|BRADY: Fixing funds? Or making enemies?|
THAT’S THE IMPRESSION I got after reading the reports about William Brady’s thoughts about who ought to pay for pensions for retired school teachers.
Brady told the Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald newspaper he thinks that school districts ought to be responsible for any part of pensions caused by future pay hikes districts provide to their teachers.
Since salaries are going to increase in the future, it would mean a gradual shift in the funding of pension programs from state government to the local school districts – a concept that WILL tick off school superintendents all acros the state.
There already are enough officials who are prepared to symbolically strangle Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, for having suggested that perhaps one key to resolving the state’s financial problems is to have school districts take over full responsibilities for the pensions of their retirees.
I’M SURE THAT Brady, the state senator from downstate Bloomington whose bid for governor in 2010 failed because he lacked support in urban areas, thinks he has come up with the perfect compromise – since the state would continue to provide for the part of the pensions they’re already covering.
All I know is that I have dealt with enough schools officials across the state to know this is an untouchable issue to them. They say that threatening to alter Social Security funding is a “third rail” among the electorate that kills any candidate suicidal-enough to touch it?
One could probably say that this issue has the same effect amongst educators.
But in the Chicago suburbs, this will play particularly poorly. Because state funding for public education already is on the decline. The reaction of the school officials will be to turn to the shares of local property tax revenues they receive to come up with the money.
THAT MEANS THE local school districts would need more money. Which they will turn to their local residents to raise. Which means an increase in property taxes overall – it only takes one government entity in a community (whether City Council, school board, park district, sewage district, etc.) to cause a homeowner to pay more when their property tax bill is due.
And for those who rent, the landlord will think nothing of passing along the property tax increases they pay onto their tenants.
In suburban districts where local tax levels already are high, the residents will grouse and gripe about paying more. In those districts where the local economy is declining (particularly many districts in southern Cook County), there just won’t be any additional money to cover such expenses!
There already are significant discrepancies between school districts that make it impossible for all children in this state to get an equal quality level of education. Does this threaten to make it more difficult for certain school districts to obtain, and keep, quality educators?
THE WHOLE POINT to having the state cover the cost of pensions was meant to equalize that factor. Every teacher ought to have a shot at a pension they can live off of in those years after they stop working. Having the state handle this issue for everyone was meant to balance things out.
Which is why it is the quirk of the process that the Chicago Public Schools teachers do not partake in state pension programs. They opted out years ago, figuring out a way to do better by their former faculty on their own.
Which means Madigan may be on to something with his past hints that maybe the Chicago schools pensions should be shifted to the state. Of course, that’s not going to happen. The increased costs to state government would harm it even more.
Plus, the thought of having to pay more because of Chicago schools would offend rural Illinois politicos, almost as much as Brady will offend the suburban officials who think they will get hit with more costs because of his pension-shift theory.