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Cunningham passes higher education reform package

cunningham hiedcompLegislation product of investigation into perks for higher education presidents

SPRINGFIELD—Community colleges and state universities may see a lot of changes coming soon when it comes to administration pay and severance packages.

State Senator Bill Cunningham proposed a reform package after the Senate Democratic Caucus Report on Higher Education Executive Compensation revealed lavish perks, golden parachutes and a lack of transparency in hiring and firing of administrators.

“This was about taking steps to protect taxpayers and tuition payers from abuse by college and university administration,” Cunningham said. “Lavish perks, like country club memberships, were forcing students to pay more and taxpayers to cover more costs when tuition was not enough.”

The legislative package consists of six bills:

  • Senate Bill 2155 would require that the Illinois Community College Board to conduct a peer review of the community colleges for their compliance with transparency laws, bonus payments, contract provisions and the Open Meetings Act.
  • Senate Bill 2156 ends the current practice of allowing bonuses, housing and vehicle allowances, or club memberships to be considered pensionable income.
  • Senate Bill 2157 requires that community college trustees must complete four hours of professional development leadership training.
  • Senate Bill 2158 prevents lame duck community college boards from renewing or signing a contract with the college’s chief executive before a new board is sworn in.
  • Senate Bill 2159 limits severance for state university executives to one year plus benefits, limits the length of a contract to 4 years and forbids automatic rollover clauses.
  • Senate Bill 2174 requires state university board members must complete four hours of professional development leadership training.

“Public officials need to be held accountable and that includes our state universities and community colleges,” Cunningham said. “Making our higher education system more transparent will prevent costly mistakes later down the road.”

The legislation now moves onto the House.

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

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