Pension reform, teacher evaluations and unions were among the topics candidates in state Senate and House races that cover Elgin Area School District U-46 argued during an election forum Thursday at Elgin High School.
The forum, sponsored by the U-46 Citizens' Advisory Council, League of Women Voters of the Elgin Area, Elgin Teachers Association and the Daily Herald included candidates from the 22nd and 23rd Senate districts, as well as the 44th House District. Daily Herald politics and projects writer Kerry Lester moderated the debate.
In the 22nd District race, incumbent Democrat Michael Noland of Elgin and challenger Cary Collins, a Republican from Hoffman Estates, had opposing views on a proposal to shift the pension burden to local school districts.
"There is no economist ... who will ever tell you that those who enjoy a benefit of a good or service should not also bear the cost of that good or service," Noland said. "It will create efficiencies throughout the state of Illinois. We need fundamental, structural tax reform here in the state of Illinois to properly fund education, period."
Collins, however, vehemently rejected the idea, saying school districts cannot afford the burden and costs can be cut elsewhere.
"There are some school districts that really have paid their teachers an astronomical amount of money," Collins said. "There is a trigger in there with bonuses and increases. I can solve the budget crisis with the teachers' pensions right today. Cut the teachers' salaries in half. It is all salary-driven, but it doesn't have to be transferred from the taxpayers in the city of Chicago across the state of Illinois on your backs."
Fred Crespo, a Democrat from Hoffman Estates and incumbent in the 44th District race, and Republican challenger Ramiro Juarez of Streamwood had differing opinions on whether legislators should take action on pension reform during the January lame duck session in Springfield.
Crespo said pension reform needs to happen, but not during the lame duck session. However, Juarez said the issue has dragged on for too long.
"Whenever there is important legislation that needs to be addressed, it needs to be addressed immediately and not put off until the lame duck session," Juarez said. "But the pension problem isn't something that just happened a couple of days ago, it has been going on for quite some time.
"I know pension reform won't effect for another four of five years," Juarez added, "but we really don't have time to sit around and wait until January."
Villa Park Village President Tom Cullerton, a Democrat running for the 23rd Senate District, also participated in the forum. His opponent, incumbent Carole Pankau, an Itasca Republican, declined the invitation.
Forum: Crespo, Juarez disagree on when to address pension reform