I went to the Illinois Policy Institute’s Pension. Got there a little late and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was over an hour after it started.
Representing the Illinois Education Association was Crystal Lake High School teacher Mike Sayre.
I waited in vain for him to accept the responsibility his union and the Illinois Federation of Teachers had in helping create the teacher pension mess.
As I thought about it, I conclude he was too young to know what IEA and IFT lobbyists had done over the years to shortchange the Teachers Retirement System.
Although I have written about this before, let me repeat the scenario that went on year after year after year after year.
The Governor’s budget would have “X” hundreds of millions of dollars for education.
Included would be recommendations for K-12, universities and pensions.
As the session went on teacher union lobbyists would ask for more money for State Aid to Education. In other words, for current salaries.
Where would that money come from?
The pension portion of the education budget.
Concurrently, those same lobbyists would be trying to improve teacher pensions. Think early retirement. (I was astounded that one of my high school classmates who went into teaching was able to retire at age 52.)
Higher teacher salaries, which, in turn, led to higher teacher pensions…while the pension fund was being shorted.
So, when Mike Sayre blames the legislators for not paying what they should have over the years, he is partly right.
The part he doesn’t know about is that his union urged those legislators to do what he complained about Tuesday night.
He said the IEA wants a guarantee that the General Assembly will put money into the Teachers Retirement Fund.
It is virtually impossible for one General Assembly to bind a future General Assembly.
It would be like telling future IEA lobbyists not to try to improve benefits for current dues paying members, that is active teachers.
Just trying to parcel out the responsibility for the mess all parties got us taxpayers in.
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On the IEA handout for the event was the following assertion: “The pension crisis was caused by politicians who diverted the pension system payments to other programs.”
What other programs?
State Aid to Education so current salaries could be raised with the assumption that pension payments would take care of themselves. After all the Illinois Constitution says pensions can’t be impaired.
Even I told teachers that for years when they expressed concerns.