For some strange reason known only to Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, he decided to try and explain how Chicago Public Schools are overfunded.
It’s an argument too stupid to even get started on. But at the end of his blog post, Zorn mentions the pension cost swap in passing.
This is a topic worth addressing.
The pension cost swap is Mike Madigan’s idea. The state owes the Teacher Retirement System maybe $44 billion dollars. Maybe more.
Because for over fifty years the state either hasn’t paid what they owed or used TRS funds to build bridges, roads and, ironically, schools without raising taxes.
That bill must be paid.
One solution would be to restructure the debt, like an overdue mortgage.
Quinn, Madigan and Cullerton have other plans. They want to cut pension benefits to retired teachers and shift the pension cost to local school districts.
The pension cost shift will add a burden to local schools, many of which are already broke. If the cost shift takes place no teacher in Illinois will ever see a raise again.
But based on my conversations with teachers who are currently bargaining contracts across the state, the damage has already been done.
School boards are using just the threat of a cost shift to justify salary freezes and benefit cost increases to employees.
As if things weren’t tough enough already.