;
• Resources channeled quickly and efficiently to the neediest students.
Supporting and advocating for these key elements will lead to beneficial outcomes for all.
Education is about our most important community asset—our children—not a commodity to buy and sell