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posted: 7/12/2013 5:00 AM

Pension fix shouldn't hurt retired teachers

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There seems to be incorrect information that the public and legislators have about teacher pensions. The Teachers' Retirement System and Illinois Retired Teacher's Association have the information I'm sharing on their websites.

In 2012, the benefits to retired teachers totaled $1.7 billion, and teachers funded $939.6 million of that. The remainder was funded by the state, school districts and TRS investment income. If legislators change the teacher pensions to a 401(k) style, or add Social Security, then less of pension costs will be paid by teachers so the state will have to pay more.

The 9.4 percent paycheck contribution is among the highest rates in the nation. Since the funding of TRS in 1939, the teacher contribution has gone from 4 percent to 9.4 percent, a 135 percent increase. Under state law 7.5 percent of the 9.4 percent pension contributions fund retirement benefits, benefits for survivors, cost-of-living adjustments and an early retirement program.

In the late 1990s, Illinois mandated that teachers boost pension contributions by 2.2 percent. Teachers were also given the choice to upgrade their pension contributions for the years they had already taught. For me it cost around $17,000 to do that.

The IRTA website states that Illinois pays less than 25 percent of the pension benefits and health insurance benefits for retired teachers. Retired teachers, younger than 65, pay $430 a month for single health insurance coverage. Teachers cannot receive Social security benefits from spouses and only a fraction of the Social Security they earned in jobs outside teaching.

On a government website a study stated that Illinois contributes less of its budget to teacher pensions than any other state in the Midwest. Indiana and Wisconsin pay twice the percentage. Our legislators are at fault for Illinois' debt and need to fix it without hurting retired teachers.

Sandra Lovell

Hoffman Estates

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