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Rep. Chung votes no on dual credit bill kept alive by Higher Education Committee

exterior of the Illinois State Capitol
Andrew Adams
Capitol News Illinois file
The exterior of the Illinois State Capitol is pictured in Springfield.

A bill aimed at expanding access to dual credit programs cleared the Illinois House's Higher Education Committee this week, extending the deadline to keep it alive for a full House vote.

House Bill 5020, amending the Illinois Dual Credit Quality Act, garnered strong criticism from both faculty unions at Heartland Community College. A task force convened by the unions found differences in how Heartland's College Now program evaluates teachers providing college-level courses to high school students, and misalignment of instructor credentials and curriculum compared with equivalent courses taught at the college.

A sixth version of the amendment introduced Feb. 8 by Democratic state Rep. Diane Blair-Sherlock from Villa Park was not brought for a vote last week. The latest version, introduced March 18, makes significant changes to instructor credentials. Dual credit instructors now must hold a master's degree; previous iterations of the bill suggested high school teachers could qualify with equivalent experience through classroom instruction.

State Rep. Sharon Chung of Bloomington serves on the Higher Education Committee and met with task force members last week. She was the only Democrat to oppose the bill in Wednesday's 7-5 committee vote.

"At the end of the day, because of the concerns brought up by Heartland faculty, I had to vote no," Chung told WGLT. "Even though they want to try and expand access, it's not a one-size-fits-all sort of issue."

An open letter from the Heartland Faculty Association and Heartland Adjunct Faculty Association on March 29 stated they were pleased with the changes, but remained opposed to the bill giving secondary school districts authority over class size and instructor workload. The letter additionally asks legislators to re-think "college shopping" that enables school districts to pursue dual credit relationships outside their district.

Chung said the vote keeps the bill alive and it will be returned to the committee with further adjustments. She will weigh those revisions, but anticipates continuing to withhold her support.

"I spoke with Rep. Blair-Sherlock yesterday on the floor," Chung said. "I think she's done a tremendous job. She knew very clearly where I stood on the issue. I know some of the other reps were on the fence, but they voted yes to keep the conversation going."

Chung is running for re-election in the 91st District against Republican Desi Anderson of Carlock. She has made education and workforce issues a focus of her administration and recently joined the statewide work group addressing Illinois' teacher shortage.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.