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.
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.
· 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:
· 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 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.
· 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)
· 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 , "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.'"
· Here is an interesting Sun Times 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.
· 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 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.
· 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. 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).