A former McHenry County College trustee, now a Green Party candidate for Illinois treasurer, has proposed eliminating two of the state's three public law schools to save cash.
One of them is his alma mater.
In line with a fiscal policy that sparked his resignation from the community college board last summer, Scott Summers, an estate planning lawyer from Harvard, has proposed "slimming down" or even "mothballing" Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois universities' law school programs.
"We have three public law schools," Summers said Monday. "And another seven or eight private law schools and a whole bunch of unemployed lawyers and underemployed lawyers. How long can we as taxpayers continue to support this?"
While the candidate said in a recent campaign website post he was grateful for the "tiptop legal education" he received at NIU, he said he is "counting beans today, not wallowing in sentiment."
Up until 35 years ago, he pointed out, the state had a single public law school at the University of Illinois. "We got by just fine with that," he said.
U of I's law school remained the only public program in the state from the late 1800s through the early 1970s, school records show. SIU's law school was established in 1973, NIU's in 1979. As of last year, the schools had 389 and 325 students enrolled, respectively.
Summers said he also believes in scrutinizing the number of satellite medical campuses that public universities operate across the state.
Summers, a former board chair at the Crystal Lake college, resigned as a trustee last summer, with two years left in his term. The relationship between Summers and other board members soured in 2007 after he withdrew his public support for an MCC-built health, wellness and athletic complex and baseball stadium in Crystal Lake, and relinquished the board's chairmanship. The board censured both him and another trustee, who also changed her mind about plan.
Summers will face Pontiac Republican Dan Rutherford and Democratic candidate Robin Kelly in the Nov. 2 election.
Rutherford and Kelly, in the meantime, have sparred over whether the treasurer should keep satellite offices open around the state.
Northern and Southern law school officials both said Tuesday they had been unaware of Summers' proposal.
"I don't really have a response to this," SIU spokesman Rod Sievers said. "You cut one law school, and that's going to create a lot of other problems. All of a sudden, you're going to have a lot of other students applying to the U of I."