Illinois State Pension Update

With pension-faq-1the implementation of the FY18 Illinois State budget comes changes to state pensions. Of the three bills that make up the FY18 budget, SB 42 creates an optional third tier for new hires under many of the state’s pension systems. Included in the change are State Universities Retirement System (SURS), Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) and State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS). The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) is not included.

The goal of the newly created Tier III is to address some of the issues with Tier II. Although an effective date is yet to be determined, Tier III will give Tier II members and all new hires an option:

  1. Elect to be part of Tier II, or
  2. Elect to be in a new hybrid benefit known as Tier III

This new Tier III hybrid benefit will combine features of a defined benefit and a defined contribution plan. Learn more about this newly created pension benefit with the IEA’s Tier III FAQ.

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Region 12 – Standing Up for Educators

Elaine 1On June 25, 2017, Region 12’s very own Elaine Ferguson testified before the Illinois House of Representatives regarding educator pensions. Elaine is a retired educator from the Nauvoo-Colusa school district and the current president of the West Central IEA Retired Chapter. The full text of Elaine’s speech is below.

Thank you to Elaine and to the many other advocates all across the Region and state who are standing up and speaking passionately about education and teachers.

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L to R: IEA President Cinda Klickna, Representative Norine Hammond – IL 93, Elaine Ferguson, Representative Randy Frese – IL 94

Members of the House, thank you for inviting me to speak today about educator pensions, a topic about which I am passionate. I speak today not only for myself, but for the hundreds of thousands of my colleagues – career educators who have educated and will continue to educate the next generation of citizens in our state. My story can be replicated from one end of Illinois to the other.

Before I speak about pensions though, please let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Elaine Ferguson. I graduated from Western Illinois University in the spring of 1972 with a degree in elementary education. That fall I was offered a job teaching first grade in west-central Illinois along the banks of the Mississippi River in the small rural town of Nauvoo. I accepted the job, fell in love with my students and the little town of Nauvoo, and spent my whole career at the Nauvoo-Colusa Elementary school teaching most grade levels K-6. But the majority of my career was in first grade and kindergarten. I obtained my Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education in 1982, and continued teaching in Nauvoo until I retired.

As I said, the majority of my years were in kindergarten and first grade. It was hard work, and the salary was such that I had to budget carefully. My first salary in 1972 was $7,000, and I retired 33 years later with a Masters Degree and a salary of less than $40,000. My pocketbook was empty many of those years, but my heart was full.

Although my salary was small, the needs of my students were great. Money was tight in the district, and I, like many of my colleagues, easily spent up to $1,000/year on supplies for our own classrooms. We didn’t complain; we just did it knowing that our students deserved our best efforts. We didn’t have a lot of extra spending money, but we had hope. Hope – because of a promise. A promise from the Illinois State Constitution that we would have a pension. A promise in which we believed.

As I said, my exit salary at the end of my career with a Masters Degree was just under $40,000. My TRS pension that first year after my insurance deduction was just a little over $27,000. Today my take home pension is just about $37,000. I do not receive Social Security, and if my husband dies before I do, I will not receive a spousal benefit from Social Security. My TRS is my only income. Discussions of offering teachers in our state a defined contribution/401K style plan are worrisome because educators do not receive Social Security.

While teaching I diligently paid every penny I owed to fund my TRS pension. Every single paycheck had that TRS deduction. Up to 9.4% of my salary was deducted every single time. No one else paid what I owed to TRS; I paid it myself. I could have used that 9.4 %, but I managed to pay my bills without it. After all, I had hope and a promise. My pension, promised to me in the Illinois State Constitution which would allow me to live with dignity in retirement.

Today though, I am worried. I am worried that the talk of pension cuts is demoralizing to our dedicated educators who give their all every day. I retired with the hope and the promise – the promise that my pension would be there. I worry about my colleagues who are still in the classroom. Do they have the hope? Do they believe in the promise? The teachers of today are under constant pressure to do more and more in the classroom. The overwhelming amount of paperwork, the constant testing, the unfunded mandates, the social issues. Teaching is becoming harder and harder every day. Additionally, scapegoating teacher pensions for the state’s fiscal woes is wrong and must stop.

The Illinois Constitution is crystal clear that pensions for current participants shall not be diminished nor impaired. As recently as May of 2015, The Illinois Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the pension cutting bill SB 1 was unconstitutional. My fellow retirees and I were thankful for that result.

I would encourage the legislature and the governor to focus on passing a budget which funds education so students and educators have one less thing about which to worry. Legislation to cut constitutionally protected pensions should not be intertwined with the passing of a budget.

The debt owed to the TRS and the other retirement systems needs to be paid. Cutting pensions of current participants is a fruitless endeavor, and we do not need the Illinois Supreme Court to tell us that once again. Pension funding needs to be automatic. The past needs to be set aside, and we need to look toward the future. The State of Illinois must fund its obligations.

Hundreds of thousands of educators have diligently met the financial obligations required of them to fund their own TRS pension. The state should do the same thing and not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of those who have met every commitment required of them. The Illinois State Constitution is clear. A pension is a promise. Please don’t break that promise.

Thank you.

Join the Illinois Educators Action Network

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Are you tired of sitting on the sidelines? Are you looking for ways to make your voice heard? IEA activists are coming together to connect with other activists around issues such as collective bargaining, a voice in our professions, strong public schools, college affordability, and social justice issues that affect the educational well being of our students.

Sign up and join the Illinois Educators Action Network today!

Statement from IEA Pres. Cinda Klickna on Gov. Rauner’s State of the State Address

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IEA President Cinda Klickna

Springfield, Ill., Jan. 25, 2017 – The governor has held the budget hostage for two years and he continues to push for changes in law that won’t solve the budget crisis but will inflict severe pain on working families throughout Illinois. While today’s address contained conciliatory words, we are still waiting to see action and leadership from Gov. Rauner.

Consider the education items he supports, being discussed at the Statehouse right now. A property tax freeze wouldn’t do a thing for the state budget, but it ties the hands of local school boards that are fighting to provide a quality education to children despite inadequate state support. The mandate changes being proposed will have zero impact on the budget but will hurt students by taking away physical education and reducing access to affordable driver’s education.

The good news is solutions are available to end the crisis that are fair to all. Illinois can get back on track by making sure millionaires, billionaires and big corporations start paying their fair share. That’s how we will fully fund all public education and make sure our state meets its obligations to all the people of Illinois.

The members of the Illinois Education Association remain ready to work with Gov. Rauner and the legislative leaders to come up with solutions that will benefit students and working families throughout Illinois.

Protect Transportation Funding by Voting “Yes” on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment

vote-yes1During the November 8 general election, voters in Illinois will be presented with an amendment to the Illinois constitution. The amendment, shown below, is a limitation on the power of the General Assembly or a local government unit to use, divert, or transfer transportation funds for a purpose other than transportation.

IEA SUPPORTS the proposed amendment.The association believes that funds dedicated or appropriated to specific agencies and sectors should not be diverted. Education and other essential services should receive their full funding. Please vote YES on the proposed constitutional amendment.

Proposed Amendment to the 1970 Illinois Constitution

Explanation of Amendment

The proposed amendment adds a new section to the Revenue Article of the Illinois Constitution. The proposed amendment provides that no moneys derived from taxes, fees, excises, or license taxes, relating to registration, titles, operation, or use of vehicles or public highways, roads, streets, bridges, mass transit, intercity passenger rail, ports, or airports, or motor fuels, including bond proceeds, shall be expended for other than costs of administering laws related to vehicles and transportation, costs for construction, reconstruction, maintenance, repair, and betterment of public highways, roads, streets, bridges, mass transit, intercity passenger rail, ports, airports, or other forms of transportation, and other statutory highway purposes, including the State or local share to match federal aid highway funds. You are asked to decide whether the proposed amendment should become part of the Illinois Constitution.

YES

NO

 

The Future Depends on MAP

mapMore than 130,00 Illinois students rely on the Monetary Award Program (MAP) to help them with the cost of higher education. Without MAP grants many of these students simply cannot afford to attend college in Illinois and may be forced to drop out or seek a better deal in another state. Either way these students lose and so does Illinois.

This past June, after more than a year without a state budget, the Illinois legislature finally passed a stop-gap funding bill. However, that funding only repaid colleges and universities for the MAP grant funds the schools had already fronted their students for last year. There was no money appropriated to cover MAP for the current school year. Without that funding, many institutions of higher education have decided not to front the money to cover MAP grants this fall, leaving students in limbo.

That’s why the Fund Our Future (FOF) Coalition is sponsoring a postcard campaign to demand that legislators and the governor appropriate full funding of MAP grants for FY17. Without MAP, our students, our colleges and universities and, ultimately, our communities and state will face hard times. Our future depends on MAP.

If you’d like to participate in the FOF postcard campaign to demand full funding for MAP, Region 12 can provide you with the resources you need, including postcards, literature and ideas. Please don’t hesitate to call the office at (217) 322-2101 to request your materials.

The stop-gap funding is not enough. Fully funding higher education and student MAP grants is the only way to ensure the future of these students, the communities they live in and the state that is supposed to be helping them.

Make Your Voice Heard

It’s election season again and your vote can make a difference for education. From support for public education and school funding to education policy and pensions, there is a lot on the line this November 8th and IEA-NEA wants to make sure that you have all the information you need to cast your vote for candidates who support public education.

For starters, everyone needs to register to vote. If you need to register to vote, you can do so here. To check your registration status or to locate your polling place, visit the Registration Lookup website. The IEA has also developed the IEA Voter Guide to help members discover who the IEA recommended candidate is in their state legislative district.

At the federal level, the IEA has recommended Tammy Duckworth for Senate and Hillary Clinton for President. To learn more about IEA recommended candidates and the recommendation process, visit the IEA website.

Early voting is currently underway. You can find your early voting location and hours here.

Let’s get out and vote for public education!