DuPage United Work at COD 2008-2010
Since May 2008, DuPage United has been working to hold COD accountable to the community. . Initially, we requested that the process for selecting a new president be shared with faculty, staff, students, and the community, as is customary in higher education. As our understanding of the problems at COD increased and the local economy worsened, we asked for increased emphasis on availability, affordability, and accessibility to jobs and job training in order to serve the changing needs and demographics of the district.
Specifically, we questioned tuition increases, a lack of coordinated workforce development efforts, budget priorities, and the stated desire to decrease local funding for ESL classes. COD President Robert Breuder has consistently viewed our positions on these items as random and disconnected attacks, based on faulty information and motivated by a desire to gain visibility. In August 2009, in a private meeting with him, he told us to stop appearing before the board.
Dr. Breuder was disturbed when DuPage United joined other community groups and ESL teachers to present our mutual concerns about negative changes that had already been made and others that were proposed for the Adult Ed (i.e. tuition-free) ESL program. We became concerned when program costs in excess of state and federal grants (i.e. costs covered by local tax receipts) were repeatedly characterized as “losses.” We were further surprised that changes were being made without input from ESL teachers or students.
In order to show widespread support for continuing to invest some of COD’s $75 million in property tax receipts in this program, DuPage United embarked upon the signature campaign in early 2010 and presented the 2600 signatures at the Jan. 21 board meeting. The wording on the petition was purposely kept positive (see sidebar). In response, Dr. Breuder and Dr. Collins spent a large part of the meeting attacking DuPage United. They characterized us – and presumably our 2,600 signatories – as “outsiders” who were “haranguing” them.
Dr. Breuder then sent a five-page letter, defensive in tone, to the heads of our member institutions, charging DuPage United with multiple errors and unworthy motives, and asking the institutions to withdraw financial support. Suffice it to say that all major allegations in the letter had no merit or were completely false.
Where do we go from here? Adult Ed ESL is in good shape for spring, with little change since last fall. We know there are necessary cuts for the summer and accept those. However, we will continue to insist that, if the COD administration truly has no plans to diminish the Adult Ed ESL program for this coming fall, they should hasten to prove their intent by setting a specific budget for it, just as they do for all the other programs at COD. That budget cannot be limited to grants received, since those funding sources are unpredictable and an easy rationale for major cuts. The program then should be expected to live within its specified budget.
We suggest $4 million be allocated for all of Adult Ed (ESL, GED, Adult Basic Ed, and Family Literacy) for FY 2011 ($3.9 million was used in FY2009, according to Dr. Collins), with funds coming from all available sources, including property taxes. It is important, however, that funds and expenses for the tuition-based Academic ESL classes, the English Language Institute, and the tuition-free Adult Ed classes be kept separate so that the tuition-free program can be judged on its own financial merit in the future.
Because COD is a critical component of our local economy and important to the well-being of our residents, DuPage United will continue to monitor how COD is using tax receipts to carry out its mission.
Faces of ESL
Courier 2/12/2010 (See page 2)