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Letter to the Editor: Pension Heist

Send your letter to the editor to natalie.stevens@patch.com.

Every year, every paycheck, every public school teacher and administrator pays into the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) 9.4% of their salary.  Their employer also pays. Illinois teachers don’t earn Social Security credit, thus their pension is what they count on for retirement. They also pay into the Teacher Retirement Insurance Program expecting to have access to health insurance when they retire. 

Upon retirement, they receive a pension based on years of service and salary earned.  TRS retirees do not receive free health coverage.  They pay $600 monthly for insurance on average.  Retirees, active teachers, and school districts pay about 80% of retirees’ insurance premiums. 

Thousands of retirees are not eligible for medicare.  Those that are eligible use the state insurance program as coverage until they can enroll in medicare.  When I became a teacher I agreed to pay my fair share into the pension system.  I signed an irrevocable contract that guaranteed I would pay.  I have lived up to my side of the contract.     

Since 1952 Illinois has failed to pay its share and used the pension system like a credit card.  After sixty years of failure to live up to their side of the contract, the governor and general assembly want to renege on their obligations.  They want me to give up cost of living pension benefits I have earned and paid for so I can have “access” to health insurance that I pay for.  They want to freeze active teachers’ pension benefits to this year’s salary unless they agree to give up cost of living benefits due them when they retire. 

The governor and general assembly want to run from their mistakes and make school districts pick up the state’s portion of retirement costs.  Well, they need to admit their mistakes, and pay for their 60 years of failure.       Illinois’ Constitution says,”Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”  It’s not hard to understand.       

TRS is a good steward of member contributions, earning 9.3% on returns over 30 years.  TRS earned a 23% return last year.  Benefits are good because member contributions of 10% of salary and good financial management have worked.  The State’s failure to do it’s part is the problem.  Most of the increase in pension costs are due to interest the State owes because they failed to pay their share.  Some years Illinois paid nothing, it took pension “holidays.”    

The great pension heist isn’t coming from teachers or retirees.  It’s coming from the corruption and failures of legislators and governors.  My family has lived in Illinois over 150 years.  My father and I span 100 years of service as educators in Illinois.  I’m simply asking that our service be respected.  My pension doesn’t need to be reformed, it needs to be honored.

Roger Sanders, Oswego

Laura Bee August 20, 2012 at 07:31 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=xOAgT8L_BqQ&feature=player_embedded This was recently shared by a friend. It's a sickening truth.
Logansdad August 20, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Funny, you are calling the Geneva School District childish, but yet you are the one calling the new Oswego Superintendent a criminal? What exactly did he do that makes him a criminal. Last time I checked, school boards dont hire criminals as head of their schools.
Laura Bee August 20, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Oswego Resident...... I do not believe that public servants should get better than average benefits. They should not be above what the benefits are of the people that are paying for them. As I stated in another post......I have an inside perspective on how much better the benefits are of this "Profession" and, it's disturbing.
ayar August 20, 2012 at 07:38 PM
"teachers" and "administrators" are two different animals. How many Teachers get that magic 400K ? z-e-r-o. It ain't the Teacher's doing it, it's a bit higher up. If you really feel that way, why don't you run for the board ?
ayar August 20, 2012 at 07:50 PM
I have to disagree - "Privatization" is no solution. Who loses ? everybody. Go on Salary.com and find out what a corporate trainer [teacher] makes - a nice chunk of change more. Guess what ? you *can* fire a bad tenured teacher. You just have to have documentation backing it up. Superintendants are actually necessary,and there are what are called Regional Suprerintendants that oversee [Dr. Nordstrom is ours], but there are other things you have to ask why - for example, why do we need 2 assistant principals to each jr high and high school when you can't afford to hire experienced teachers ? can't some of the work be meted out to share an assistant principal between schools giving them 1 1/2 principals ? questions, questions.
Oswego Resident August 20, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Laura, Are you advocating for a completely private school system? Do you think that would be cheaper than what you're paying now? What about those families that may be less privileged than most?
Oswego Resident August 20, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Are we talking about a teachers inside benefits Laura? If so, I too have an inside close relative that is a teacher. She by no means has any form of extravagant benefit. package In fact, a recent hospital stay cost her quite a nice chunk of change. Her salary is by no means extravagant and she has to work her summers in order to get ahead. What exactly is she doing wrong laura to not get in on these inside bene's?
Oswego Resident August 20, 2012 at 08:04 PM
What would you consider to be an "average" benefit these days Laura? According to national statistics, the average American is not really equipped to retire any time soon. http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2011/02/finances-of-the-average-american.html So do you still think that everyone in public sector work should fall into this arena? Perhaps a few more people would have benefitted from having a strong Union behind them for the last few decades?
Laura Bee August 20, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Not sure ......I only know what I see. And let me tell you, makes my eyes burn.
Kelly August 20, 2012 at 08:57 PM
She had to work the summer to get ahead!? Oh the horror! That's craziness! That's ... oh wait, I work every summer as part of my YEARLY salary. Yet another reminder that I chose the wrong profession. I guess the joke's on me. We should all just be happy to have jobs, I guess.
Logansdad August 20, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Oswego Resident, I have a couple of relatives that are tecahers. One just retired in June. She does not have an extravagant benefit package and is worried how she will make ends meet in a few years. When I was in high school and college, I saw some of my former grade school teachers working during the summer for extra money. These people who think all tecahers are able to retire and live off the hog like Richie Daley does are crazy. If they think that can teach children at a cheaper wage, then they should be apply to be teacher.
Jane Enviere August 20, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Yeah, the "gull" of those people. Oh my. You need to tone down the rhetoric and it's not particularly wise to call people criminals. That's a pretty serious statement. You may not like people or the system, but that does not mean that they have engaged in criminal activity.
Logansdad August 20, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Who is behind "Governmentgonewild.org"? Don't believe everything you read on the internet: http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/local/before-you-go-to-a-government-gone-wild-seminar-know-speakers-history/1123039 Here is a story about the gentleman in the "Government Gone Wild" videos: http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/realestate/blaise-ingoglia-used-deceptive-sales-tactics-burned-real-estate-investors/1027943
Oswegosmarts August 20, 2012 at 10:33 PM
If your going to do reform, it must be done to all. Teachers aren't the problem. In the next 10 years the first pension plan in IL. to go INSOLVENT is going to be the Chicago Police and Fire. Since many towns mimic chicago with wages and structuring guess what going to happen to us. This problem is way beyond repair and it is to late to point fingers, other than at our leaders. And they are laughing all the way to the bank. They knew this was coming for years and did nothing to change it
Laura Bee August 20, 2012 at 10:38 PM
@ Kelly ........Exactly! @logansdad......Bet they voted for every increase as well. Now, they have to pay the price just like everyone else. "Ooppssyy" on their part. Maybe everyone should vote for a decrease now instead......Let's say -20%. If we care so much about all of the poor teachers that have to work the summer (poor things) and can't make ends meet once they retire. Better start making changes hard and fast.
Laura Bee August 20, 2012 at 11:43 PM
http://m.topix.com/forum/city/yorkville-il/TKD152Q2BCEA7QIS0 Stumbled upon this. Comments from 2007---->2012 We as a people have made no progress.
Kenneth Christoffel August 20, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Of all the comments above, put everything together and you will realize why UNIONS were formed. If any citizens did what the elected officials did , we would all be in jail. As for government jobs, in years past they did not pay as well as private sector. Thanks to unions again we have been brought up to the private sector. Getting a government job was always a little harder than in the private sector. The private sector, (not all) have put us in this depression along with the politicians who want to do nothing, as well as the housing market. If it's to good to be true, it usually is. Don't blame the unions, blame the politicians and ceo's, you don't see them taking a pay or benefit cut
Jeri August 21, 2012 at 12:31 AM
I do not think teachers have to join a union. I thank you Greg Oneil, I have paid once already. Look at Wisconsin.......look at the taxpayers 401k....
Oswego Resident August 21, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Kelly, let's try to keep the conversation on topic, okay. The context was that teachers are living high on the hog with their outrageous salary and extravagant benefits. I'm just saying that, in real life, they are just like you and me and struggle to get by.
Oswego Resident August 21, 2012 at 12:59 AM
What is it about teachers that has you so bitter Laura? All I was saying is that she has to work more than one job, just like a lot of people, to make ends meet. You seem to think that every teacher is riding high on the hog on the public dime. I'm here to tell you that it just isn't so.
Mel August 21, 2012 at 07:07 AM
I've got family and friends that work in the blue collar and white collar world. I am a blue collar worker and proud of the service and work that I provide each and every day. I've never had the expensive sports car, big fancy house, or really anything high end, but I've always been happy with my job and my promised benefits. When I retire with my pension I will continue to lead an average to below average lifestyle. Believe me I will not retire wealthy. In the past years when the economy was better, I've had the pleasure to sit around and listen to my white collar friends and family talk about how great they were doing in the stock market, how they were purchasing that fancy car, golf memberships at country clubs, their luxury vacations etc. It honestly never bothered me that they were doing so well. In the past those same people would at times laugh at me for working so hard for such little pay. I continued over the years to just get the cost of living pay increases or some years no pay increase at all. I was leading a good honest hard working lifestyle and never would have wanted or even thought about wishing a harder life or stealing from my white collars friends. They chose their career path just as I chose mine. I chose not to gamble with my retirement and took a hard working pension job. Why should I have to apologize, justify and fight for what I've earned and allow my white collar family and friends steal from me because they made poor financial deals? .
Walt Hines August 21, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Nice post Mel! The teachers had a contract and funds were suppose to be paid into the pension fund just as people paid into Medicare or anything else. They were given IOU's that the money would be funded later on, WRONG. That money should have been placed in there from day one and left in there, period. You don't pay Peter with Paul's money, you do without. While I don't agree about the padding at the end of their employment I do believe they should receive their retirement. If the money was there and screwed it up themselves then it would be their problem. Taxpayers shouldn't hold the bag now, we need to go after the scumbags responsible for stealing that money. We're letting a bunch of crooks get away with this and not one person is saying anything, until it happens to them. I'm sick and tired of this entire mess. We're punishing people for their hard work and living within their means, while we reward the ones who lie, cheat and steal from the rest of us. It's time we all paid our fair share in taxes, straight tax across the board! Don't like it leave! Quit the outsourcing and if they do there's no breaks or rewards for doing so! For anyone who thinks their job is safe, you couldn't be more wrong. There's not one person living in this country who has job security!
Kelly August 21, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I don't really see how I went "off topic" with the conversation, OswegoResident. You are the one that mentioned that the teacher had to work summers to get ahead, not me. My point is that a teacher is not going to get a lot of sympathy for that when everyone else has to work summers too. That said, what is happening to teachers is a shame. However, I think the blame lies with both the unions and the state of Illinois. I would like them to get their proper pensions, however, I'm sure you can understand that I don't want to pay more out of my pocket than I already have because of political shenanigans from the state and the union.
blue gil August 21, 2012 at 04:14 PM
sounds like a nice number - 20%
Oswego Resident August 21, 2012 at 05:05 PM
blue gil - you would be happy with the BOE instituting an across the board 20% pay cut for all teachers and staff in D308? Do you think that many teachers would be left in the District once this took affect, and what quality of teacher do you think would come here to replace them?
blue gil August 21, 2012 at 06:17 PM
to oswego resident...how many unemployed teachers are out there, currently? how many of the ones that are in there are willing to quit, as opposed to getting 80%..you know Reagan kicked out the air traffic controllers, and everybody said it couldn't be done...it got done, so start cutting or get cut out
Oswego Resident August 21, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Blue gil, There might be a reason those teachers are unemployed right now ;) Is that a game you are willing to play with your child's education? I am sure that there are quite a few teachers that would take a 20% cut versus being unemployed for a while. likewise, I know D308 would lose a lot of very qualified, established teachers in the process. Seeing the local reaction to a few administrators leaving the district, I can only imagine what the local folks would do should a whole bunch of teachers decide to move on.
blue gil August 21, 2012 at 10:08 PM
oswego resident....first of all, the biggest contribution to a child's education comes from the parent. how many stories of successful people originated with the discipline that was instilled by the parent. in other words, you can have "average or substandard" teachers, and still have excellent results, when the parent motivates the child to learn. conversely, you can wind up with a poor student, even though the teacher is of excellent caliber, because the parent isn't motivating the child to learn. finally, this discipline (to want to learn) starts well before kindergarten.
Oswego Resident August 22, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Blue gil, on that we both agree. If only more parents took such an active role in the process, I believe the overall school system would be much better off.
blue gil August 22, 2012 at 01:16 AM
oswego resident...thank you, and it's not that i have something against teachers. my mother was an elementary sochool teacher in Dist 129 (aurora west). she loved her job, and she wept when she retired. she did a lot for us, before we stepped into the schools system; it started with flash cards, and plastic/magnetic alphabet letters, and card games to help us with math (flinch, anybody remember that one?) the sad truth is there is still a lot of belt tightening to do, and i have not seen enough of it at any level of government. government employees have not yet developed the skill sets to reduce costs. they have never had to do this. how could they possibly know how to, without the experience?

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