Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bruce Rauner: An Argument "A Fortiori"

Bruce Rauner: A Fortiori

Here are a couple of important dates coming up quickly:

Wednesday, October 8th:  Judge Belz in Sangamon County will rule on the request for judgment  on the pleadings to the affirmative defense; that is, a decision whether to find the defendant Attorney General’s argument for “necessary police powers” as  inadmissible or unconstitutional.  This motion, brought last month by ISEA, RSEA, WAO, and IRTA, may be settled once and for all; but that’s unlikely.  More likely, the magistrate may decide to issue a continuance, provide a partial judgment, select for inclusion only specific arguments or parties, avoid a holistic decision on the request – opting for the Supreme Court to handle the issue in its entirety.  Whatever, it will be optimistically one more critical footstep on a legal path to an affirmation of pension security.  Mark the calendar.

Wednesday, October 15th:  One week later.  Any extensions in the filings of federal and Illinois income taxes will be due, unless one is in a war zone like Afghanistan or a federally declared disaster area like flood-blanketed Colorado…or one is maybe a clever fund manager, like Bruce Rauner. 

You might remember Bruce Rauner chose to not to release his 2013 tax returns, leaving opponents Quinn and Vallas to generate commercials criticizing his wealth in general terms.  In fact, one persistent reporter cornered Vallas until finally getting a growling bark that Rauner was just too rich to be a governor. 

Rauner promised to release his tax returns before the next important date: Tuesday, November 4th: Election Day.  But, of course he did, because the usual six-month extension on federal taxes ends just 20 days before the election.  And his mandatory allowance to maintain fiscal secrecy for the current year will end and become public/press record.  But not all of it.

While the Democrats finger-wagging attacks have been concentrating on the mathematical aspect of Rauner’s wealth – somewhere between over-opulence and obscenity – it may very well be Rauner’s charitable contributions that would provide an argument a fiorati (for still a stronger reason) to vote for Quinn to diminish Rauner’s chances.

If the eventual release of Rauner’s 2013 income taxes reveals anything worth furrowing eyebrows, it will very likely be the political charitable contributions he provided to various PAC’s and “shadow” groups which tirelessly promote the far right wind agenda of a particular cabal in our post Citizens United America.

A cursory review of his available past records indicate that Bruce Rauner has invested heavily in the far-right agenda, and they in turn have become quite ready to invest in his rise from hedge fund manager to governor of the State of Illinois. 

When you think of Rauner, think also of a four-letter word:  Koch.

One of Rauner’s most ardent supporters in Illinois is the Illinois Policy Institute; CEO John Tillman was in the front of the line to tender $5000 for Rauner’s initial exploratory committee considering his run for governor.

Of course, Tillman might have been expected to give at least that much as records indicate that Rauner has provided over $1/2 million to the I.P.I. over the last several years (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20131107/News/311079879).

And the I.P.I. is one of 30 state level ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) groups, receiving copious sums of money from shadow groups like the State Policy Network , which itself collects some $83 million annually from major corporate donors like Koch Industries, Philip Morris, Kraft, etc. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/05/state-conservative-groups-assault-education-health-tax)  Interestingly, the donors can only suggest where their donation might be used or most helpful; therefore, the specifics of amounts and identities are washed from the donation.  All legal, all under the table.

As a recipient of money from the State Policy Network, the I.P.I. is able to shield its supporters and even those they decide in turn to support politically – like Rahm Emanuel, a politician considered malleable in the I.P.I.’s free-market argument to morph pensions into 401k’s (Guardian).  As a member of ALEC and a recipient of CATO Fund directives/funds; I.P.I.’s consistent mantra is to replace all defined benefit programs with defined contributions, a position first taken and then recanted by the challenger Rauner in the spring of 2014. (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Illinois_Policy_Institute)

Other beneficiaries of Rauner’s right-wing largesse include political groups and PAC’s which unnervingly flesh out much of his meager and skeletal descriptions of political fixes and future behaviors. When Rauner first blundered into the minimum wage fray, questioning whether there should be any minimum wage at all; he was simply parroting the position of his political colleague Ted Dabrowski, spokesperson for the I.P.I., which would deny any set wage for any work performed in a free market. 

The Heartland Institute, a right-wing group that worked endlessly to blunt or deny any scientific evidence for climate change, is another targeted benefactor of Rauner’s giving.  Indeed, Heartland Institute has used money – like the $50,000 from Rauner in 2012 – to suggest (seriously?) that drilling for oil in places like Lake Michigan is totally acceptable.  “It makes perfect sense to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Gulf of Mexico, and, yes, the Great Lakes, too…” (http://illinoisfreedom.com/news/follow-money-rauners-2-million-tea-party-groups-undermines-moderate-pose/ ).

Nearly another $1/2 million of Rauner’s assistance went to an organization devoted to the opposition to marriage equality, and while Rauner recently suggested he might have vetoed the Illinois bill that was passed, he has carefully avoided informing the public he has been spending widely to prevent any such bill from getting onto the floor of the General Assembly.  In fact, he has given Jack Rosen, the head of the Family Taxpayers Association, all the support he can, and Rosen has expressed clearly what he thinks of the LGBT platform: “We all know that it (a gay lifestyle) is a kind of death sentence.” (Illinois Freedom)

As for pensions for workers?  Rauner is nothing if not constantly vacillating.  Yet, if pensions fall under the aegis of security for those who worked their lives in hope of a somewhat comfortable and independent end, knowing the Rauner in 2012 provided another nearly $1/2 million to the Cato Institute, the Club for Growth, and Americans for Prosperity should clarify his position on pensions and Social Security and Medicare.  Each of these Koch-supported groups have strongly worked behind the scenes on the federal and local level to eradicate Social Security and Medicare as overly costly entitlements given to working class people.  

The lists go on…and on.  FreedomWorks, another conservative PAC that works to deny climate change theory and any manifestations of government healthcare (Medicare, Affordable Care Act) received another $25,000 in 2012.  Sourcewatch describes FreedomWorks as a significant tea-party group that in turn funds groups like the I.P.I.  (Sourcewatch)

In education, ironically, Rauner and at least one of the Democratics  on the gubernatorial ticket can agree: on their perception of what’s best for education.  Vallas and Rauner are clearly on the same page when it comes to supporting/promoting the privatization of public education, one of the last cash cows abruptly under the long, narrow eye of Wall Street investors interested in managing all that public money.  In this arena, Rauner’s beneficence is mammoth indeed:  Noble Network of Charter Schools received $2 million on 2012; Stand for Children, $600,000; Teach for American Chicago, $1,100,000 (and Payton Prep, $200,000)

Just as hedge fund manager Bruce Rauner considers these chosen targets of his wealth and fiscal favoritism good business sense – they will if successful return money to him as and if they can change the nature of the business environment – so too do they consider Rauner and other politicians investments to get this done.  Quid pro quo. 

Now, Illinois’ public unions and educational groups  inflict self-injury and bitterness by urging members of one organization to support Quinn, unlike the other group…


ludicrously laud Quinn for positions inconceivable to anyone remotely aware of what the current Governor has done in his “earthly” tenure.

Endorsements like “Gov. Quinn supports a continuation of our defined benefits pension plan that guarantees benefits for life” is so off-the-mark that its use to dissuade a reluctance to vote this year is dissembling and manipulative.  (IEA-R letter urging vote for Quinn)

Honesty would have forced a poignant and perhaps more uncomfortable rationale:  “While current Gov. Quinn has not been an ally nor an advocate for public workers’ defined pension benefits, our union name here encourages our members to vote for Quinn rather than Bruce Rauner, and then become active in the efforts to make significant changes in the leaderships in Springfield to assure the respect given to those who toiled for the State and seek some sense of security –as promised – in their later years.”

A winning Rauner promises a spate of Koch’s money and right wing influence in my state of Illinois that I cannot accept: I will vote to defeat him.  On the other hand, Quinn represents the worst kind of politician, a populist who plays to the people but who has no regard for the Illinois Constitution he swore to uphold and the promises to the workers in Article XIII, Section 5.  After November 4th,  I will work to find an alternative to him and those who would knowingly accept or compromise with his duplicity.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Rauner: ALEC, the Minimum Wage, & Between a Rock...

Minimum Wage: Minimal Response

My wealthy friend Ernesto stopped by the other evening, sporting a new Hybrid Escalade and a readiness for political debate.  Unlike last time, this time I was prepared.

“About time. Paul Ferrand,” Ernesto, said as I tilted the amber bottle into his snifter. 

“Just what you had asked for last time.  Please, sit back, relax, and let’s catch up.”

“Catch up are exactly the words I would use, my friend,” Ernesto chortled.  “By the way, this is a solid good cognac, although I prefer Pour Moi, if you truly want to impress me.  But I digress.  My goodness, it seems your union governor is in some trouble as this election approaches.  He is falling behind in the latest polling, isn’t this true?”

“Well, not exactly, Ernesto, in several ways.  Although, for the life of me I sometimes cannot tell why, he has actually pulled slightly ahead of the challenger Rauner in the last week.  Why do you suppose that is happening?”

“The union support, sadly, “ replied my distinguished friend.

“I think not,  Ernesto.  Not many of us union lackeys have any love or even voting predilection for a governor who not only signed SB1 into law but promises to come back to a plan B if the Court declares it unconstitutional.  And the head of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Dan Montgomery’s statements the other night on WTTW to develop a plan to work together for “pension reform” makes Quinn’s backup plan even more threatening to union workers in Illinois.” 

“And thus…” Ernesto smiled broadly, “you are between a veritable stone and painful rock.  So, will you vote for the right man, Rauner?”

“Not so fast, Ernesto.  We are indeed between a veritable stone and painful rock – although I might have said it differently.  But voting for a man who would cut if not ignore the need to increase the minimum wage would hurt more than just me or my union lackeys.  It would undermine the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers in Illinois.” 

“So you buy into the ridiculous advertising of the Quinn commercial that Rauner is evil because he does not agree with an unnecessary increase for the many, many young workers in entry level positions who are learning about work?”

“Maybe before the Great Recession, Ernesto, but pickings have been slim since then, and PEW Research would say that although about half of the nearly 4 million workers in the U.S. who are at the federal minimum wage are below age 24, nearly 21% are in ages up to 34.  Those aren’t dropouts or students living in basements, Ernesto.  At age 25 to 34, they’re looking to find living quarters, independence, food, and a future.  There’s been no relief in many states for these workers as the Consumers Price Index has increased over a decade or more.”

Ernesto scoffed: “Well, these increases – linked to the CPI or even some arbitrary number like in Oregon -  will have no effect on the workers’ lives.  As the CPI increases, their costs will increase, so it is a null achievement.”

“Wait a moment, my good friend.  It is A.L.E.C. and Rauner who claim that any increase in the minimum wage is circular and compounding.  Now, you make the same argument against increasing the lot of those who toil at lower wages.  Keeping them unable to maintain the increases in costs of living serves what purpose?  Am I to understand that your argument extrapolated is that paying people less than what is needed to survive will benefit me (and them?) when it comes time to buy a pair of shoes?  Really?  Isn’t that circular and compounding?”

“You union liberals personalize everything.  When you increase the minimum wage, you create inflation.  And whenever government plays with the possibility of increased minimum wages to match increases in the CPI, we find ourselves suffering a worsening of the economy and a resultant destruction of labor statistics.”

“I want to make sure I understand this, Ernesto.  Although nearly 30% of the minimum wage working population is over age 35 – that would be single mothers with children and families making up for lost jobs during this recession – they should not be given an increase in the minimum wage nor the match of any increase to the Consumer Price Index under Rauner’s initial (and A.L.E.C. supported) position, and you’d expect me to vote for him over Quinn?”

He didn’t screw you with your pensions, did he?”

“Not yet, but he promises that too, Ernesto.”

“So, are you the stone or the painful rock, my friend?”

“Pour another for me, okay, Ernesto?”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Looming Retirement Crisis if Rauner or Tillman Have Their Way?

Pension Vocabulary: “Looming Retirement Crisis?”

On the heels of the latest WTTW Chicago Tonight debate – a contretemps which found Illinois Policy Institute spokesperson John Tillman promoting the need for public workers' being forced into 410 k programs to (1) save the Illinois pension system, (2) give Illinois public workers the opportunity to control their own retirement destinies, (3) align the public workers retirement programs with the successes of the private worker, etc. – comes a seriously disturbing combination of studies from very disparate sources that indicate the strong possibility of a looming retirement crisis for those heading toward the end of their careers.

The Federal Reserve Board has just recently published its triennial Survey of Consumer Finances.  The report is considered the gold standard for understanding the household finances of American families.   Simultaneously, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University delivered the carefully researched challenges America will face meeting the housing needs of an aging population over the next decade(s). 

The full report by Mark Miller, former Sunday editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and specialist on retirement issues, can be found at the link following this blog.  His piece is a sobering assessment of what the future holds for those of us unlucky enough to have been middle to lower middle class during the recession, especially if the end of a career is approaching soon. 

His article also clearly identifies the pitfalls in totally investing one’s future retirement in a system designed to charge for speculation of earned money without regard for significant fluctuations in an individual’s holdings, a system originally designed as a supplementary savings plan:  namely, a 401k.  

“The recession wreaked havoc on the retirement plans of millions of Americans, and two studies released last week suggest that most of us haven't recovered well.

“To be more precise: Middle- and lower-income Americans haven't recovered at all, while the wealthiest households have done fine.

“Harvard found that a third of adults over age 50 pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing - including 37 percent of people over age 80. Harvard defines that group as “housing cost burdened.” Another group of "severely burdened" older Americans spend more than 50 percent of income on housing. That group spends 43 percent less on food, and 59 percent less on healthcare, compared with households that can afford their housing.

“The Federal Reserve findings on middle-class retirement prospects are equally troubling. Despite the economy’s gradual mending, the SCF found a widening gap in income and net worth. The top 10 percent of households was the only income band registering rising income (up 2 percent since 2010). Households between the 40th and 90th percentiles of income saw little change in average real incomes from 2010 to 2013. And the rate of homeownership was 65 percent, down from 69 percent in 2004 and 67 percent in 2010.

“Ownership of retirement plan accounts also fell sharply. In the bottom half of income distribution, just 40 percent of households owned any type of account - IRA, 401(k) or traditional pension - in 2013, down from 48 percent in the 2007 survey. The Fed attributes the drop mainly to declining IRA and 401(k) coverage, since defined benefit coverage remained flat. Meanwhile, coverage in the top half of income distribution was much higher. In the top 10 percent, 95 percent of families are covered.

“Overall, the average value of retirement accounts jumped a substantial 10 percent from 2010 to 2013, to $201,300. The Fed attributed that to the strong stock market and larger contributions. But for the lowest-income group that owned accounts, the average combined IRA and 401(k) value was just $39,100 - and that is down more than 20 percent from 2007.”

Note: Always remember this.  Were the State or Rauner ever able to move public workers to a 401k retirement system, it would not be protected under the Pension Clause.  If the State found that matching contributions to a 401k plus the need for Social Security were too much, the General Assembly could do away with 401k plans altogether. 

Read the entire blog below.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rauner: Missing & InAction

Rauner: Missing & Inaction

Within a recent bevy of commercials, Diana Rauner likes to remind us that “Bruce has no social agenda,” unlike other politicians.  Truth be told, however, it appears most often that Bruce has really no agenda whatsoever…except to promise a freeze on property taxes, over which he’ll have no control even if elected.  And like most of Bruce’s announcements, there’s really little flesh on the bones of another passionate promise to unthinking voters.  Except in one case.

You’ll remember that one part of Bruce’s earlier agenda was to suggest that workers’ minimum wage was already too high and needed to be reduced.  That statement was issued in an indiscreet moment of honesty, and Bruce has since realized that it might not play well with the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on these least wages to get by.

Adopting the principle that misperception can be reality, especially in politics, Rauner has now changed his attitude.  Nowadays, the would-be governor agrees that an increase in the minimum wage should be considered, if there would be other “considerations” made for those business owners in the State. 

What considerations would those be? 

I have resurrected and earlier post from April of this spring to remind us all what Rauner would propose, urge, and wheedle a General Assembly to provide in exchange for an increase (he will not say how much, will he?)  in the current minimum wage of $8.25.

Yes, it’s lengthy, but you should know what is involved, shouldn’t you?

Causation: On Illinois Politicians and Pirates

There’s an old standard joke told at Republican cocktail parties.  The short version goes something like this:  After being saved by three elderly fisherman in a small dingy, a beautiful mermaid decides to reward their behavior by giving each of them a miracle.  The first old man’s broken and twisted hands are suddenly made supple and youthful.  The second angler’s darkened eyes behind inch-thick glasses become unexpectedly clear and bright.  The third old fisherman, whose back is bent and misshapen by years of toil, yells out, “No! Don’t!  I’m on disability.”

It doesn’t take too much deconstruction to arrive at the nasty barb that sits within the middle of this little tale.  Those on disability or claiming injury would rather remain that way instead of working, and at the expense of the employer or the insurance companies.

If you listen to the Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly, you’ll hear a number of terms thrown about with deadly serious looks and a somber shaking of the head.  Causation will be one popping up in the next election cycle, and when would-be governor Bruce Rauner ever decides to discuss his fiscal and budgetary plans for Illinois. 

The definition of causation has changed in the last few years primarily as a result of legal interventions on the state level.  In short, causation refers to the legal obligations in a workplace accident and the subsequent compensable responsibility to provide for a worker’s recovery or permanent disability.

In other words, $%@& happens, and if it happens on the job, the employer should assist the injured worker.  It’s not a new idea, and, in fact, for as long as $%@& has happened, there has been some kind of workers compensation, believe it or not. 

Records of workers compensation can be traced all the way back into the Old Testament, when warriors (generally a pretty common form of employment in those days) were reimbursed for loss of limb or appendage.  In some cases, rewards were based even upon the inches lost.

Quite probably the form of workers compensation most closely resembling our current form of insured workers reimbursement can be found in the high seas adventures of the pirates of the wind-tossed Caribbean.

Pirates, before entering into an expected bloody and dangerous fray, often pooled their swag before the battle; and the money would be used to pay out for loss of limbs or other parts of a daring swashbuckler – especially parts that would be necessary in future pillaging and plundering. 

In fact, the loss of a right (or dominant) arm was reimbursed at a higher level than the left (or less dominant) arm.  Eyes were also insured, especially that last one.  Blind pirates were given monetary amounts that acted as a small sinecure for the rest of their lives.  Captains also added large amounts of promised booty to these “insurance” pools, for they knew that a brigand was more likely to fight wildly and recklessly if he knew he was covered for losses to his person.  Pirates valued their work forces and sufficiently rewarded sacrifice. 

And you expected a similarity to politicians?

In the U.S., workers compensation laws are determined by each state, although there exist general guidelines on the federal level.  Fifty states each have a different set of legal requirements for workers compensation, and you can bet that “right to work” states have far different schedules for benefits than other states.  With severely limited revenues since 2008, many state legislatures have been looking frantically for ways to increase revenues; and in many cases, increasing by cutting costs on the backs of those who needed or required state assistance in the years leading up to the Great Recession. 

In an effort to alleviate costs of doing business for companies in a terrible economy, states like Illinois provided loopholes for taxes and other monetary perks; but this slippery slope required more than just tax breaks.  Enter insurance cost reductions stage right. 

When it came to determinations of causation in workers compensation claims, for example, states like Kansas, which had initially a threshold level that stated if the job activities contributed “one iota…” it was deemed compensable…have now changed to the terminology of “must be…the prevailing factor in injury.”   Most states hold to the threshold for compensation if “more probably than not” the injury was workplace related( http://www.aaos.org/news/aaosnow/aug11/youraaos5.asp) . 

Bruce Rauner, like several of the previous GOP gubernatorial candidates, has declared his intention to bring a better business environment to Illinois by (1) getting rid of the Quinn tax hike,  (2) enacting tort reform and limiting lawsuit parameters, and (3) by reforming the workers compensation laws to make Illinois more competitive with other states.

“Reform,” for those of us who may have had pensions is politic for “cut.”  Herein Rauner echoes what we can read in the Illinois GOP webpages.  According to the Illinois GOP, the state still lacks the clear standards of causation, and because of this Illinois employers pay more than other states for workers compensation.  Senator Dale Righter (R-Matoon) worries that we have lost our competitive edge over other states because we provide too much for injured workers.

Righter says, “Causation does not negatively impact workers who are hurt on the job, it simply protects employers from those who try to take advantage of the system.  This will save on workers’ compensation insurance rates and help to create much needed jobs in Illinois.” 

Will it?  A very recent study by Ralph Martire of the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability does not suggest the climate will improve by limiting the opportunities for those injured in the workplace to receive compensation (http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1100380756398-186/2014.04.07_Good+For+Business_CTBA_FINAL.pdf).   

Senator Righter would disagree with those last words, probably vehemently.  But of the six Illinois Senate Bills (1429, 2622,2623,2624,2625.2626) now sitting in assignment the descriptions of changes would make some serious alterations to the amounts, manners, and thresholds applied to workers compensation.  A quick read of the bills indicates a number of changes that have little to do with identifying those who might “take advantage of the employer.” 

Truly, after the review one might be more inclined to think of these bills as a creative but rather unscrupulous methodology to cutting of charges borne by not so much small business employers but also more so insurance companies too large to fail. 


Illinois GOP legislators and Rauner want the threshold for compensation revised to “major contributing cause,” signifying that the employee must prove that more than ½ the injury must have been created by incident(s) in the workplace.

If, like many workers in this economy, you happen to find yourself working part time in multiple jobs; and you are severely injured on one job, your respondent (responsible) employer need not pay you anymore for the money you will lose at the other job(s).  Example:  I lose a disc in my back working at the seed store carrying bags.  I can no longer work part time at the gardener store where I had another part time job, and I can no longer work at the UPS dock where I had a part time job unloading trucks.  I receive the compensation for part time at the seed shop…and am likely terminated at my other two jobs. 

If I work for a company that demands I travel from one place to another, the GOP now proposes that am covered for any accident occurring while I am in the performance of my job, but if I am injured on the way to a lunch or any other destination which could be construed as “out of specific job description” I am denied compensation.  They use the phrase “actively engaged in the duties of employment…” 

If my workplace injury is a serious “aggravation” of a previous condition (let’s say a heavy object falls upon my hand which is already a bit arthritic), I can only be compensated for the “aggravation” until determined that it is just my arthritis acting up. 

And, if you were to suddenly to become ill or diseased spontaneously, but there was no direct link to your duties of employment, it would be deemed idiopathic and no compensation could be awarded.  Better not be headed toward diabetes or working in an area where chemicals are pooling under your boots. 

Oh, and remember that value differential for right and left arms?  Well, there are value differentials between shoulders (think rotator cuff injury) and arms; and hips (think dysplasia) and legs; BUT the proposed laws would change terminologies to include shoulder as arm, and hip as leg.  That will reduce payouts by insurance companies and might decrease costs for insurance payments for small businesses sometime in the next millennia.

One of the reasons we went to workers/compensation in the United States in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was because it was one way to prevent negligence suits by workers against major companies, taking those companies to court and being awarded major settlements.  Think about it. 

Workers compensation is an agreement that I won’t sue you if you promise to take care of me while I work for you – even as I give you my physical strength and loyalty over my work life.   

That brings us back to rewarding sacrifice.  

Springfield doesn’t do that…never has.  Unless the Courts tell them to do so.

Monday, September 1, 2014

One Point of View Concerning Quinn vs. Rauner

Pension Vocabulary: One Point of View Concerning Governor’s Election

I received my vague, but promising phone call from IEA President Cinda Klickna while I was out of the home the other day.  Cinda promised that I would shortly receive the endorsements by the IEA in the next few days for this upcoming and very important gubernatorial campaign.  She didn’t want to tell me who that might be by phone.  Sure enough, two days later my mailbox contained a glossy, heavy stock double-sided flyer asking me to vote for  Pat Quinn, the only candidate who believes in collective bargaining. 

Somewhere along the line, the IEA has forgiven or forgotten that Quinn is also the man who signed SB1 into law (PA-98-0599), or that Quinn promises to return to a pension reform bill if the Illinois Supreme Court declares PA-98-0599 unconstitutional. 

Decisions, decisions.

My friend Glen Brown describes the choice between Rauner and Quinn as a choice between hanging and the sword.  Or maybe vice versa. 

As a retiree, I also have the assurance of my other organization: the Illinois Retired Teachers Association.  They don’t make concessions, nor do they worry about whether a necktie or a sharp blade is best.  They endorse 32 individuals – NONE of them gubernatorial candidates.  No support for Rauner or Quinn.

If I were an active teacher in the classroom right now, I’d feel pretty damn scared about where we are right now as educators.   I’d be clinging like a Titanic survivor coming alongside a lifeboat for some means to survive and and/or any shred of hope for a pension in the next ten or thirty years of my work.  I’d be desperate. 

Cinda didn’t necessarily push my buttons when she left her message.  I believe that the IRTA will fight for me no matter what happens.  I also believe now that the recent Kanerva decision undermines much if not all the recent PA-98-0599. 

Ironically, that same legal likelihood makes it possible for Cinda’s message to carry so much impact for the current teachers in the classroom, those who have become so cornered by the lack of union influence on candidates in this race and the panic-driven emphasis on looking for a lesser evil. 

Despite Quinn’s promises to return for another round of pension reform bills, Cinda would have me (and them) believe that he is still better than Rauner.  Despite Quinn’s discussion of perhaps approaching again with another bill that provides consideration (like SB 2404), Cinda proposes that “Quinn is the clear choice for public education and working families.” 

Suddenly, Quinn looks more impotent, given the Kanerva decision – NOT a lesser evil.  And is this what we’re asked to vote for?

On the other hand, to be honest, Rauner is honestly a danger to unions, workers, and the middle class.  His record, his statements, and his total lack of any real delineation of agenda all display his deliberately discrete approach to winning the election: by crafty advertisements, not any substantive information. 

Some of us pensioners will vote for Quinn in November, heeding Cinda’s request or making a late decision as we approach the booth.  I think many of us will not vote for either.

One active teacher and political activist, Todd Mertz, has decided he will vote for Quinn.   That is his decision, and it is based upon his own careful exegesis over this summer of factors to keep in mind.  Whatever your vote may be at this time, it is worth your while to review what a young active has to provide regarding his view of the upcoming election for governor in Illinois. 

Illinois Teachers:  Just what is at Stake in the Upcoming Gubernatorial Election?
There is more at stake for Illinois teachers for this fast-approaching gubernatorial election (November 4th) than perhaps any other election in Illinois history.  Every Illinois teacher should familiarize himself/herself on where both candidates stand on issues that will directly impact themselves—both in and out of the classroom. 
Both Rauner and Quinn agreed to be interviewed by IEA President Cinda Klickna on April 11, 2014 at the IEA Representative Assembly in Chicago.

Every teacher, administrator, and public employee in Illinois should watch this to understand just what is at stake in this election. 

Some hot education topics that may drastically change (or be eliminated), depending on who is elected as the next Illinois Governor, include tenure, pensions, charter schools, collective bargaining, salary vs. merit pay, and union membership. 

Below, each of these hot topics is outlined twice—first as how it presently exists in Illinois’ schools and below that--how it may change as a result of the gubernatorial election on November 4th.  

Current Status:
·      Illinois teachers earn tenure on their first day of their 5th year of teaching.
·      There is a common myth that teachers can’t be fired once they earn tenure.  This is not true whatsoever.  Bad teachers can be fired for performance.  However, tenure simply means that a teacher earned the right of due process before he or she can be fired.  Due process simply allows a teacher to a full review before being terminated.
·      Tenure is an important safeguard to protect educators in a profession where free thought and innovation must be encouraged.
·      Tenure protects veteran teachers, who generally earn a higher salary, from being terminated due to fiscal constraints. 
·      Tenure has recently been overturned for California teachers in a Supreme Court case, in what may be a national landmark case.  It is now in court in New York.  While Illinois teachers are on a four year probationary period before earning tenure, California teachers were only on a two year probationary period.  However, the issue may be a hot topic once again in Illinois.
·      In Illinois, SB7 passed in 2011 and already weakens the job security teachers had prior. However, tenure and seniority still DO exist. 
·      Teachers in Illinois currently contribute to a defined benefit pension plan.  This means that when a teacher retires, he/she will receive pension checks for the rest of his or her life, no matter how long he/she lives. 
·      This is a nice benefit, but many in the public don’t understand that teachers in Illinois have paid a whopping 9.4% from each paycheck over the entire course of their career for this benefit.  In fact, 9.4% is one of the highest contribution rates in the entire country, behind only Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio.  See breakdown of all states here (page 61).
·      Costs:  While the media often states how “expensive” teachers’ defined benefit pensions are, the fact is, Illinois teachers pensions are average AND cost less compared to neighboring states.  See chart below:
Source:  IEA
·      In December of 2013, SB1 was signed into law.  This bill reduces the defined benefit plan for active and retired teachers.  The IEA, SURS, and other state unions are challenging this law in court. 
·      However, even with the “impairment and diminishment” of pension benefits in SB1, the defined benefit plan still exists. 
·      Governor Quinn supports keeping the defined benefit plan in place for active and retired teachers.
·      For more information on the importance of a defined benefit pension, see the IEA Fact Sheet:  Defined Contribution vs. Defined Benefit Retirement Plans.
Charter Schools:
·      Charter schools are publicly funded, but privately run. 
·      Charter school teachers are generally paid less, receive less benefits, and don’t have the job protections that public school teachers have.

·      A Vanderbilt study found charter schools had a teacher turnover rate of 25% compared to just 14% in traditional public schools.

·      “More than half of the Illinois State Charter Commission’s budget has come from private contributions.  That includes $200,000 from the Walton Family Foundation, linked to the family of the founders of Wal-Mart, and $115,000 from the Joyce Foundation in Chicago. The groups are major financial backers of charter schools.” (Sun Times)

·      Charter school students often test below public school students (Catalyst Chicago)

·      “Charter schools serve a disproportionately lower number of special needs and homeless children than do neighborhood schools and they do not have the services in place to serve these populations with what they need.” (Chicago Now)

·      “The Illinois State Charter School Commission was created in 2011 by Speaker of the House Michael Madigan seemingly for the sole purpose of advancing Concept Schools in the state.” (Chicago Now)  The Illinois State Charter Commission can overrule a local school board and approve a charter school in the community.
Collective Bargaining:
·      Currently, Illinois public school teachers and support staff have the right to bargain a fair contract.

·      “Collective bargaining gives educators a voice in their workplace. It not only helps assure fair wages and benefits, but also can improve teaching and learning conditions. That means everyone connected to the school—students, teachers, education support professionals, administrators, and taxpayers—benefits.” (NEA)

·      “Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions, so by addressing school and classroom issues, everyone gains.” (NEA)

·      “Bargaining topics often include setting limits on class size, specifying time for teachers to share effective classroom practices, addressing school building health and safety issues, ensuring teacher input into their own professional learning, and more. (NEA)

·      Salaries.  “Effective bargaining can bring about compensation levels that match or exceed those of competing education employers or professions. Professional salaries are a significant incentive for recruiting educators to work in a particular district—or to choose education as a career. Research shows that an 11 percent increase in the weekly salary of teachers would increase the pro­portion of college graduates who are willing to work as teachers by 26 percent.” (NEA)

·      “A bargained contract ensures that employees are treated fairly because both parties have discussed and agreed upon rules and procedures for the workplace.” (NEA)

·      As of now, teachers have a right to strike if they do not agree with the school board’s offers.

·      Check out other reasons why collective bargaining is so important to every Illinois teacher.
Salary vs. Merit-Pay:
·      Most Illinois teachers are currently paid based on experience and education levels.
·      Merit pay means that teachers are paid based on their “performance” rather than their years of experience and education levels. 
·      “The single salary schedule is the fairest, best understood, and most widely used approach to teacher compensation -- in large part because it rewards the things that make a difference in teacher quality: knowledge and experience.” (NEA)
·      Many “education reformers” claim teachers are overpaid and would like to move teachers to a merit-pay system.  However, “close to 50 percent new teachers leave the profession during the first five years of teaching, and 37 percent of teachers who do not plan to continue teaching until retirement blame low pay for their decision to leave the profession.” (NEA)

·      “The fundamental problem is low teacher pay, period. Merit pay schemes are a weak answer to the national teacher compensation crisis.” (NEA)

·      As stated above, merit pay is usually determined based on students’ standardized test results.  However, is it fair when a teacher is dealt a class list of students who have little or no family support?  Or students whose parents struggle financially?  Or students who are hungry?  Or school districts whose classrooms are cold or too hot?  Imagine your salary being based on your students’ test performance in any of these unfortunately common cases?
·      The worst part of merit-pay in many cases:  Teacher collaboration goes down the drain.  “Merit pay systems force teachers to compete, rather than cooperate. They create a disincentive for teachers to share information and teaching techniques. This is especially true because there is always a limited pool of money for merit pay. Thus, the number-one way teachers learn their craft --learning from their colleagues -- is effectively shut down. If you think we have turnover problems in teaching now, wait until new teachers have no one to turn to.” (NEA)

·      “A salary schedule is a reliable predictor of future pay increases. Pay for performance plans are costly to taxpayers and difficult to administer. In contrast, single salary schedules have known costs and are easy to administer. School boards can more easily budget costs and need less time and money to evaluate employees and respond to grievances and arbitrations resulting from the evaluation system. Worse yet, there is often a lack of dedicated, ongoing funding for merit pay systems.” (NEA)

·      “Merit pay begs the question of fairness and objectivity in teacher assessments and the kind of teacher performance that gets "captured" -- is it a full picture, or just a snapshot in time? Is teacher performance based on multiple measures of student achievement or simply standardized test scores? Are there teachers who are ineligible to participate in a merit plan because their field of expertise (art, music, etc.) is not subject to standardized tests?” (NEA)
Union Membership:
·      Teacher unions continue to play important roles in protecting the rights of teachers, especially in the current climate of school reform. (Diane Ravitch)

·      Teacher unions assure that teachers' rights are protected, sound the alarm against unwise policies, and to advocate on behalf of sound education policies. (Diane Ravitch)

·      Teacher unions fight to protect teachers’ first amendment rights, allowing them to advocate for children and schools without facing retaliation. (alternet.org)

·      Teacher unions provide due process, legal protection, and advice.

·      Strength in numbers. Teacher unions build power to the bargaining position of the union for contract and labor negotiations.
Potential Status (Depending On Election):
·      According to the Wheaton Patch, Bruce Rauner said, “Teacher tenure doesn't make sense.” 
He states “Why do teachers get a job for life? One-third of the teachers in the system shouldn't be, and we can't do anything about it. We have to attract great teachers by rewarding them well" through merit pay.

·      During the IEA RA Gubernatorial debate, Rauner talks about his plans (17:15) to dump teachers into a 401(k) plan, which do not guarantee even a single penny in retirement.
·      Furthermore, according to Kurt Erickson in CapitolFax, "Rauner wants to freeze state worker pensions at their current levels and switch everyone to a 401(k)-style retirement savings program."

"This is ironic because Rauner became rich, in part, by investing and managing public pension funds, including the Illinois Teachers Retirement System."

"While school teachers, prison guards, university employees and child welfare workers are staring at a revamped pension plan that will bite into their future earning power, Rauner is enjoying the fruits of his investments."

"He reported earning over $100 million in the past three years alone. Reports indicate he has eight homes, including ranches out West, penthouses in New York and Chicago, and a beach house in Florida."

"Rauner’s handlers didn’t make him available to discuss the disconnect between Rauner’s riches and his position on ending pension plans for public servants.  And yet he didn't support SB1 because it didn't "go far enough.'"
Charter Schools:
·      Here is an interesting Sun Times article about Rauner and his education views and ties to charters.  It also discusses his shady maneuvering to get his own daughter into an elite public school, not a charter. 
·      Lots of profits to be made with Charters.  No wonder certain people are behind them.  Rupert Murdoch, media proprietor and billionaire, recently described the education 'emerging market' by saying, "when it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone."

·      According to an interview with Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, there are plans to completely privatize education within 20 years, and completely privatize many cities within 10 years.

·      In this must-see interview called Public Schools For Sale?, Diane explains everything and everyone behind the attacks on teachers and public education, including pensions and job security.

Diane Ravitch says,

"Charter schools are not public schools.  They're corporations." 

"The charter schools are not outperforming the public schools." 

"I see billionaires picking on teachers.  I see billionaires who have never gone to public schools proclaiming how schools should be run and how teachers should teach."

"I have kind of a visceral negative reaction to the idea that someone who is a billionaire doesn't want to see a public employee retire with a decent living pension that they've put into all their life."

·      Ravitch discusses ALEC and the foundation of the privatization movement.  Very sobering.  It is a 26 minute interview that anyone who cares about public education should watch.  Or here is a full transcript.
Collective Bargaining:
·      Rauner mentions his role models and mentors during the IEA-RA debate (32:45)--Governors in other states--Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. Mitch Daniels, Gov. Rick Snyder, Gov. Chris Christie, and Gov. Jeb Bush.   And most of them have attacked teachers' rights, benefits, salaries, and pensions, and perhaps most importantly—collective bargaining rights.  Furthermore, since the debate, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is under federal investigation for a nationwide “criminal scheme” to violate election laws. 
·      Sites like TeachersUnionExposed.com are meant to weaken our voice and our rights.  There are a couple commercials on this site if you scroll down to "TV Ads" on the home page.  
·      See next page.

Salary and Merit-Pay:
As quoted by the Wheaton Patch, Rauner said, “We have to attract great teachers by rewarding them well." This, of course, would be done through merit-pay.
·      Early in the IEA RA Quinn vs. Rauner debate (7:45), Rauner says that teachers make up the single most important profession in our society--more than doctors, more than lawyers. 
Yet, Rauner wrote an Op Ed. piece in the Chicago Tribune titled "Government Unions and the Downfall of Illinois" saying that Illinois teachers are 23% overpaid compared to their counterparts in neighboring states. He rants about the unions and how public sector employees and unions are responsible for Illinois' financial mess. 
·      According to a Sun Times article, (http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/24679675-418/bruce-rauner-ad-promotes-charters-but-cps-clout-call-dogs-him.html#.U6jg0WBOU5t) “Bruce Rauner’s [commercial] takes a direct shot at ‘union bosses’ and works to appeal to families, saying he backs merit pay and reform that wrests control from unions.”
·      Although most school districts in Illinois pay teachers based on experience and education levels, more than 500 school districts nation-wide have implemented merit-pay systems already (Maine, Florida, Montana, Texas, etc.).  They sell the fact that teachers can earn more.  And a few teachers will earn more than they normally would on the traditional salary schedule. 
But just like those road-side signs near busy intersections that say, "Earn 90k per week at home," it is a hoax.  Often, overall average teacher salaries are decreased--substantially in some states and districts.  It is a deceitful way to pay teachers less overall. 

Union Membership:

·      Rauner has repeatedly promised in his campaign to go after the union bosses, including IEA President Cinda Klickna.  What he really means is that he will go after teachers and other public union employees.

·      Rauner chose Wheaton City Councilwoman Evelyn Sanguinetti as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor.  Check out this 3 min. promotional video for the Rauner campaign.  At 2:15, she pretty much says that teachers in unions are failures. 

·      See two important charts on following page:

·      As union membership shrinks, a higher share of income going to the wealthiest 10% (see chart below).

·      As union membership shrinks, so does the middle-class (see chart below).