The following Letter to the Editor was penned by Joan Knopp, and may be found in the August 18 edition of the Naperville Sun.
A recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune, the parent company of the Naperville Sun, yet again decried teacher pensions, citing David Piccioli, an American Federation lobbyist, for receiving a pension for life after working as a substitute teacher for one day. The article neglected to state that he was able to count his time as a lobbyist as well.
All of this is true. What is not is the implication that this is commonplace in the teacher pension system. It most certainly is not. The vast majority of teachers earn their pensions, follow the rules, and make contributions.
Here are some facts that the editorial board may want to include in its future articles. The vesting period for new teachers is 10 years to qualify for a minimum pension. Unlike those with a 401(k) plan, when a teacher leaves the system only individual contributions can be extracted. Teachers forfeit contributions made by their school or made by the state on their behalf. Those with a 401(k) can take all contributions and roll them into an IRA.
Teacher pensions are back-loaded. Teachers work many years before their future benefits exceed the value of their contributions plus interest. Only 20% of teachers will break even from the state retirement system. Only 50% of teachers will qualify for a pension.
Many teachers work multiple jobs and should be able to cluster together their savings should they ever change jobs. Teachers should be able to take their savings with them no matter the reason for their leaving, be it personal, relocation to another state, or career change. Some states allow this. Illinois does not. Why?
The vast majority of contributions made by today’s teachers are for unfunded pension liabilities. This is not the result of teachers not contributing their fair share. About 78% of Illinois pension contributions are going to pension debt created by horrific mismanagement by state leaders of both political parties.
Perhaps it would prove beneficial for state leaders and the editorial staff of the Chicago Tribune to read state Supreme Court Justice Karmeir’s opinion on the subject of teacher pensions delivered as a judgment of the court.