“Many people seem to think teaching is a gravy job, that I have summers off and long vacations. Yet, I have taken very few summers off in over 36 years of teaching, because I was either teaching summer school or graduate courses to supplement income, or taking graduate courses myself for advanced degrees in education.”

“Now we have huge shortages of teachers because salaries are low in Illinois for educators, and due to the pension crisis, the state can’t even promise they will have money to support teachers who are already retired. It’s decimating the education field.”

“The pension problem is Illinois is multi-faceted and misunderstood.”

“One of the biggest problems is the COLA (cost of living adjustment). For decades, a person’s pension grew at 3% simple interest. That is, until legislators voted to change it.”

“A few years ago, an attorney who has been on the TRS board for several years and is also a retiree, came and spoke to the McHenry County Retired teachers. He pointed out that 3% compounding interest was unsustainable because if you put money into an account with 3% compounding interest, in 24 years your money doubles. Therefore, these pension requirements are doubling about every two decades.”

“When this change was proposed by the legislators of Illinois, the Teachers’ Retirement System was firmly against it. They did not change contributions or funding, so there was no money to pay for it. Legislators changed it anyway because they wanted the 3% compound interest on their pensions, and now every group has that rate.”

“Most Illinoisans don’t realize that our legislators get their pension after serving only one term. Most other pensioners have to serve years before they are eligible for their pension. In teaching, it is 35 years for a full pension.”

“Secondly, it is my firm belief that we have too many administrators making huge salaries that will require larger and larger pension payouts. The numbers reported on the largest pensions upset everyone, including teachers and rank-and-file police and firefighters.”

“Huge salaries and large payouts for the top pension-earners takes money and resources that could be used to attract talented personnel and invest in resources for students and communities.”

“A teacher making say $60,000 a year at retirement after 35 years – which is less in central and southern Illinois – would receive 75% of that, or $45,000. If an administrator is making $200,000, they are in a pretty good position with a pension of $150,000 in addition to the 3% compound interest every year.”

“I believe there should be limit to the most a pensioner can qualify for. If you’ve made $200,000 a year as an administrator, I would think you could have saved quite a nice nest egg. I know I could have.”

“A large portion of the pension burden comes from highly paid administrators. We can’t change the present, but we can look to change the future.”

“I continue to write letters trying to legislators advocating district consolidation. One example is over administration between the Prairie Grove, Cary and Fox River Grove School Districts. The Prairie Grove district has about eight administrators overseeing two schools. Then next door is Cary which has about 16 administrators for five schools. The next town over, Fox River Grove, has four administrators for two schools.”

“This equates to over 28 administrators within a small area. And all these feeder schools go to the same high school, which is a separate district with more administrators.”

“Many larger districts in other states operate well with the same amount or less administration. Yet here, we have three districts, all in bedroom communities without industry or many businesses, each paying high salaries to their administrators.”

“Florida has 67 school districts, one per county, and we have 852. Additionally, some administrators are retiring at age 60 or earlier from Illinois districts after working part time or full time, and then working across the border in Wisconsin, Indiana or Iowa while pulling their Illinois pension. I know of several that have done this.”

“Third, Illinois is one of a few states where the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Program laws penalize teacher pensioners. They prohibit teachers from getting any Social Security from a spouse or reduce their own Social Security. I worked other jobs over the years and have my 40 quarters but receive $22 a month from Social Security. Therefore, our pensions are vital to have a secure retirement, especially for teachers since we can’t access Social Security.”

“For some reason, the teachers really get singled out as ‘the bad guys,’ but police, firemen, state employees, and anybody who’s ever been a representative or a state senator receive pensions on the taxpayers dime. And administrators are crowding out funds for teachers and students. We’re not the ‘bad guys’ here.”

Deb Roti
Retired teacher
Huntley, Illinois