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Quinn's Pension Proposal and What it Means to our Community

Governor Quinn's Pension Proposal would cost Homewood and all Illinois communities dearly.

I have been a teacher in the Homewood community for more than twenty years.  I am also a proud member of the Illinois Education Association.  Today, however, I wear the hat of a citizen, a resident of Homewood.  I want our community and ALL Illinois communities to understand the ramifications of Governor Quinn's Pension Proposal.  It will not only affect me as a teacher.  It will greatly affect the students in Homewood and all students in Illinois, now and well into the future.

First of all, understand that the villain in this crisis is Illinois government.  Over the past several decades, the General Assembly has used our pension fund like a credit card.   Many years, they have not contributed their share toward the pension fund, as stipulated in the Illinois Constitution.  Instead, monies were diverted for other needs in Illinois.  Meanwhile, teachers and school districts have paid their fair share each year.  Now, like a credit card, the interest is too high and Illinois is facing a much higher pension price than would have been necessary if the bill had been paid on time year after year.  

Now, in 2012, after many years of misuse of the pension fund on the part of state government, Governor Quinn feels that he "was put on this earth to solve the pension crisis".  And, how does he plan on doing that?  He will place the burden on teachers and the districts in which they teach.  By law, teachers contribute 9.4% of each paycheck to their pension fund.  Governor Quinn's proposal would raise that to over 13%.  This is grossly unfair when teachers have paid their fair share.  Also, it is in violation of the Illinois Constitution.  Another part of his plan is putting part of the pension burden on the school districts themselves.  In other words, he is putting the burden on our children.  In Homewood, the Governor's proposal would cost Homewood 153 an estimated $1,000,000 annually.  Add to that the proposed cuts in General State Aid and transportation, and the state making even less allotted scheduled payments in the future,  and Homewood will pay over $2,000,000 more than it currently does each year.  The Homewood community overwhelmingly passed a referendum last year and the Homewood teachers have already taken a pay freeze.   The district has made the budget cuts it can without reducing staff and programs.  We simply do not have the money to pay these added costs. 

So, what will happen in Homewood if Governor Quinn's proposal comes to fruition?  Hard decisions would have to be made.  Personnel would have to be reduced.  The very core of what Homewood prides itself on is what we are able to do for kids.  Gone may be extracurricular activities, art and music classes, music programs, small class sizes, and so on and so on....  Who will lose out?  The children will suffer because the quality of education will not be the same.  Is it fair to put the pension burden on our children, our future?

We all know that if our schools are not doing well, the health of our community will soon decline as well.  If Homewood cannot pay its bills because we lack the "surplus" funds that Governor Quinn seems to think all districts have, what will happen?  Our students, our teachers, and our community will all pay the price for the mismanagement of funds by our General Assembly over many, many years.  The price is too high.  Everyone should be outraged by Quinn's proposal.  Everyone needs to speak up.  Contact your senators and representatives and demand fairness.  Our kids are our future.  We cannot fail them.  They did nothing wrong.  They are the innocent bystanders in this madness.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Juvenal May 05, 2012 at 04:40 AM
The divisiveness here began with the original poster, who placed sole blame for this problem on "the state" and then basically said that it was "the kids" who would suffer in order for teachers to maintain their promised benefits.Teachers, make the case for your benefits to continue untouched, or propose a solution to the problem. Stop with the straw man arguments, ad hominem attacks, and blatant appeals to sympathy. Take a look at the world as it is, stop regurgitating union talking points with no analysis, and realize that none of us are getting what we thought we were "promised" in the workplace. Tough choices need to be made; we can't all have lollipops for dinner and expect no long term consequences. The state has a massive structural deficit and cannot pay its bills. As long as you say "don't take mine" you are saying "take it from someone else." So, Chris, it is just as valid for me to say you hate developmentally disabled children as it is for you to say I hate teachers. Neither is (I suspect) true. There is no magic money tree that will enable the state to make up tens of billions in contributions to your (now undisputably much more generous than private sector) pension and maintain mental health services and safe streets and clean air and prevent child abuse, etc etc. It is not jealousy at issue here. Nobody wants to bring teachers down but few of us want to see them whining to preserve something that no one else has and no one can afford....
BlackHawks Fan May 05, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Chris and Wanda just because we don’t agree with you it doesn’t mean we are against teachers. The system is broken and is in dire need of drastic changes. The lotto does contribute to school funding in 2010 the lotto contributed $650 million to the school fund. http://www.iasb.com/pdf/lottery.pdf Tax the big corporations more at the state level???? If the state of Illinois puts too much tax pressure on the large corporations whose to say they won’t move and take their jobs with them. Possible solutions: 1. Implement Public Pension Stabilization Plan. 2. Tax the unions and lobbyist. Unions should not be tax exempt especially if they are lobbying for more of our tax dollars. 3. No double dipping for state pensions. (EX) Republican state Rep. Roger Eddy and many more. 4. Raise registration and activity fees by $200 per student. Over 2 million students. 5. Raise employee pension contribution of all administrators that make more than $150K to 15%. 6. Cap state pensions for administrators. 7. Cap lotto jackpot at $50 million and increase school funding. 8. Tax the super wealthy more at the state level.
Mark Johnson May 05, 2012 at 03:14 PM
To all of those people who are opposed to this article..... If it was happening to you.....YOU WOULD BE ANGRY TOO. But.....since it does not effect you...you are against it. The Government just keeps TAKING,TAKING,TAKING....Doesnt Ask the tax payers...just Takes. Let me say this....if we agree to this Pension Reform....DO YOU ACTULLY THINK THIS WILL BE THE END OF THE BUDGET CRISSIS? I think not......They will find other reasons to just walk in and take everyones money....Including yours!!!!! The more money the government takes....the more they spend....NOW THATS A FACT
Genvieve LaChappele May 05, 2012 at 03:16 PM
The fair tax should be kept in place. Eliminate the ability to go around it with all kinds of deductions and loopholes and you will have more revenues immediately without touching the rates. No person should have to pay a different rate based on anything. We are all equal. The more you make the more you will pay. For sake of argument say we have a flat tax of 10 percent. !0 % of one million is way higher than 10 % of 40, 000. Just eliminate the ability to go around the payment of the original 10 percent and stop pitting one group against another. Why hate the rich? How do we know how they got there? Penalizing and demonizing things makes them go away. Isn't hating the rich just another form of discrimination? No I am not rich, I am tired of people labeling them just as they rail against the labeling of others. This class warfare crap is terrible and very destructive.
Genvieve LaChappele May 05, 2012 at 03:21 PM
BTW why is it always a revenue problem? When a person reaches their credit limit on a visa card and can't make their payments, do they blame someone else and demand an increase in spending limit? Cmon people lets cut back and figure this out. And don't blame the teachers! They didn't come up with this plan, they are just trying to get by, and do a job that most of them love.
Chris Janotta May 05, 2012 at 03:27 PM
BlackHawks Fan, Those are some excellent ideas! I will send them along to whoever I can that might be able to get him or herself heard by the right people. As far as the $53,000 average salary, that is taking ridiculously huge administrator salaries into account and some of the larger salaries paid by some up the districts north and northwest of Chicago. Thank you for having an honest discussion!
Mark Johnson May 05, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Look at Social Security.... How many times has the Government raided Social Security? Now they say there wont be enough money to cover everyone. Thats because they raid it making promises to pay it back....and they never do. Its not the baby boomers fault....its not the tax payers fault. People need to realize that no matter who gets in Republican, Democrat, Independent, Tea Party....It doesnt matter...they are all crooks. They all have their own agendas...
Wanda Gunter May 05, 2012 at 05:19 PM
The lotto didn't put any MORE into school funding. When the lotto dollars started coming in, they diverted dollars usually spent on education elsewhere and let lottery money pay. That is not the way it was supposed to be. Funding for education has always been an issue in Illinois because most of the money comes from local property taxes which immediately creates a huge disparity. The state continues to put more and more demands on educators and districts which are not well thought out. Many of these mandates cost districts big bucks, but they get no new money to meet the mandates. Many districts simply cannot meet those demands forever. The tax cuts that companies in Illinois are given takes services and jobs away from public sector in an effort to keep the private sector jobs. So jobs are lost and, supposedly, jobs are saved. http://www.policymic.com/articles/2563/gov-quinn-gives-tax-breaks-to-illinois-corporations-while-schools-and-teachers-suffer Part 2 coming up!
Juvenal May 05, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I agree with BHF (and I believe C Janotta) that those are serious reforms and a great starting point for a rational discussion. A summary of the Pension Benefit Stabilization Plan is here: http://www2.illinois.gov/budget/Documents/Budgeting%20for%20Results/Governor%27s%20Pension%20Proposal%20One-Pager.pdf Te Governor said he was put on earth to get pension reform done. Overall I think he has been an ineffective governor, but he has been so pro government union for so long that he may be "the one" Only Nixon could go to China.....
Wanda Gunter May 05, 2012 at 05:25 PM
I do not believe that you are against teachers. I can tell you, however, that teachers feel beaten down. Kids are coming to school more needy than ever. Legislators control what goes on in the classroom with little knowledge of what kids need. Teachers are being “graded” and, perhaps, fired on how well their students do on standardized tests. That is like a doctor being given an F if one of their patients has an incurable disease and the doctor can’t perform a miracle. The job is getting tougher, the stakes are getting higher, and then every time we turn on the radio we hear about how our pensions are killing Illinois. We hear that we are union thugs. In fact, teachers may be a dying breed. Many young kids I know personally want to teach and would likely be excellent in the classroom. But, they don’t go into teaching because they are being advised not to do so. Teachers are under attack. And, more than half of those who do get teaching degrees these days leave the profession within the first five years I like some of your suggestions on how to solve the crisis. Write to your senators and representatives. Call them. Share them. As Chris mentioned, it is hard to talk about solutions when you aren’t even allowed to be a part of the pension reform group. Teachers are used to it. We are used to not being asked what is best for children and just being told what we must do. We are used to not being heard.
Ladybird May 05, 2012 at 06:32 PM
The money that the teachers put into the TRS has not been taken from them it is still there!! The money promised by the state to be added to their pension was spent paying for programs like medicaid etc. By the way where do you think that money came from the taxpayers. The government will keep taking if it keeps making promises it can't keep.
BlackHawks Fan May 06, 2012 at 12:32 AM
I sent an email to the Governor and I urge others to do so too. Our budget and pension crisis is not going away any time soon. We can be part of the problem or offer solutions. http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/Pages/ContacttheGovernor.aspx
GladvilleGirl May 06, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Way to go Ms. Gunter! My question is this: if the state refuses to keep a contract into which it entered with teachers, why should ANYONE choose to work for the state in the future? A contract is a contract. Retired teachers have kept up their end of the bargain. Illinois needs to keep up theirs, or face a future in which the best and the brightest work in states that keep their promises.
Amy May 06, 2012 at 02:01 PM
I am a Preschool teacher here in Homewood. My classroom is a State Pre-K classroom. My classroom receives money to purchase quality materials and to pay a certified Early Childhood teacher (me). My classroom serves about 20 children. Because our Government misused funds, The funding for this program may get cut. That means we may not be able to afford quality materials for my class, not to mention I may end up taking a pay cut Teachers do more for their classes than people realize. Do any of you know that many teachers are buying things for their classes out of their own money? Homewood teachers love their students and so do I. When you want the best for your students you do things like accepting a pay freeze, paying out of pocket so your class can have what they need. It isn't just about the money we make or the money for retirement. It is about the quality of our schools and the learning experience that our children receive. The government messed up and the teachers will be paying for it. Not to mention that now funding for childcare assistance is also been severely reduced and some of the children who are in my class may not be able to come because their parents won't be able to afford it. This problem affects teachers and students. Some people just don't understand and apparently others are just plain ignorant!
Maxwife May 06, 2012 at 02:04 PM
But, Wanda, that is the truth. I don't have a huge issue with union members, but with union LEADERS. You have no choice but to be in the union--wouldn't you wish otherwise? Your union leadership has spent an incredible amount of YOUR money on elections--here in IL and at the national level. What bothers me most about your post above. Mine, you resort to the liberal talking points, right down to mentioning the Koch brothers. Your arguements, to this point, have been cogent and interesting. No longer, you have exposed yourself for what you are...and indoctrinated public-school educated drone spewing far Left talking points.
Bob Levy May 06, 2012 at 03:22 PM
The Government messed up. BUT WHO is the government? US, WE the people! We voted these people into office and have kept them there. The institution called the lobbyists contribute to the problem. The squeaky wheel gets the power/money. I agree that the government "caused" the problem to a degree. Do not agree that ONLY the teachers will pay. Do KNOW WE THE PEOPLE will pay! A major difference between the government and non government is the requirement to stay in business. Staying in business REQUIRES a balanced budget (even borrowing requires a repayment plan that works). In the non government space, life time anything is LONG GONE! Lifetime pensions, lifetime health care are gone for new employees and the existing lifetime benefits enjoyed by previous generations are vanishing. My children can not relate to lifetime anything! (except debt) End part 1, Part 2 will be in next post.
Bob Levy May 06, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Part 2: There was a time when government (and this includes the education space) where paid a salary much less than private industry but that was offset by the promise of lifetime benefits. Today there is no thought of going to work (if you can find a job) and retiring from that company with great benefits. The 401 K was instituted to get companies OUT OF THE PENSION MESS! Yet every day we read of more and more government (and education) people receiving outrageouss benefits and some even tripple dipping. Unions exist to "protect" their members benefits and obtain even more. In the private work environment Unions are shrinking in their influence. My wife is a part time cashier at a major food chain and receives FANTASTIC BENEFITS as a part time employee. HOWEVER the big question is how much longer will the company she works for stay in business. Non union food stores have much cheaper costs and as a result their prices are cheaper and they are growing. Costs force union controlled business out of business because WE THE PEOPLE will not shop there paying high prices. Part 3 the solution follows in next post
Bob Levy May 06, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Part 3 the solution The solution is simple. Government must follow the practices that the non government space have instituted. 1. STOP UNLIMITED benefits for new employees 2. Gradually change the benefit plans for some employees based on age of individual + length of service. 3. By the time the next generation reaches retirement age, they will be responsible for their own future. 4. Address the issue of multiple pensions. 5. Understand this simple fact: If income does not at least equal expenses, you go out of business! Therefore specifically for the teachers issue: increase income(taxes) and/or reduce expenses(benefits) There is no magic formula, just simple math Income must equal or exceed expense.
Kris Cortes May 06, 2012 at 04:19 PM
openthebooks.com
Bob Levy May 06, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Thanks Kris, Interesting site for lots of BIG $ information. I find these "benefits" amazing and I would love to cut them to reasonable levels. I suspect that there would be major legal fees in attempting to pass a law. That is the challenge that probably needs new blood in government AND term limits since voting "self benefit" reductions would reduce ability to get re elected.
Boring May 06, 2012 at 05:04 PM
It seems to have turned into a libral/conservative agrument with misinturepted figures. As Truman once said "Figures lie and liars figure". As for facts, I seriously doubt anyone has the true facts, One thing I know for sure is that the State of Illinois Law Makers are not interested in anything but themselves (I had the displeasure of being a lobyist once). The solution is simple we should become a "Socialist State", that way everyone gets the same pay and retirement benefits!!! Then you can all stop whining. OH! Wait someone (rich or poor) STILL has to pay for it! Let's just move to, what did some of you say?, Indiana or Wisconsin. Please let me know when you agree on whom's to blame....Boring.
Mark May 06, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Well, in the interest of side-stepping the whole pension issue and shifting the blame back to the teachers. Perhaps the ultimate problem is that we have an educational system (largely run by teachers, administrators and unions) which fails to give the People (i.e their students) the education they need to be productive enough to fund the promises that system has made to the teachers. When the average kid leaves the public education system at 18 or so he/she is wholly unfit for the world of work and has no idea how to be self-sustaining economically. There is no training in entrepreneurship, in engineering, in industry, etc. They have no idea of their own self-identity and their own passion. What we have is a curriculum which is 50 to 100 years behind the economy. And yet not nearly as good as 100 years ago in terms of independent thought and action, in reading, math, logic, etc. Part of the cause of this problem is a teachers union that has lost all contact with the world outside schools and the halls of politics. As a result it insists that "education" is what happens in schools-- regardless of the results or outcomes. The concept of a self-educated person is anathema to them. As a result they graduate students that cannot learn on their own and that is the thing that has robbed our society of the very productivity which could conceivably fix the balance of payments problem by becoming more profitable in the future. This is why I home school my kids.
LocalRez May 06, 2012 at 10:14 PM
There needs to be reform of the pension fund obviously and it needs to start now going forward. Both fed and state should NEVER be allowed to use funds for other things that aren't what they were collected for! The fact they did just means it's ok to steal if you're a politician but for you or I they would lock us up in jail and call it theft!!! The first reductions of benefits should be against all the politicians and union management that agreed to the previous pension funding that was not realistic or sustainable and those approving use of the funds to cover shortfalls created by said politicians. As far as administrators getting $350,000 a year that is just PATHETIC along with the fact there are WAY TOO MANY IN ADMINISTATION!!! Cut those salaries by 50 or 60% ASAP cut the number to more like 5%. I can't see that those positions are helping the children I think the teachers are within the scope they are allowed. What are they doing that they should be making so much??? We really have to ask ourselves, who has been reaping the benefits of all of our retirement money? They say follow the money - isn't it always the right trail?? Could it be the unions and politicians and overpaid administrators that have sold everyone a bill of goods at the expense of us all while reaping plenty of benefits for themselves? .
Bob Levy May 06, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Mark, hard to disagree with you comments. I wasted my time in College. My personal VERY strong feeling is that AFTER high school everyone must spend at least 2 years in "government service". My personal belief is 2 years in the military, but I bend to my wife's anti-military. So I will just say government service (peace core). My belief is based on personal experience which was 2 years in the Army but it was NOT after high school. I was drafted but that was after college and I had been working for a few years. I was lucky and spent most of my Army time in Japan and consider that time the best and most educational experience in my life. I believe that had I been drafted after high school, my life would have been significantly different and my appreciation for college (or a different type of education) would have been better. Today it is much worse. The cost of college today blows my mind. The only interesting perspective is that today, there is no way I could afford college! College is not now, nor ever for everyone! I know many very rich people that followed the "dream" and not education. Bill Gates comes to mind. And the education system is being paid much more in retirement than there salary? My pension after 18 years ($200/mo) will never go up like the x% pension raises do for ever!
LocalRez May 06, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Unfortunately, there are too many parallels here to social security. I'd like to say everything paid in by these teachers needs to be given back with interest and earnings but how realistic is that? Would they do it for my social security? If you had a 401k, put in 100,000 over years and now it's only worth 65,000? Don't think your investment house is giving you a dime more. Life is not fair - I don't like it either. I think the teachers are in for an uphill battle because it will be very hard to find support from others who are suffering the same issues. Those of us required to pay social security will also be getting the shaft on a deal that wasn't nearly as sweet... You know, those people who don't get summers and many holidays and vacation weeks off? Those same folks who retire with a pittance of their salary compared to the sweetheart deal the teachers are supposed to get will be short on sympathy to agree you are being treated unfairly. So tell me, how are those unions working for you these days? How much are dues? I'd say they are next to go just as other states have managed to get rid of them and maybe that isn't the worst thing cause it doesn't seem they have been able to do much to prevent the teachers retirement fund from getting depleted by the politicians. Maybe the dues should have come from the retirement funds to begin with and I bet this would have hit the fan long ago! You know what they say - if a deal looks to good to be true it probably is!
Thomas P May 07, 2012 at 04:49 AM
It's unfortunate that education has been the target of government manipulation since they convinced the Illinois taxpayers that the lottery would bring the additional revenue needed to make Illinois schools strong and some of the best in the nation. What a farce! The Illinois politicians have been playing with the retirement funds since the early 70's, as control of the assets was used as bargaining tools between bankers and politicians. I support the teachers in the area. They pay the greatest percentage into their pensions, and do not get their healthcare taken care of when they retire like the politicians. We could save huge dollars by revamping the political system benefits. (You know... the ones that want an exemption from Obama Care.) I see no mention from Quinn regarding the police and fire department pensions, the political pensions, etc. I applaud this teacher for voicing her opinion. The government of Illinois is seriously behind on payments to our schools and if anyone has attended a school board meeting in the past year, you will begin to understand the damage Illinois is causing to our public school system. Vote them out! Illinois has stolen the money from school funds to buy political power with free cell phones programs to low income individuals, insurance programs, etc. Cut the waste and not the earned benefits of hard working citizens. Who's next on Quinn's chopping block? Again, time to vote them all out.
Ernie Souchak May 07, 2012 at 02:54 PM
The 72 above comments clearly show the outrage with the politicians and their systemic rape of the taxpayers. Kinda reminds you of the mid-1700's when the King of England was raping the colonists. And that's why so many politicians want to outlaw arms - to prevent another revolt. We are not citizens any more. We are subjects.
nick May 07, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Watch this video on U.S. debt--sobering <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EW5IdwltaAc&feature=youtu.be>
Wanda Gunter May 08, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Thanks for sticking up for teachers, Thomas! It is true that our health care is not free in retirement. I believe that there are areas in the pension plans that could be tweaked. In writing this article, I was not fighting for teachers' rights. I did not go into how Quinn's proposal would affect me and my family personally. I was focusing on our community. I want people to realize that should this proposal set forth become legislation, it WILL affect our community. It may not be in the form of more tax dollars. We already passed a referendum a year ago. But, if Homewood has to fork up $1,000,000 toward the pension fund, it will cripple our schools before long. Thank you to everyone for creating discussion and helping to come up with some viable solutions. I hope discussions continue whether in this forum or in conversations around a dinner table.
JACK ANDERSON May 19, 2012 at 05:08 PM
The facet of this debate which goes overlooked is how we will be viewed as a state by business. The pensions that have been given, have been guarenteed under the Illinois Constitution. They are a matter of law. What the governor is proposing is in violation of Illinois' constitution and therefore illegal. From the perspective of companies contemplating doing business in Illinois, a state that does not honor its contractual agreements is not a state that can be trusted.

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