Quinn's Pension Proposal and What it Means to our Community

Governor Quinn's Pension Proposal would cost Homewood and all Illinois communities dearly.

I have been a teacher in the Homewood community for more than twenty years.  I am also a proud member of the Illinois Education Association.  Today, however, I wear the hat of a citizen, a resident of Homewood.  I want our community and ALL Illinois communities to understand the ramifications of Governor Quinn's Pension Proposal.  It will not only affect me as a teacher.  It will greatly affect the students in Homewood and all students in Illinois, now and well into the future.

First of all, understand that the villain in this crisis is Illinois government.  Over the past several decades, the General Assembly has used our pension fund like a credit card.   Many years, they have not contributed their share toward the pension fund, as stipulated in the Illinois Constitution.  Instead, monies were diverted for other needs in Illinois.  Meanwhile, teachers and school districts have paid their fair share each year.  Now, like a credit card, the interest is too high and Illinois is facing a much higher pension price than would have been necessary if the bill had been paid on time year after year.  

Now, in 2012, after many years of misuse of the pension fund on the part of state government, Governor Quinn feels that he "was put on this earth to solve the pension crisis".  And, how does he plan on doing that?  He will place the burden on teachers and the districts in which they teach.  By law, teachers contribute 9.4% of each paycheck to their pension fund.  Governor Quinn's proposal would raise that to over 13%.  This is grossly unfair when teachers have paid their fair share.  Also, it is in violation of the Illinois Constitution.  Another part of his plan is putting part of the pension burden on the school districts themselves.  In other words, he is putting the burden on our children.  In Homewood, the Governor's proposal would cost Homewood 153 an estimated $1,000,000 annually.  Add to that the proposed cuts in General State Aid and transportation, and the state making even less allotted scheduled payments in the future,  and Homewood will pay over $2,000,000 more than it currently does each year.  The Homewood community overwhelmingly passed a referendum last year and the Homewood teachers have already taken a pay freeze.   The district has made the budget cuts it can without reducing staff and programs.  We simply do not have the money to pay these added costs. 

So, what will happen in Homewood if Governor Quinn's proposal comes to fruition?  Hard decisions would have to be made.  Personnel would have to be reduced.  The very core of what Homewood prides itself on is what we are able to do for kids.  Gone may be extracurricular activities, art and music classes, music programs, small class sizes, and so on and so on....  Who will lose out?  The children will suffer because the quality of education will not be the same.  Is it fair to put the pension burden on our children, our future?

We all know that if our schools are not doing well, the health of our community will soon decline as well.  If Homewood cannot pay its bills because we lack the "surplus" funds that Governor Quinn seems to think all districts have, what will happen?  Our students, our teachers, and our community will all pay the price for the mismanagement of funds by our General Assembly over many, many years.  The price is too high.  Everyone should be outraged by Quinn's proposal.  Everyone needs to speak up.  Contact your senators and representatives and demand fairness.  Our kids are our future.  We cannot fail them.  They did nothing wrong.  They are the innocent bystanders in this madness.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Thomas P May 07, 2012 at 04:49 AM
It's unfortunate that education has been the target of government manipulation since they convinced the Illinois taxpayers that the lottery would bring the additional revenue needed to make Illinois schools strong and some of the best in the nation. What a farce! The Illinois politicians have been playing with the retirement funds since the early 70's, as control of the assets was used as bargaining tools between bankers and politicians. I support the teachers in the area. They pay the greatest percentage into their pensions, and do not get their healthcare taken care of when they retire like the politicians. We could save huge dollars by revamping the political system benefits. (You know... the ones that want an exemption from Obama Care.) I see no mention from Quinn regarding the police and fire department pensions, the political pensions, etc. I applaud this teacher for voicing her opinion. The government of Illinois is seriously behind on payments to our schools and if anyone has attended a school board meeting in the past year, you will begin to understand the damage Illinois is causing to our public school system. Vote them out! Illinois has stolen the money from school funds to buy political power with free cell phones programs to low income individuals, insurance programs, etc. Cut the waste and not the earned benefits of hard working citizens. Who's next on Quinn's chopping block? Again, time to vote them all out.
Ernie Souchak May 07, 2012 at 02:54 PM
The 72 above comments clearly show the outrage with the politicians and their systemic rape of the taxpayers. Kinda reminds you of the mid-1700's when the King of England was raping the colonists. And that's why so many politicians want to outlaw arms - to prevent another revolt. We are not citizens any more. We are subjects.
nick May 07, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Watch this video on U.S. debt--sobering <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EW5IdwltaAc&feature=youtu.be>
Wanda Gunter May 08, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Thanks for sticking up for teachers, Thomas! It is true that our health care is not free in retirement. I believe that there are areas in the pension plans that could be tweaked. In writing this article, I was not fighting for teachers' rights. I did not go into how Quinn's proposal would affect me and my family personally. I was focusing on our community. I want people to realize that should this proposal set forth become legislation, it WILL affect our community. It may not be in the form of more tax dollars. We already passed a referendum a year ago. But, if Homewood has to fork up $1,000,000 toward the pension fund, it will cripple our schools before long. Thank you to everyone for creating discussion and helping to come up with some viable solutions. I hope discussions continue whether in this forum or in conversations around a dinner table.
JACK ANDERSON May 19, 2012 at 05:08 PM
The facet of this debate which goes overlooked is how we will be viewed as a state by business. The pensions that have been given, have been guarenteed under the Illinois Constitution. They are a matter of law. What the governor is proposing is in violation of Illinois' constitution and therefore illegal. From the perspective of companies contemplating doing business in Illinois, a state that does not honor its contractual agreements is not a state that can be trusted.


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