400 attend Schaumburg meeting on teacher pensions

Current and retired teachers are very angry about threats to their retirement benefits, but the way most of them expressed themselves Wednesday at a meeting with officials of the Teachers Retirement System would be appropriate in classrooms.

Dick Ingram, executive director of the TRS, discussed Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal for reforming state pension plans with approximately 400 people, mostly retired teachers, gathered in Schaumburg High School.

"The governor's proposal is just an outline," said Ingram. "We have seen no legislative statute language from this. Details are missing. I'm sure you have questions we can't answer."

He spent most of the meeting blaming a coming insolvency in the system on the fact that the state government, which should pay 8.4 percent of teachers' salaries into the plan each year has not paid its full share any time since 1953, although it has improved in the last three years.

Teachers have always paid their 9.4 percent, and school districts have paid the one-half percent required of them.

The numbers in Ingram's report were often in the billions of dollars,

The governor's proposal, which would affect only teachers who have not retired yet, includes increasing the percent of salary that active teachers pay, raising the retirement age gradually to 67, and reducing the cost-of-living adjustments. In addition, the governor proposes shifting the state's requirement for pension payments to local school districts.

Karl-Heinz Gabbey of Bloomingdale said he was "very, very angry."

"One of the things that really disturbs me is that (Speaker of the House Michael) Madigan knew more than 20 years ago that the funds that were supposed to go into the pensions went into the general fund"," Gabbey said. "I'm a retiree, but I'm concerned about the system as a whole. I want the same benefits that we have for the younger people that are out there."

Don Enns of Deerfield, another retired teacher, asked if anyone had suggested increasing tax revenue rather than cutting benefits, and Ingram said that talk has come only from the labor representatives.

"The citizens should pay for their services and not us," said Enns, who added the state should have a graduated or progressive income tax but acknowledged that change would require a constitutional convention.

TRS administers the pensions and does not advocate, said Ingram. However, his board's stands include calling for a law requiring the state to make future contributions in full. He also became emotional when complaining about a recent law that requires newly hired teachers to pay the same percent of their salaries while receiving lower benefits.

Teachers in Illinois do not collect Social Security, and the average educator's pension in Cook County is $44,450.

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