Pension-reform Drum Beats Louder in Elmhurst District 205 Officials' Ear

Shifting pension funding from the state to local school districts is gaining traction—and support of some Republicans—but Elmhurst school officials say the plan would cripple public education.

A proposal that would shift the burden of teacher pension costs from the state income tax payer to the local property tax payer is gaining traction in the Illinois General Assembly, according to an article in the Daily Herald Tuesday.

Republican lawmakers traditionally have strongly opposed such legislation, however the Herald is reporting two Republicans, Rep. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst and David Harris of Arlington Heights, seem to be getting behind the idea.

Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook, chairman of the House Pension Committee, has put forth a plan that would phase-in the costs to local school districts and require teachers and state workers to pay more into their retirement.

Elmhurst District 205 School Board officials have said repeatedly that any plan to shift the pension burden to local school districts would cripple public education by forcing major budget cuts. Officials say any cuts on top of the $1.2 million cut this year and the $3 million cut the previous year will dramatically change public education as we know it; programs would have to be eliminated and class sizes would grow.

Some state legislators have said the local districts have been too lenient in negotiating their teacher contracts and that having them pay the pension obligation would force them to hold the line on pension increases.

Of the state lawmakers who will be debating Nekritz's plan, more than 30 will be leaving the House and Senate on Jan. 9 when the new legislature is sworn in.

Rep. Nybo is one of those lame duck legislators. He lost his bid for an Illinois Senate seat in the 24th District to Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale in the Primary Election last March and is headed back to work in the private sector as an attorney.

Nybo was quoted in the Herald article as saying it would be a "travesty" not to settle the pension issue once and for all before the new General Assembly is seated.

Scott December 05, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Mike R More complication trying to obfuscate the problem. Also, where is the money going to come from to pay off the bonds. The state is broke, remember???? Freeze the current plans (so everyone receives a pension for the amount of time they've alreadyworked and level of salary they have earned to date - in other words, nobody will loose something they've already earned). Move everyone to a defined contribution plan. Private companies have been doing this for years and that trend continues because private companies realize that defined benefit plans are not sustainable. Well, they aren't sustainable in the public sector either unless the governments soak the taxpayers with taxes at confiscatory rates. It is the only solution that is "fair" to the taxpayers.
Ken December 05, 2012 at 10:49 PM
If the state shifts the mess they created to the local school districts, can the locals then do away with offering pensions to new hires? I'm sure the voters in each district would be in favor of this.
MIke R December 05, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Scott, Your excellent suggestion of a defined contribution program is one that many have advocated. I agree it is best, unfortunately it apparently has not gotten traction in the Illinois Congress. Again, we can complain or, better yet, recommend what we believe to be better solutions, but these solutions are not being offered in bills because the support does not exist. The plan in the article seems to be gaining traction and while it may not be the best solution, it may realistically be the best we can get at this time.
MIke R December 05, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Ken, interesting concept. Not really sure if they could unilaterally as you write "do away with pensions" when negotiating with teacher's collective bargaining units, but you can bet you would have less qualified teacher candidates to choose from.
gary December 12, 2012 at 04:38 AM
100,000 in retirement. I retired a year and a half ago and make 39,000 downstate. Most schools downstate are in big trouble. We don't have the resources you have in the suburbs. We have been operating on shoestring budgets for quite some time now. When I have gone north for inservice,I just shake my head at the things you can afford in your classrooms. We might as well be in a different world. There is a lot more to this issue than what you see up there.


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