Through collaborative efforts by the Rend Lake College administration, board of trustees, and senior Illinois Department of Corrections staff, RLC has been able to avoid the pending layoff of 13 employees. RLC has notified IDOC that the college plans to renew the vendor agreement with IDOC to provide educational programs at Big Muddy River and Pinckneyville correctional centers for the upcoming fiscal year.
The educational programs, administered by Rend Lake College through vendor agreements with IDOC, were put in jeopardy due to the state's financial crunch. A special board meeting was held March 23 during which the board deliberated the fate of the two programs. At that time, the state was significantly behind in making payments to the college, and the board recommended the contracts not be renewed after June 30 unless the state could make some assurances regarding payment of the contract.
RLC President Charley D. Holstein said senior administrators from both Rend Lake College and IDOC, as well as members of the RLC Board of Trustees, worked together to come up with a solution that supports keeping the 13 employees. "We feel comfortable we were able to get assurances from IDOC that we will receive timely payments in FY 2011," Holstein said. Rend Lake College employees teach Automotive Technology, Horticulture, Food Service, Construction Occupations, Computer Technology, Vocational Preparation and Job Preparedness at the correctional centers.
"I am proud that the parties involved were able to come together and reach an agreed-upon solution that is in the best interest of these employees and the programs," Holstein said. "It is through efforts like this that Rend Lake College has been able to avoid any layoffs - keeping our team intact even during these difficult and tumultuous financial times. There were no easy solutions to this problem. It took the efforts of the college administration, the board of trustees, and Director [Michael P.] Randle and his staff at IDOC to reach an agreement that keeps these staff members employed and these educational programs running.
"Providing inmates an option for training while they are incarcerated helps reduce the rate of recidivism. The offender is given an opportunity to learn a skill set that they can use as a foundation for a better life upon their release," Holstein said.
David Edmison, Chairman of the Rend Lake College Board of Trustees, said, "Certainly we did not want to lose these employees. All are hard-working and dedicated, and I'm pleased that we were able to work together to find a solution."
Community colleges statewide have been in financial straits dealing with delayed state aid payments, which is of particular concern to colleges in the southern part of the state. These institutions, due to lower assessed valuations, receive much more funding from the state than other colleges with higher valuations which are able to draw more support from property taxes. For example, RLC receives more than 40 percent of its budget from state funding.