In Illinois today we can only expect a little more than one-third of our new teachers will have a full career in education in our state.


TRS trustee Bob Lyons (left) and me at IRTA state convention last week.

– Bob Lyons. Bob is one of our elected member of the Teacher Retirement System’s board of Trustees representing current retirees.

I stayed in Springfield after the conclusion of the IRTA Convention for the October TRS meeting.  In the next days I will share with you the results of that meeting and some of the details of the actuarial study of education and the pension fund in Illinois.  

Today I want to tell you just one conclusion from the actuarial study.  For some years we have all heard the statistic that half of all starting teachers quit in the first five years, and of course that was before the advent of tier II.  Wednesday we learned from our actuaries based on their experience review that they assume that only 37% of our 25 year old teachers will retire from teaching in our state.  

It would be expected that only a couple percent will die or be disabled before they can retire, so the great majority that will leave will either quit all together, be dismissed, or transfer to another state. About 63% will never see a monthly  retirement check.   

I am sure that in recent years you have considered that if you were in college today would you go into teaching, and specifically in Illinois?  I would not and would not recommend that anyone become a teacher in our state.  

I have been retired from teaching for 21 years and from coaching for 13 years, so what I know of education today is hearsay, but based on that I can only consider that I was fortunate to have taught  in what was the Golden Age of education in Illinois.  

And all of those teachers that joined the profession since January 1, 2011, and are members of tier II are making full contributions to an inadequate pension and will need to go on and contribute to social security before they can retire.  

That is more than sad, it is a travesty.

18 thoughts on “In Illinois today we can only expect a little more than one-third of our new teachers will have a full career in education in our state.

    • Dear Anonymous,
      Could you recommend a teacher/education-friendly state? Maybe California, that “liberal” state where Jerry Brown is governor and its supreme court demolished the state’s tenure law just within the last year? Possibly New York, another, though only somewhat “liberal” state where Cuomo, the Younger, is gov and a big promoter of chapter schools? Perhaps you’re thinking Florida (Rick Scott-R), Wisconsin (Walker-R), Michigan (Snyder-R), Ohio (Kasich-R) Kansas (Brownback-R), Indiana (Pence-R)? How about one of the 11 former Confederate States of America, you know, below the Mason-Dixon Line? What about the rest of the Trans-Mississippi Western states where one would find a teacher/education nirvana? Please, I’m dying to know where there’s a teacher/education-friendly state.

      Are there any states that can be considered friendly to any “profession” other than c.e.o. or hedge fund manager?

  1. Indiana is having problems with a teacher shortage. Here is an article written by Tony Lux, an intermediate superintendent in Merrillville, IN. This article appeared in The Times of NW Indiana. I would never recommend that anyone become a teacher and I’m really glad I’m retired.
    ……..From Tony Lux:
    It is amazing to read about the blue ribbon committees being formed at the Statehouse to determine why there is a teacher shortage. The feigned ignorance and surprise of legislators is incredibly hypocritical.

    Blame for the teacher shortage should be placed clearly at the feet of government officials in this state and across the nation who have scapegoated, demeaned and devalued the teaching profession.

    To understand the root causes as to why Indiana universities are reporting up to 50 percent reductions in college student enrollments in teacher preparation programs with an almost 20 percent drop in the issuance of Indiana teacher licenses, we need to get in Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine. The time period begins in 2004. Mitch Daniels was governor, Tony Bennett was state superintendent, and it continues today under Gov. Mike Pence.

    During this time, the country and Indiana experienced a major recession that prompted a multiple year $300 million reduction in state funding for education. While the funding reduction was blamed on the economy, the propaganda machine began to proliferate statements that public education was both failing and overfunded.

    If schools were failing, then teachers were ineffective. Teachers were not only ineffective, but overpaid as well.

    The solutions were multi-faceted. Plans were formulated to evaluate teachers more stringently to get rid of the bad ones. The witch hunt to rid schools of weak teachers cast a pall over the credibility of the teaching profession. Teachers were seen as not just the most important variable, but the only variable that affected student learning. Any reference to the effects of poverty on student learning were dismissed out of hand as an effort to avoid accountability.

    What followed was a legislative snowball racing downhill. An oversimplified, flawed system for grading schools on an A-F scale was created. School grades continue to be required despite major flaws in state assessments. State standards were raised to be the highest in the land, resulting in increased hours of testing time and diminishing teaching time. Laws dictated more stringent teacher evaluations tied to school grades and test scores. Laws dictated limiting salary increases so teaching experience and advanced degrees were devalued. New teacher and administrative licensing standards implied that anyone with a degree could be a teacher or administrator, even without training. Charter schools, unfettered by union agreements, were heralded as schools that could do better by hiring teachers at low salaries and cheap benefits.

    Private school vouchers allowed for millions of dollars to be diverted away from the neediest underachievers to support the highest achievers.

    Complexity index funding targeting the most disadvantaged underachievers was reduced and redirected. The effects of tax caps crippled property tax collections for many school systems, forcing them to use general fund dollars to pay debt rather than staff.

    Educators are so demoralized they do not encourage their own children to follow in their footsteps, much less other students.

    Today, with decreased funding for public schools, teachers cannot enter the profession with any kind of guarantee that in five to 10 years they will be earning very much more than they are now.

    Still surprised there is a teacher shortage? Really?

    Tony Lux is superintendent of Merrillville Community School Corp. The opinions are the writer’s.

      • Dear Sue,

        This is a case of someone asking why it is so hard to fill teaching positions in a way that supports a preferred narrative of “no real teacher shortage” and “not our fault”. It is true many people have teaching certificates. The real problem is few teachers want to work under conditions presently being imposed upon them.

        Many who used to work as teachers have decided that they would rather do something else. Students who used to train to be teachers no longer find the job desirable. Why would they bother to train for a job they don’t want? Call it a “shortage” or whatever you choose. If no one wants to work for you, you have a problem.

        You can’t put a certificate in front of a class. A certificate is not a live, employable teacher. You actually need people willing and able to come to work and do the job. The good will and good intentions of teachers is no longer enough to overcome the abuse that has been heaped upon them. They no longer wish to work for you. That is the “shortage”.

        Poor leadership choices created this problem. Change the leadership and make better choices. Amazing how some people can ignore the obvious.

  2. Are there any Republicans in Congress that can introduce the following by the NEA?
    Can we endorse federal legislation that will make universal guarantees for all states?
    1. Pension Boards contributor control of at least 75% and maximum governor appointees of 25%.
    2. Transfer ability of earned benefits from one state to another.
    3. Privacy protections to pension members from data collectors / profiteers.
    4. Protections from political cash raids on any pensions funds in any state.
    5. Federal guarantees that states will not get federal funds if the state does not make required payments promised into matching pension programs.
    6. Prohibit any benefit reduction by only pension board action unless #1 is met.
    7. A clear periodic statement of benefits earned for each pension member.

    • No, there are no Republican moderates, they are all in lockstep with Walker-Rauner-Koch ideology. Not only are they doing nothing to help public or private sector retirees, they are again attacking our Social Security! It was hoped that in this new federal “budget deal”, lawmakers would abolish the WEP/GPO “theft from public employees social security benefits” provisions from FICA regulations. They didn’t. Instead of doing anything to help retirees, the Republicans have added rules that will pick the pockets of retirees once again. WEP/GPO already picked our pockets. It took all the folding money, just left a handful of nickels and dimes. If the new rules go through, as it looks like they will, our Social Security will be reduced to nothing more a handful of pennies.

      • It’s a done deal. Obama surrendered without a fight. We are screwed again. This Social Security deal went through real fast, and with deceptive descriptions and explanations. These cuts were not “loopholes” or “windfalls”, and the explanation that it benefited the rich the most was wrong. A millionaire would get a few more dollars then a struggling lower-wage retiree, but the impoverished lower-wage retiree needs every dollar they have earned from Social Security. Even worse then that, the money “saved” will go to pay down the national debt, (things other then social security). Reminds me of the highways being built with our Illinois pension funds.
        The midnight secret back room deal reminds me of the way “Tier 2” was passed in Illinois.

  3. Dear Fred,

    Here is what teachers hear from their employers, read in the paper and see in the news:

    Broken promises. Demands to cut pay and pensions even further, criticism relating to teachers’ skills, accusations of a lack of dedication, blame for problems teachers have no control over, and demands that teachers be fired if they dare to complain about this treatment. After all, isn’t there an unlimited supply of other teachers we can replace them with, who will do the job better for even less?

    Now Illinois is discovering that many teachers do not want to keep teaching under these conditions. Why is anyone surprised that a rational person would choose to do something else? I wouldn’t want to keep that job either.

    The discredited old saw that states “Those that can’t do, teach” is belied by the fact that teachers have many skills and abilities that provide the opportunity to earn more doing other things. When teaching is no longer the best choice of employment, teachers may well choose to leave and do other things.

    Change is not always good. How sad that it has come to this.

    • Dear Hugh,

      I get all that. It’s the Indiana legislators who don’t get it. I just thought it was amusing that they had to have a debate over whether or not there was a teacher shortage. I mean, you either have enough QUALIFIED applicants to fill all your openings or don’t. You either have teacher churn and turnover or you don’t. What is there to discuss?
      It’s not rocket science. Unless you’re an Indiana legislator, I guess.

      • Dear Sue,

        I agree. They are at best a disingenuous, conniving bunch. This attempt to avoid responsibility for the destruction that they have wreaked upon their state’s education system will fail. The damage will not be easily undone. Hopefully, Indiana voters have taken note.

        Unfortunately, Illinois is not far behind. Indiana’s present is our future. How sad for us.

  4. As a teacher who joined CPS August 2012, I was literally told by a financial advisor not to keep teaching here as this is the worst funded pension system in the whole country. I wouldn’t see any part of a pension, which I’m contributing to fully right now by the way, until I’m 62, which means 39 years of teaching. I believe I’d have to be 67 to get my FULL pension- 44 years of teaching. I don’t think I could last that long, given the current state of the teaching profession and the constant and steady attacks on special education. And this all breaks my heart. I give so much of myself to my students, and all I want is my fair shake. So heartbreaking.

  5. Where do these dimwits like Christie, Rauner and other worthless governors (along with the corporate “reformers”)think the teachers of tomorrow are going to come from! Do the dimwits share one brain cell between them?!?

  6. To get your answer, anon, just take a look at the picture on Page 4 (the one holding the fish) of today’s Chicago Sun-Times (or–more boldly displayed, on Page 1 of the Chgo. Trib.) More chilling than the skillfully carved fright-face of today’s Halloween pumpkin.
    Smiling, laughing & joking over the misery of the people he is SUPPOSED to serve? As usual, Karen Lewis is spot-on–“CTU Leader Calls Rauner ‘Sociopath'” (Page 4, Chicago Trib.)
    Can’t you just hear the clock ticking until an impeachable offense is identified?

  7. When Shirley and I retired in 2011 we threw all the documents for renewing our teaching certificates in the trash. Neither one of us was interested in substitute teaching and each of us swore we would not jump through anymore of the state’s “requirements” for renewing those certificates. Since that time it has gotten worse. I tell young people to find another occupation. If Rauner has his way and teachers lose collective bargaining rights NO ONE should want to teach. Hire computers.

  8. The only reason more teachers have not already left is because of the bad state of the economy. Most teachers can excel at many different occupations, when the economy improves they will get other employment. Maybe that is Rauner’s plan, each teacher that leaves without enough time for a pension lowers the cost to the state. The departing teacher can get a refund of what they have paid into the TRS (without interest). The state has gotten several years of teaching done without paying anything, not a penny into retirement, and not a penny into social security. In fact, the interest on the ex-teachers refund is profit to the state.

  9. My former students contact me from time to time asking me to give them the good, bad, and the ugly about the teaching profession. I tell them the unvarnished truth, ending with “Do not go into teaching. Find something else you can be happy doing. This is not the profession it was when I graduated in 1979 and I’m happy that I am nearing retirement. I still love working with the kids but the job itself is extremely stressful and anxiety-producing. I, along with many of my colleagues, am taking anti-depressants or anxiety medication.” I don’t add, ” I can’t wait for my last year. I plan on expressing exactly what I think to parents, colleagues, administrators and the school board. This thought alone keeps me going every day. When I retire, I don’t want to have anything at all to do with this profession ever again.

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