Union lobbyist denied part of teacher pension after substitute teaching for 1 day

Union lobbyist denied part of teacher pension after substitute teaching for 1 day

David Piccioli sought a teacher pension after lobbying for the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

David Piccioli – a former lobbyist for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, or IFT, – tried to claim a teacher pension after just one day of substitute teaching in 2007.

But a judge ruled July 25 that Piccioli could only receive the portion of his teacher pension that accounts for years served after his day in the classroom – not the years of work he did with the union prior to stepping into the classroom, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Piccioli’s attempt was a direct result of a loophole created by a piece of legislation on teacher pensions.

In 2006, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was elected with support from the IFT. Just weeks later, lawmakers passed a bill allowing union officials to count their previous years as a union employee toward a teacher pension.

However, in order to take advantage of this perk, union officials had to be covered by the Teachers’ Retirement System, or TRS, before the bill was signed into law.

This is where the one day of substitute teaching comes in. Piccioli became a certified substitute teacher and fulfilled his one-day requirement of teaching before the governor signed the bill in February 2007. With one day of service as a teacher under his belt, Piccioli was grandfathered into the pension system – including his previous years working for the union. Once allowed into the retirement fund, Piccioli paid about $198,000 into TRS to cover his contributions for approximately 10 years with the union, according to the Tribune.

In 2012, lawmakers eliminated the chance for union members to retroactively count their years served toward a teacher pension – claiming the 2007 law was unconstitutional. Under this law, payments plus interest were to be returned to individuals who’d bought in for contributions to buy credit for time served before teaching.

Piccioli argued that since the Illinois Constitution does not allow for the diminishment of a public pension benefit, the state’s action was illegal.

The court’s ruling against Piccioli means he will not be granted a teacher pension for the years in the union before teaching. Sangamon County Judge Ryan Cadagin made the ruling on the grounds that the provision in the 2007 law that Piccioli’s case stood on was considered “unconstitutional special legislation,” according to the State Journal-Register.

While Piccioli argues that he joined the system legally, the judge found the law was unconstitutional because it contained a cutoff date that only allowed union members that were part of TRS prior to the bill being signed in 2007 to buy credit for previous years served, the State Journal-Register explains.

Under the court’s ruling, Piccioli can still count the years he served in the union after his day of substitute teaching since he made proper payments going forward, according to the Tribune. Therefore, he will still receive a teacher pension for his one day in the classroom – albeit smaller than the one he was seeking.

If Piccioli decides to move forward with the case he can either appeal it to the Illinois Supreme Court or ask the judge to reconsider.

Individuals should not be able to capitalize on loopholes in the already broke pension system. The state cannot afford teacher pensions in the current state – let alone when they could give pensions to those who teach for just one day.

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