Just last year, the General Assembly on a bipartisan vote, passed a provision that reduced the spiking of teacher salaries for pension calculation purposes from 6% to 3%, putting the financial responsibility on the school district to pay any additional increase along with a penalty for doing so. Now, less than a year later special interests are calling for the 6% spike to be restored with SB1952...
Using the teacher shortage data in Illinois, education activists are out in full force claiming that the 3% spike is necessary to “Save the Profession.” According to the Illinois State Board of Education, unfilled teacher positions have fluctuated from 1,143 in 2016 to 997 in 2017 and 1,407 in 2018. Attributing the rise to lowering the pension spike 3% prior to its enactment seems dubious.
While I am inclined to merit increases based upon effort and excellence, a blanket 6%, let alone the current 3% spike merely to raise a retiree’s compensation is already egregious. I am certain the taxpayer who bears the burden of saving for their own retirement along with paying for the public education retirees is overjoyed to know that a 3% spike for no reason at all just isn’t enough.
Additionally, where is the money to fund the restoration of the 6% spike going to come from? The current budget is almost $3.2 billion out of balance and Governor Pritzker is contemplating another pension payment holiday because that worked so well for Illinois in the past. Combine another pension holiday and more pension sweeteners, only disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich would be proud. Maybe if the Illinois Education Association, Illinois Teachers Federation, and the public education activists were out in force fighting for the consolidation of Illinois’ 865 school districts to reduce administrative costs or reforming the abuse of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts which divert educational funding, I would be more supportive of reasonable merit driven increases.
What we need is innovation in how we deliver educational services with more choice, not less; money that follows students so parents aren’t held captive to failing schools because of their zip code. Instead, we are locked into an analog monolithic public education system designed in the industrial era, for our 21st-century information-based digital economy–“there’s an app for that.”