Friday, March 29, 2013

HB3264: Rep. Roth Targets Evil Sick Leave

Representative Pam Roth

Representative Pam Roth’s latest fancy, HB3264, would eliminate those pesky personal sick days as an accumulated benefit for all future hires in education.  That’ll keep them in those oversized classrooms!   

"To people who work in the private sector, this is maddening. They are allowed sick days, so when they get sick, they don’t lose a payday. They don’t get and don’t expect a bonanza at the end of their employment because they didn’t get sick”
(“Sick, sick, sick.” Chicago Tribune: Editorial Board 7 February 2012).

Fred Klonsky warns about New York Mayor Bloomberg’s fiddling sick leave with fattened fiscal fingers:

Sick Leave: HB3264 (Corporate vs. Teacher)
noun – Quite simply, sick leave is a paid absence from duty. In many situations (teacher and corporate), employees are entitled to use sick leave for personal medical needs, injury or sickness of a family member, required care of a family member, bereavement and, on occasion, adoption-related needs.
Lately, corporatists and their mouthpieces like the Chicago Tribune  - or Representative Pam Roth - are decrying the “unfair” inequalities of sick leaves as provided by the public unions and those industrious workers in corporate America/Chicago. While there are, indeed, some differences between what is provided the “hard-working” in either field, the comparison often remains a fallacious association, as the two are not truly comparable. This is not to say that absenteeism is an innocuous problem associated with the management of personnel; indeed, it is not. A missing worker is missing work. In education as well the ramifications are impactful.
Let’s take a mid-management worker at, say, Roththinker Investments, one William Doyle. When Bill calls in sick, his paperwork increases while his productivity decreases. When Bill returns, he is confronted with all that he was unable to accomplish and a few desperate days of catching up. It is hoped that Bill has a proficient office assistant who has rescheduled his missed appointments and prioritized his most pressing engagements and needs when he does return.

Now, let’s take high school Science teacher named Todd Mertzel, who has called in sick. Todd has 150 students in a district waiting for him to assure an accurate count for student attendance, to design and deliver five or more lessons, to teach his students (in Arnie Duncan’s world, to the test), to make sure that order is maintained, and to assign homework that is both meaningful and metacognitive. In sum, this means that Todd’s absence is critical to at least 150 lives, if not more (perhaps he has extracurricular assignments as well). Todd, of course, will provide lessons for each class and specific students; however, the nexus of learning will suffer a severe bump if not a break.  Sometimes, believe it or not, subs are not prepared to take the lesson from the last level to the next.  Imagine the parental response when 150 children are told to “occupy themselves” for an hour or more in classes from a Substitute Teacher who was hired at considerable cost to the district. Of course, the students could be released from classes that day, from their homework, and from any other responsibilities, though that flies in the face of in loco parentis and educational sensibility.

Are you still wondering why public union employees are provided accumulated sick leave? It’s simply because it saves school districts money. Moreover, it also promotes learning, for studies have indicated that the less time a teacher is away, the less disruption to a student’s learning patterns. This, of course, applies to students as well; so much so, many districts have considered various rewards for students who miss fewer school days. In fact, in one notorious case, an Illinois school board actually offered additional grade points for fewer missed days in school. But I digress…

On the other hand, many businesses (my doctor’s office, for example) have gone to PTO – Paid Time Off. Paid time off is a “bank” of hours from which employees can draw. These are days that employees “bank” during pay periods for time not lost (due to sickness or whatever) while they work. The more they work without calling in sick, the more days they can “bank.” This is done with an accrual schedule that changes modestly in the employees’ favor after increments of half a decade. For instance, the full office staff receives .073 of an hour for each of the 2080 hours worked in a year (if they have no absences). That will result in 152 hours of “banked” paid time off for the healthy. Part-time workers receive no PTO or anything else. Of course, in my doctor’s office, the ratio of “bank” days between staff and administrative/ medical personnel is notable: the medical staff has no limitations financial or otherwise for time off taken for whatever reason.

Are there downsides? Indeed, there are several.
First, sickness can eat into vacation time; therefore, employees will come to work when ill – even with the flu. This practice, called presentee-ism, is a major threat to productivity in many workplaces, for it spreads contagion and illness while devastating productivity. Also, because the employer could care less why an employee is absent, the employees understandably take as much time off as possible during a calendar year.

Secondly, as the Chicago Tribune points out in glowing terms, employees on PTO cannot “bank” their accrued paid time off from one year to the next, but that also means that PTO employees are the first to make sure they do take that time during the year. In most cases, PTO time off comes to 19 days, considerably more than the number of days received in most teacher contracts. You might ask: If teachers were on PTO? They’d want to take all the accrued time too, and we’re right back to the expense of substitutes and students’ lost learning.

What’s the bottom line? When corporatists think only in terms of profit, they forget what works efficiently, provides reason and balance, and offers positive incentives and outcomes for doing a job well done, especially a job that creates critical-thinking children, instead of widgets. Confused? Need another example? Examine the corporatists’ recent and past flawed creations: SB512 and now Pam Roth’s HB3264.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Selective Ethics & HB1165 (Sen. Michael Noland)

I'm here...just look again.

Selective Ethics  (Shhh..Send Me HB1165…)

Noun:  In most cases, selective ethics is a fallacious argument against another’s’ choice of inappropriate ethical stances while engaging in one’s own version.   In politics, one who is beholding to many forces outside his control can easily lose his center and become serviceable to whatever influential person or group hold momentary audience.  See also chameleon.

Not many legislators in the General Assembly can claim the dubious honor of a 100% endorsement from the Illinois Policy Institute, other than a few financial friendlies: mostly Republicans like Representative Darlene Senger or Senator Michael Connelly.  The Illinois Policy Institute, an ALEC-backed organization provides model legislation for the eviscerating of unions, the destruction of public pensions, and ultimate privatization of institutions of public education (see Pension Vocabulary: Errand Boys).  These high tributes of IPI endorsement come with unswerving obedience to the organization’s philosophies.  On the other hand, a Democrat receiving over 80% favorability from the Illinois Policy Institute would be – well, it would be a pretend Democrat?  Certainly, it is not what one might expect in normal political expectations.  But, alas, in Illinois so much is often camouflaged.  Senator Michael Noland (Democrat – Elgin)) is a highly treasured recipient of the Illinois Policy Institute’s 80% plus accolades.

Senator Noland has always acted the very voice of reason when it comes to pension reform in Illinois.  Not so long ago, a somewhat different Senator Noland explained to radio host Dick Kay that a drastic action like HB1165 would be unlikely and unfair.  Commenting on the original version of the bill (HB6258) the Senator described the draconian aspects of the bill as a “frustration” in response to lack of leadership, being taken up by Representative Nekritz. 

Then, surprisingly last week, March 20th, Senator Noland voted to send SB1 and SB35 to the House.  SB1 passed the Senate, but SB35 did not.  SB1 forced a choice between health care and COLA’s.  SB35 was crueler.  Many Senators pulled back from SB35 for its very drastic and possibly unconstitutional benefit cutting for actives and retirees, despite clear constitutional protections against diminishing or impairing a pension/contract.  But Noland voted yes on SB35. 

Back in December, a very dissimilar Noland reminded Dick Kay “those already hired should be the least harmed.”  He regretted he had not had time to review the legislation (HB6258) and declined to “comment in detail.”  He seemed startled about the fiscal violence of such a bill. Surprising that an inside member of the pension task force would not have some insight on a bill drafted by task force colleagues; on the other hand, Senator Noland positively opined about SB1 early on.  According to that Noland, choice would make the likelihood of facing legal challenges an acceptable condition – and also having all stakeholders at the table.  Sounded good.  Looked good. 

And, now that HB1165 (twin sister to HB6258) has passed the House, we can probably predict Noland’s response to a bill which embraces all he would have sent their way had SB35 passed:  Freezing COLA’s for retirees, reducing COLA’s forever, capping pensionable salaries, and increasing retirement ages.  Welcome the undiscovered Senator Noland.

Nevertheless, Senator Noland’s high positive ratings from the IPI are a testament to his latest votes on pension “reform”  – and perhaps a revealing look at his carefully manicured position on pensions ever since he was named a member of Governor Quinn’s original pension task force.  Other members on the original task force met with various interested parties throughout the spring and summers of 2011 to seek answers, ideas and suggestions about how to cure the problems facing the General Assembly with a growing $85 billion in unfunded liabilities.  While Representative Nekritz and Representative Senger became more accessible to outside interested parties, Senator Noland became decidedly less so.  In the summer of 2011, repeated attempts by retirees to meet, discuss or share positions regarding pension reform with Noland were met by promises, which became qualifiers about constituency, which later became simple refusals. 

Who am I?
The Senator plays his cards very close, and what plans he may have for public school districts in Elgin are trump cards yet to be tossed into play.  Citizens for Noland, a front for Stand for Children, is the largest single donator of funds for Noland’s war chest, according to Project Vote Smart ( - .UVIoM78yhUQ).   Over $12000 in 2012 helped the Senator achieve his seat once more.  One wonders which Senator?

“Stand for Children is a non-profit education reform group advocating for the inclusion of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations, charter schools and decreased teacher union power…Those contributions came from a handful of billionaires and multi-millionaires who have a history of giving to both Republicans and Democrats” ( 

Supporters of Senator Noland and Stand for Children include members of the Civic Committee of Chicago:  The Crown family, Matthew Hulsizer’s Peak6 Investments, Ken Griffen of hedge fund Citadel, the Pritzker family, and Sam Zell. 

So, who is the real Senator Noland? The only hint ever delivered by a vague Senator in December was his warning  “stakeholders need to sacrifice so that others can have a job.”  Keeping to his carefully controlled persona, Senator Nolan never told Dick Kay or anyone just how much sacrifice he intended to pile on everyone. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fair Is Foul (or Sen. Don Harmon)

“Fair is Foul, and Foul is Fair” (or…Senator Don Harmon?)
Arguably, the best primer about politics In Illinois could be William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Even in the primal days of Scottish Thanes and royal assassinations, branding made or broke an erstwhile politician; in other words, even then appearances can become reality - at least temporarily.  And that brings us to Senator Don Harmon (Oak Park); whose latest vote cast on SB35 leaves a glaring slash in what was once the very appealing flag of consideration and sensibility.
To listen to an earlier version of Senator Harmon (speaking before the IRTA) or to read Senator Harmon’s pensive forecast of possible pension reform this spring presented a careful and considerate thinker about pension issues and Constitutional contractual promises  (  And then, on March 20th, Senator Harmon voted “Aye” on SB 35.
In a communiqué to his constituents and supporters (before his vote) in the Oak Park.Com Journal, the Senator clearly stated, “We need a balanced, common sense approach to pension reform.  This will include both reforming benefits and establishing adequate funding of the pension system over the long term.”
In his newsletter, Senator Harmon wrote of the difficulties of finding some middle position between “the drumbeat from hedge fund captains dabbling in politics and certain editorial boards – who see the only path to reform as slashing ‘overly generous’ pension benefits to ‘lazy’ public employees.” 
Contrapuntally, Harmon also emphasizes the impossible demands of those “fierce advocates of defined benefit pension plans (who) refuse to touch benefits and believe the only solution is to raise taxes yet again and plow the money into underfunded pensions.”
SB35, according to the advocating Civic Federation, is a mirror image to the earlier House bill HB3411, co-sponsored by Rep. Nekritz and Senator Biss (when he was a Representative).  The industry bosses admire the bill, and now – surprisingly – so does Senator Harmon.  Even though the earlier and more cautious version of Harmon suggested, “Looming overhead is the Illinois Constitution, which says membership in any public pension system is an enforceable contractual relationship whose benefits ‘shall not be diminished or impaired.’"  Suddenly, Senator Harmon appears unmindful of that likely possibility. 
Perhaps he has joined Nekritz and Fahner and the other “captains” who have concluded: “At the press conference on January 27, Representative Elaine Nekritz said that HB3411 is constitutional because it provides for the pension systems’ survival in exchange for reduced benefits. In March 2012, the Board of Trustees of TRS concluded that the fund was imperiled because it could no longer rely on the State to make its required contributions”  ( ).   Using TRS to argue for excessively severe benefit slashing, well, it’s hard to argue with logic like that, Mr. Ingram.  Of course, in Macbeth, remember, it was difficult to tell who was trustworthy or honorable.                                 
In voting “Aye,” the Senator has agreed and supported these draconian conditions:
Cap COLA’s to the first $25,000 in benefits, cutting the value of a retiree’s pension between 28% and 31% after twenty years.  The bill is more punitive to those who have worked enough outside of the public sector to have social security.
Freeze any cost of living adjustment until age 67 or five years after retirement.
Create a new Tier Three for new hires in TRS and SURS, who would suffer a combined hybrid defined-benefit and defined-contribution – putting half of their retirement into the markets. 
Increase retirement ages and increase employee contributions. 
Offer a pension-funding guarantee that is only “permissive,” not giving employees any right to civil action.
Create a cash balance plans for new hires for SURS and TRS and certain Tier Two participants.
Cap pensionable salaries for Tier I active teachers.
 Senator Harmon had staked out the extremes. 
Yet, by supporting Senate Bill 35, Senator Harmon has pretty clearly shown where he falls in the chasm between these two extremes, decisions he admits will surely affect those  “stuck in the middle… public employees, retirees and, mostly, schoolteachers who contributed to their pensions in every paycheck.  Many are not eligible for the social security…and are scared to death we will shatter their already fragile notion of ‘retirement security.’”  He chooses to stand with that former group: the Civic Federation and other “captains….”
By the way, the Senator also rightly warned in his newsletter that the 1995 ramp was a ridiculously large part of the underfunding problem in Illinois: “That's a fine goal, but about as realistic as a family setting aside in one lump sum all the money it needs to pay off the mortgage, provide college tuition for each child and finance retirement and long-term care in one payment.”  Noting in SB35 did anything to ameliorate that issue.  No ramp, no real promise to fund, and just loss of benefits…
But that’s the earlier version of Senator Harmon.
It’s all right Senator.  “A little water clears us of this deed.” 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Senators without Regard for Earned Benefits

Illinois Senators Who Voted “Yes” on Both SB 0001 and SB 0035...

From Glen Brown:  These are senators who apparently have no regard for a teacher’s earned constitutionally-guaranteed benefits and will most likely vote “yes” for an unconstitutional bill from the House of Representatives.

1. John Cullerton (217-782-2728, Chicago: 773-883-0770)

2. Daniel Biss (217-782-2119, Skokie: 847-568-1250)

3. Don Harmon (217-782-8176, Oak Park: 708-848-2002)

4. Patricia Van Pelt (217-782-6252, Chicago: 312-888-9191)

5. Steven Landek (217-782-0054, Burbank: 708-430-25100

6. Napoleon Harris III (217-782-8066, 708-232-8780)

7. Bill Cunningham (217-782-5145, Chicago: 773-445-8123)

8. Michael Hastings (217-782-9595, Matteson: 708-283-4125)

9. Michael Noland (217-782-7746, Elgin: 847-214-8864)

10. Mike Jacobs (217-782-5957, Moline: 309-797-0001)

11. Heather Steans (Yes vote on SB 35, “Present” on SB 1) (217-782-8492, Chicago: 773-769-1717)

12. Michael Connelly (Yes on SB 35, “Did Not Vote” on SB 1) (217-782-8192, Wheaton: 630-682-8101)

Other Illinois Senators Who Voted “Yes” on the blatantly unconstitutional SB 0035 and will most likely vote “yes” for an unconstitutional bill from the House of Representatives.

13. Kirk Dillard (217-782-8148, Westmont: 630-969-0990)

14. Jim Oberweis (217-782-0471, North Aurora: 630-800-1992)

15. Dan Duffy (217-782-8010, Barrington: 847-277-7100)

16. Matt Murphy (217-782-4471, Palatine: 847-776-1490)

17. Pamela Althoff (217-782-8000, McHenry: 815-455-6330)

18. Karen McConnaughay (217-782-1977, South Elgin: 847-214-8245)

19. Darin Lahood (217-782-1942, Peoria: 309-693-4921)

20. Sue Rezin (217-782-3840, Peru: 815-220-8720)

21. Christine Radogno (217-782-9407, Lemont: 630-243-0800)

22. William Brady (217-782-6216, Bloomington: 309-664-4440)

23. Dave Syverson (217-782-5413, Rockford: 815-987-7555)

These senators voted “present” on SB 0035

24. Mattie Hunter (217-782-5966, Chicago: 312-949-1908)

25. Jacqueline Collins (217-782-1607, Chicago: 773-224-2830)

26. Thomas Cullerton (217-782-9463, Villa Park: 630-903-6662)

These senators “did not vote” on SB 0035

27. Kimberly Lightford (217-782-8505, Westchester: 708-343-7444)

28. Tim Bivins (217-782-0180, Dixon: 815-284-0045)

29. Gary Forby (217-782-5509, Benton: 618-439-2504)


Let them know that you strongly disagree with their willingness to ignore oaths of office and the Illinois Constitution by placing their own fraudulent diversion of contractual payments to hard-working middle class citizens of Illinois on the backs of hard working public sector workers.  They target TRS now, everyone else later.  

Tell them of your neighbors, friends and family in their districts.  Tell them that you will seek better moral and legal representation if necessary.