Gov. Bruce Rauner said Tuesday that he wants former political rival and veteran school administrator Paul Vallas to be chairman of Chicago State University's Board of Trustees as part of efforts to help the struggling school overcome academic and financial problems tied to the state budget crisis.
Rauner on Tuesday formally introduced four new appointees to the school's board, including the former Chicago Public Schools CEO, who he called a "seasoned veteran." Rauner also said the state should give more money to Chicago State and Illinois' other public universities, despite the state's budget impasse.
"I am an advocate for that," Rauner said at a news conference announcing the creation of an advisory board for the university. "We will get that done. We will find a way to do it."
In the last year Chicago State has declared a state of financial emergency and laid off about 40 percent of its employees. In September trustees approved a separation agreement with the school's president that included a $600,000 payment.
Others, including current Chicago State trustee the Rev. Marshall Hatch, called for a bipartisan approach to funding that would benefit the school.
"The reality is that without the resources this university cannot do the job," Hatch said. "So we hope today means that there will be bipartisan support in Springfield for this institution. This is not a time to shrink. It's a time to expand."
Chicago State's trustees will choose their own chairman but Rauner recommends Vallas, who in 2014 was Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate when Quinn lost to Rauner.
Vallas on Tuesday said he is optimistic about Chicago State's future despite its past troubles.
"In short order this university can move forward dramatically," Vallas said. "I wouldn't have taken the job otherwise."
Rauner also said he thinks a turnaround at Chicago State "can be done pretty expeditiously."
State Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat whose district includes Chicago State and who is a graduate, said he is supportive of the new advisory board and Vallas. Trotter has previously described the school as being "at war" and said Tuesday that it still faces challenges.
"One of the challenges is building up the confidence of the future and present attendees of the university to let them know the school remains viable," Trotter said. "But also the certainty that the dollars will be there."