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Article posted: 4/19/2013 5:00 AM

Murphy must focus on pension spiking

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In an April 3 Fence Post letter, state Sen. Matt Murphy states that " ... Michael Madigan ... would have us believe that suburban and downstate school districts are receiving a 'free lunch' from the state because the state picks up some teachers' pension costs." I am certainly no fan of Madigan, but Sen. Murphy's characterization of the state as merely paying "some" teacher pension costs is certainly an understatement.

Since 1979 Illinois taxpayers have contributed 1.4 times as much to TRS as the educators have contributed; since 1999 (when pension spiking took effect) it is 1.6 times. And in 2012 the taxpayers contributed a staggering 2.8 times as much as the educators contributed to their own retirement.

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Sen. Murphy should focus on the reason suburban districts get less money from the state for education than Chicago does. There are two components that the state contributes for suburban school districts -- district operating costs and educators' pensions. Thirty years ago the state paid for 70-80 percent of a suburban district's operating cost; today it is 5-10 percent. As pension costs have skyrocketed, the amount remaining for actual education has dropped dramatically. And suburban districts have been the major contributor to these skyrocketing pension costs.

Perhaps Sen. Murphy could encourage the school boards within his district to eliminate the pension spikes that have taken money away from education itself. For example, despite the public outcry against pension spiking, the recently approved District 15 teachers' contract still contains the 6 percent salary spikes. A few weeks ago the Daily Herald ran an article about District 211, whose widespread use of pension spiking has resulted in 42 percent of their retirees now receiving $100,000-plus pensions. Our legislators need to get their own school districts to be financially responsible.

Ken Hofrichter

Elk Grove Village

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