A new study by the Illinois Policy Institute, a free market think
tank, said teachers in 416 of Illinois' 867 school districts, not
including Chicago, didn't contribute anything to the Illinois
Teachers' Retirement System for the 20009-2010 school year.
report added that 138 school districts paid a portion of teachers'
contributions to TRS for the 2009-2010 school year. Teachers in the
remaining 312 school districts contributed to TRS directly from
TRS required the following
contributions to the pension fund, based on teacher salaries:
Teachers giving 9.4
State giving a
matching contribution of 9.4 percent.
School districts giving 0.58 percent.
Teachers can have their school districts cover their TRS
contributions through contract negotiations with local school
boards. In total, 554 school districts pitched in $400 million for
teachers' pensions during the 2009-2010 school year, according to
the institute's report.
The policy institute said it is highlighting this practice now
because of the severe underfunding of the pension system. TRS has an
unfunded liability -- how much money a pension system falls short to
pay current and future pensions -- of $39.8 billion, or about 51
percent of what it needs to pay current and future pensions.
"The districts have used this as a sweetener over time, and it's
clear that the pension pickups have become a benefit for teachers,"
said Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy for the institute. "To
ask a teacher ... to put money toward their own retirement fund is
not too much."
Whether the money is coming from the district or a teacher's
paycheck, it's still coming out of the teacher's pocket, said
Charles McBarron, spokesman for the Illinois Education Association,
a teachers' union.
"Regardless of who actually sends the money to the pension
system, it is essentially from the teacher, because it is part of a
negotiated agreement on compensation," McBarron said. "It's part of
a teacher's compensation, and it's something they negotiate on the
local level. There is nothing new about it and nothing unusual about
[to top of second column]
How much more it is costing some local taxpayers swings wildly.
In the tiny southern Illinois town of Hoyleton, taxpayers were only
on the hook for an extra $4,340 for all of the teachers in the
Hoyleton Elementary School District. In northwest Chicago suburb of
Elgin, more than $18 million went toward local teachers' pension
In Moline, the cost to taxpayers is about $4 million, according
to the report. Robert Tallitsch, a member of the school board for
the Moline School District, echoed McBarren, saying that benefits
like pension payments are used to attract better teachers without
"If they're having a tough time raising salaries, districts will
increase benefits. A lot of time, benefit payments are deferred;
they don't impact the bottom line right away," Tallitsch said. "As a
result you're hoping for a better cash flow later on as compared to
right now to make the salary package a better deal."
Statehouse News; By ANDREW THOMASON]