Pritzker pushes cash to keep teachers in Illinois schools
Gov. J.B. Pritzker introduced a Teacher Pipeline Grant Program to address teacher vacancies, but getting more money into classrooms rather than it chasing retirement debt is a better solution.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has launched a new program hoping to draw more teachers to Illinois public schools.
Pritzker visited Streamwood High School in Elgin to announce $70 million for the Teacher Pipeline Grant Program.
“All across the nation, school districts are fighting the impact of teacher shortages — as education professionals struggle to weigh their passion for their classrooms with their own mental, financial and personal wellbeing. So as part of my education investment plan, I’m proposing an additional $70 million annually specifically targeted at addressing teacher shortages,” Pritzker said.
From 2011-2021, Illinois public schools lost nearly 180,000 students but gained 4,500 teachers.
Illinois public schools currently have more than 5,300 unfilled positions, but nearly half of those vacancies are for paraprofessionals, not traditional teachers. The need may be about the type of teacher and where they are.
But the $70 million to possibly increase some of the teaching ranks will not fix the real problem. That would be how the $210 billion pension hole is sucking up too many education dollars.
Illinois’ Teacher Retirement System, the largest public pension fund in the state, reached $80.6 billion in pension debt in 2022. TRS has only 43.8% of funds needed to pay retirees.
It is one of five statewide systems, which combined have $140 billion less than they need even though Illinois already spends 25% of its general fund on pensions. Add to that state burden another $70 billion in local pension debt and Illinois taxpayers face a $210 billion burden that eventually will cost each household about $42,600.
Reforming pensions by amending the Illinois Constitution would help ensure young teachers have a retirement at the end of their careers. It would also allow more education dollars to flow to teachers in classrooms rather than to retirement costs.
Illinois has the second-highest property taxes in the nation, and schools get 61.5% of those taxes. Unless state lawmakers amend the Illinois Constitution, Illinoisans will have no shortage of pension debt to keep driving up those property taxes and ever less to spend on classrooms.