Wednesday, April 21, 2010
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Illinois pension reforms confuse some teachers

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[April 21, 2010]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state's pension reforms into law last week, creating a second tier of slimmer benefits for state workers, including teachers, university faculty and staff, judges, and lawmakers hired on or after Jan.1, 2011.

SHardwareounds simple, right? Not so fast.

State workers hired before Jan. 1 will fall under the current pension system, creating confusion among current K-12 teachers who have received pink slips for next school year but may be rehired after Jan. 1. Where do they stand?

Teachers' Retirement System spokesman Dave Urbanek said those teachers, no matter when they are rehired, will remain in the current pension system and not be affected by the new pension reforms.

"If they are in the system currently, if they have been teaching and are riffed (reduction-in-force), they are in tier one forever," Urbanek said. "If they get rehired after Jan. 1, 2011, they're in tier one. They are in the current system."


Urbanek said once individuals pay into a pension system, they are in it and will remain in the system they first paid into, no matter what. He said that even if a person leaves the state and comes back, or doesn't return to teaching for a number of years, they are still in the pension system they started in when they first got hired.

"If you leave the state, or even if you leave teaching altogether and then come back at some point in the future, and you have credits with us prior to Jan. 1, 2011, you're still in tier one," Urbanek said.

While Urbanek described the process as "simple," some believe the changes will just cause more confusion for teachers.

Ken Schneck, president of the Moline Education Association, finds the plan confusing.

He said he believes many of the local union's 518 members are going to be straddling the two pension systems.

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Schneck noted that the state has not been paying enough into the current system, and he sees concerns for the future.

"Teachers have been consistently paying their pension share, as well as individual school boards, and the state is the one who has reneged on their constitutional duty to fund the pension fund," he said. "I don't see it getting any better. The state of Illinois is just out of touch with reality."

Moline School District 40 Superintendent Cal Lee said there will be confusion for many districts when trying to explain the new system and rules to new hires. He said he has not looked that much into the new system yet, but it could affect up to 90 percent of the 105 teachers who were "riffed" in his district.

"Certainly, there will be districts that will do a really good job of explaining it," Lee said. "And others... maybe there might be some miscommunication."

[Illinois Statehouse News; By ASHLEY BADGLEY]

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