WTTW’s Paris Schutz and the myth of averages.

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Paris Schutz. WTTW’s pension beat reporter.

Chicago Tonight’s Paris Schutz is at it again.

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.

Schutz reports:

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.

6 thoughts on “WTTW’s Paris Schutz and the myth of averages.

  1. let’s invite him to both our shows, grill his ass, make him one of us

    Michael Gaylord James Do good in the world; the world needs all the good that you do.

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  2. Schutz is absolutely wrong about CPS administrators. They are in deed participants in the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. He needs to get his facts straight before making such claims. They do not participate in IMRF, Illinois Municipal Regiment Fund. Certified teachers and certified administrators are forbidden by law to participate in IMRF they must participate in TRS or C.T.P.F.

    Gerald Berkowitz, IMRF Annuitant

  3. Here we go again. Schutz also stated that CTPF “excludes most CPS administrators, who receive their pensions through IMRI.” Not true. What was the point of the report? To stir up more animosity toward pensioneers? No solutions or thoughtful discussion offered to solve the problem about the state and city indebtedness. Disappointed again in Chicago Tonight’s coverage of this topic – incomplete and with little purpose. The comment on CT website about Lawrence Msall salary for supervising 18 staff members was interesting, however ($325,000 +)

  4. The first time I became familiar with Paris Schutz was when you posted a story about a WTTW piece that Schutz had done regarding teachers bilking the state with extremely high pensions (Actual Title: Retired Illinois Educators Taking Home Millions In Pensions). Several corrupt administrators had some very fat pensions. Paris used them as examples and led his readers to believe that the average retired teacher was sipping umbrella drinks down in Aruba, and living high on the hog off the hard working taxpayers.

    I went to the WTTW web site and commented about this. Was that ever a mistake. I found out that some people were never going to stray from the propaganda that Schutz had laid out for them. There was one guy who insisted that teachers worked part time jobs, yet received full time pensions. I started to engage in exchanges with this individual. Then I realized that I have encountered these types before, and I know from past experience that no matter what you try to show or tell them, they’re not going to budge from their kool-aid inspired beliefs……….teachers are off all summer……they don’t even work a 40 hour work week………teachers expect a full time pension for a part-time job……………15 weeks of vacation……….the fat money these teachers are expecting is going to bankrupt the state. We (teachers) have all heard these arguments before. It’s too draining for me to try to reason with people like this. I would rather just sit here on the beach, light up another Cuban cigar and watch bikini clad cuties stroll by as Getz plays “Girl From Ipanema” from my iTunes library.

    1. Which you have plenty of time to do, Jacek, what w/your “part time job” & “15 weeks of vacation.”
      &–if you’re retired, like me, you have PLENTY of time to travel to Cuba to buy that cigar (& pen$ion money to burn!!!).

      Oh–totally off-topic–but FYI–Arne Duncan will be leading a violence prevention (in Chicago) session in Hyde Park on Feb. 7th (you can find it on Eventbrite).
      Wonder what office he’s looking at? Also, Arne, perhaps we could prevent violence by keeping our neighborhood public schools open & by not closing mental health clinics.

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