Friday, October 7, 2016

The Wemstroms: A closer look at Chicago teacher pensions

The Wemstroms: A closer look at Chicago teacher pensions:

The Wemstroms: A closer look at Chicago teacher pensions

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Continuing with his “Let’s hate Chicago” agenda, Rep. Brian Stewart contributes to public misunderstanding regarding pensions.
Stewart lists the average Chicago teacher’s salary as more than $78,000 a year. As Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, points out, this number is highly inflated. It includes the salaries of assistant principals, downtown consultants, counselors and just about anyone else with a teaching certificate. It also includes many university professors. According to the Chicago Public Schools 2016 annual budget, the average salary of a Chicago public school teacher is $56,720.
Stewart gives the salary of “the average retiring pensioner,” which would include all government pensioners, as more than $68,000. But the average pension of a Chicago teacher is $42,000. Most teachers do not receive social security.
Stewart said, “State law mandates that teachers pay 9.4 percent of their yearly salaries into their retirement fund. In Chicago, teachers pay 2 percent, and the school district supposedly covers the other 7.4 percent.”
He leaves the impression, purposely of course, that only in Chicago does the school district have what’s called a “pension pickup.” However, the Illinois Policy Institute finds that two-thirds of the school districts in Illinois pay some or all of the teachers’ required contributions to their pension fund.
For example, teachers in Rockford School District 205 paid nothing toward their pensions. According to Illinois Policy’s 2012 article RPS 205 paid it all.
Apparently forgetting that Chicago is in Illinois, Stewart complains that “the state is expected to step in.” But as we’ve pointed out before, other school districts have their pensions funded by the state. Chicago does not.
From the CPS Budget: “CPS is in a uniquely difficult financial situation because it is the only school district in Illinois that is required to support its pension system. Teachers outside of CPS are part of the state Teachers’ Retirement System, funded by the state from taxes, including those paid by Chicago taxpayers. However, CPS teachers are part of the CTPF, which is funded by Chicago taxpayers, with almost no support from the state. This double-taxation of Chicago taxpayers is inequitable and a main cause of the financial challenges that CPS faces.
“Even though both systems are governed by state statute, there is a vast difference in how pensions are funded, and Chicago is at a great disadvantage.
“In FY16, the state will make a $3.7 billion contribution to TRS. This amounts to a pension subsidy for downstate and suburban school districts of $2,266 per student. In contrast, CPS receives only $31 per student. The significant gulf in state pension support has created a structural budget crisis that will continue to divert scarce resources away from classrooms to cover pension payments until action is taken to correct this imbalance.”
So when Stewart complains that “the state will pick up a minimum of $215 million dollars of CPS pension costs,” he’s talking about less than 6 percent of what the state will pay for pensions in other districts.
Meanwhile, Illinois legislators are among the highest paid in the country, receiving $67,836 per year, plus office and travel expenses. And many legislators have other jobs. Rep. Stewart does not mention that he’s making a salary, paid by taxpayers, higher than that of most people who spend the day in Chicago’s classrooms.
Can’t Illinoisans all work together? Trashing one city in Illinois in order to win votes is unworthy of an elected representative.
Chuck and Pat Wemstrom live in rural Mount Carroll. Reach them at patandchuck@gmail.comThe Wemstroms: A closer look at Chicago teacher pensions:

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