In this fascinating, theoretically informed case study of policy making, Jack R. Van Der Slik demonstrates partisan politics in action in Illinois. Specifically, he shows how major changes in governing state universities were enacted over the objections of members of the higher education community, who preferred to maintain the status quo.In 1991, Republican Governor Jim Edgar, enthusiastically aided by Lieutenant Governor Bob Kustra, began a political effort to decentralize the "system of systems," which had governed state universities since the 1960s. Despite partisan defeat of their plan in 1993, Edgar and Kustra managed to neutralize support for the status quo in the educational community. After their 1995 landslide reelection, which brought about Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature, Edgar and Kustra were so successful in achieving their goals that they actually had to restrain the legislature's enthusiasm for decentralization: the legislature wanted to extend decentralization to community colleges.To account for these policy shifts, Van Der Slik interviewed twenty-five significant players from the executive branch of Illinois government, from the legislature, and from the educational community. Grounding his study theoretically, he compared his findings to previous studies in American policy making: Jack Kingom's 1984 notion of the crucial role of the "policy entrepreneur"; arguments in 1993 by Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones that public policies are inherently unstable and that discoverable phenomena can account for policy eruption; and research in 1995 by Charles O. Jones covering presidential transitions from Kennedy to Reagan.To a remarkable degree, the political actions in Illinois fit the theoretical formulations of previous scholarship in national policy making. As key participants recount their own actions and their observations, then, Van Der Slik places what happened in Illinois into a larger context."
Jack R. Van Der Slik is a professor emeritus of political studies and public affairs and senior scholar in the Illinois Legislative Studies Center, Sangamon State University, Springfield. The latest of his five books is" One for All and All for Illinois: Representing the Land of Lincoln in Congress." He also is the editor of eight books.