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Fighting to Improve Dual Credit

Updated: May 28


On April 3, President Tony Johnston testified in Springfield against HB 5020 which proposed changes to dual credit in Illinois. Thanks to Tony's testimony and the advocacy of Local 1600 members along with other higher education unions across Illinois, the legislation has stalled in Springfield and looks unlikely to pass this session.


Dual credit needs some serious changes in Illinois. Local 1600 would support common-sense legislation to ensure community colleges and our members retain control over the quality of dual credit courses taught in our high schools. Elements of HB 5020, such as the language designed to prevent high schools from shopping around for dual credit courses, would be welcome changes, but the bill as a whole was unacceptable. We will continue to advocate for improvements to dual credit and work to block any legislation we feel is harmful to our members and our students.



 


House Higher Education Committee Testimony-Tony Johnston, President. Cook County College Teachers Union

HB 5020; Wednesday, April 3, 2024


Good afternoon madam chair and representatives on the committee.  My name is Tony Johnston.  I am the President of the Cook County College Teachers Union.  Our union represents 5000 faculty and staff in all of the community colleges located in Cook County.  As such, Dual Credit has a substantial impact on our colleges and our members’ working conditions.  And in its current state, our union, and many of our colleagues at community colleges throughout the state, are in opposition to this legislation (HB 5020).


To begin, I would like to applaud Chief Sponsor Rep. Blair-Sherlock for working with us and with our colleagues at the Illinois Federation of Teachers and other stakeholders to eliminate or change many aspects of the original bill that were most damaging to it, such as the lowering of dual credit instructor qualifications and the relinquishment of community college control over grading procedures. Also, I want to stress that community college faculty and staff recognize the potential and value of dual enrollment and dual credit programs, if they are done correctly with attention to college-level rigor and academic integrity.  Why then are we against this bill?  Overall, because it gives too much authority to high schools in the accommodations, class size, and instructor workload, which threatens the consistency and rigor of dual credit courses, undermining established standards for college-level coursework.  


First, the legislation allows high schools to seek alternative dual credit providers, even those out of state, only after an in-district community college denies their  request and the ICCB confirms the correctness of the denial. This encourages high schools to seek out institutions willing to accredit courses that perhaps were rightfully denied,  potentially compromising educational quality and fostering a ‘race to the bottom’ where bigger, better resourced colleges and universities dominate the dual credit market with an eye towards increased enrollment without the attention to academic rigor.  We understand that this type of  “college shopping” has been common and this legislation puts on certain guard rails that weren’t there before.  But that doesn’t mean it is a good thing.  We believe that dual credit works best when a community college and their feeder school districts work together to provide these courses.  


Second, we do not see the need for the Dual Credit Instructor Qualification Endorsement Framework (Section 45), (and I would wager Community College administrations and Boards as well). The existing dual credit law already outlines requirements for high school instructors (including instructors who are on a professional development plan). Ultimately, this bill takes away faculty department and college authority over credentialing and gives it to the committee. We really do not understand the need that is driving this part of the legislation, unless it is to water down academic qualifications. 


To conclude, while this legislation seeks to bridge the equity gaps that we all agree need to be addressed, this bill would actually broaden those gaps with a race to the bottom.  It would be better to put resources into doing whatever we can to go back as much as possible to the original model of Dual Enrollment/Dual Credit.  One where qualified high school students come to our colleges, or if necessary, are taught by college professors at their high schools.  This could be done by incentivizing students with travel assistance to the colleges, or incentivizing full-time or adjunct faculty to teach in the high schools.


Thank you for your time and consideration.



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