Last month I wrote about the lazy reporting Schutz does on his pension stories. Schutz will more often than not simply repeat Illinois Policy Institute talking points. IPI is a pro-corporate think tank which frequently is called upon to be the experts on pensions by public television’s WTTW.
Schutz breathlessly reports on the high pensions that Chicago “teachers” receive.
The average Chicago teacher pension is about $49,000 a year, but there are more than 1,100 teachers who take home six-figure pensions.
Schutz is no math expert. It doesn’t take much math expertise to know that if 1,100 pension system members are receiving six figure pensions and the average is $49,000 a year, there are a hell of a lot of teachers whose pensions are less than the average.
This is the myth of averages.
The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund excludes most CPS administrators, who receive their pensions through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund instead.
But there on the list of the highest pensions is that of Manfred Byrd, former CPS superintendent.
Barbara Eason Watkins, who served as chief education officer behind Arne Duncan and Ron Huberman until 2009.
Schutz suggests that CPS teachers are getting off easy on their pension payments.
Also, since 1980, Chicago teachers contribute relatively little to their pension: only 2 percent per year.
A good reporter would have pointed out that the reduced pension payment by CTPF members was originally bargained between the CTU and the CPS board in lieu of a salary increase back at a time when they were in bigger financial trouble than they are now. That deal was the CTU offering CPS a life-line.
A unilateral attempt by the CPS board to end the pension pick-up in 2016 was challenged by the CTU as an unfair labor practice. The CPS board then withdrew their attempt to end the pension pick-up.
What is behind Chicago Tonight and their reporter Paris Schutz to focus on pension payment outliers?
To his credit, Schutz relies on the Center of Tax and Budget Accountability’s Ralph Martire to explain the source of the problem.
From 1995 to 2005 CPS did not pay a dime of what they owed to the pension system. It went from being fully funded to 50% funded in 20 years.
That is why taxpayers are on the hook now. Pension payments were diverted by this and previous City administrations to pay their bills. Pension payments were kicked down the road.
Yet Schutz then counters Martire’s historical explanation with the corporate Civic Federation’s Larry Msall who says that what drives the problem is yearly pension increases.
I suppose this is WTTW’s idea of fair and balanced.