The pension debt. Who is culpable? The political leadership? The teacher union leadership? Yes.

It was under the IEA leadership and the agreement of then IEA President Bob Haisman when the flawed “Pension Ramp” (Public Act 88-0593) was signed into law in 1995. 

Yesterday I posted a brief response to Crain’s Chicago Business and their pension forum.

My blogging cohort and pension activist added to my posts. Don’t miss his comments.

On Thursday, former IEA President and former member of the Teacher Retirement System, Cinda Klickna, wrote an opinion piece for the Illinois Times.

Klickna correctly identified a problem: The state’s continued shorting of the pension systems.

But she writes as an innocent bystander.

It was Cinda Klickna, who as a member of the Teacher Retirement System board of trustees representing the Illinois Education Association gave her blessing to a two year pension holiday by the state when payments were not made.

Again, here is Glen Brown:

It was under the IEA leadership and agreement of Bob Haisman when the flawed “Pension Ramp” (Public Act 88-0593) was signed into law in 1995. It was later discovered that “the Statutory Funding Plan’s contribution schedule increased the unfunded liability, underfunded the State’s pension obligations, and deferred pension funding. The resulting underfunding of the pension systems enabled the State to shift the burden associated with its pension costs to the future and, as a result, created a significant financial stress and risks for the State…” (In re Pension Reform Litigation (Doris Heaton et al., Appellees v. Pat Quinn, Governor, State of Illinois, et al., Appellants)).

It was under the IEA leadership and agreement of Ken Swanson when SB 1946 passed on March 24, 2010 in approximately 10 hours, a senate bill where Tier II members would begin subsidizing both Tier I and Tier II benefits, where the state would eventually not owe any annual contribution to TRS because the Tier II members would be paying down the entire cost, where Tier II members will receive a TRS pension that will be less than Social Security, and where school districts will be responsible for making up the difference.

It was the IEA leadership of Ken Swanson and Cinda Klickna that “proudly supported” Senate Bill 7 signed into law in June 2011, the bill that ensured that teachers’ evaluations and their tenure were tied to the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (Public Act 96-0861), the bill that ensured a so-called “streamlined process for the dismissal of teacher tenure,” the bill that also required an authorization of 75% for a strike vote in Chicago, to name just a few complications that confront today’s teachers.

It was on July, 2, 2012 when Fred Klonsky, John Dillon, Michael Cousineau, Catherine Lenzini, and I met with Cinda Klickna and other IEA leaders to discuss our concerns about the IEA’s willingness to negotiate teachers’ and retirees’ constitutionally-guaranteed pension benefits and rights. Of course, the IEA leadership did not heed our advice.

Instead, 10 months later we witnessed the folly of the IEA leadership’s agreement to a reduction of pension retirees’ benefits and rights in Senate Bill 2404in May, 2013.  The IEA leadership believed SB 2404 would have thwarted any further attacks on the Pension Protection Clause. Fortunately, Michael Madigan never called for a vote on this bill.  What soon followed, however, was Michael Madigan’s Senate Bill 1 in December 2013, another diminishment and impairment of teachers’ and retirees’ constitutionally-guaranteed benefits. Senate Bill 1 was ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court on May 8, 2015.

Teacher retirees have not forgotten these acts of betrayal by the state’s teacher union leadership.

It is a betrayal of teacher retirees that has gone on for decades.

When Klickna recently tried to grab a seat representing retired teachers on the TRS board, her attempt was soundly defeated in spite of an expensive full-court press by the IEA.

3 thoughts on “The pension debt. Who is culpable? The political leadership? The teacher union leadership? Yes.

  1. Yet even more proof that retired teachers in TRS need to join the IL Retired Teachers Association. There is strength in numbers, & there is NO excuse for not joining. We have a Legal Defense Fund to protect us from the consistent attempts to take our pensions (remember the defeat of SB 1? Initial lawsuit filed by the IRTA lawyers). Worried that you might have to do all kinds of activities (or unable to do so)? Relax. ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS JOIN. Become a member. It is your greatest defense against pension thievery. Go to JOIN! & while you’re there,, look up your local unit, & join that, too. The cost is little, the return immense.
    Let the IL G.A. know: RETIRED TEACHERS VOTE!!!

  2. Do you remember this one, Fred?

    MONDAY, JANUARY 28, 2013

    IEA President Cinda Klickna’s reply to an IEA member (not me) as to why she would not support the petition to protect our pensions:

    I’ve had a couple of inquiries about why IEA has declined to formally support or promote a member’s e-petition on the pension issue. Let me explain: The short answer is that the petition in question is not reflective of the IEA/We Are One Illinois coalition position on the pension issue. The petition reflects its drafters’ very strongly held belief that we (IEA and the coalition) should not be trying to negotiate a solution to the pension problem. While anyone is entitled to hold an opinion on the pension issue, the view expressed in the petition conflicts with the position of the IEA officers, the IEA board and with the other members of the coalition (including any who might have signed the petition).

    It also, most importantly, conflicts with the opinion of our members, who have told us repeatedly, in growing numbers, that they want IEA leadership try to forge an agreement that is fair, constitutional and will result in every TRS and SURS participant getting the pension they have been promised. For IEA to support or promote this petition would be, at best, disingenuous and could interfere with the effort to convince the state to avoid unconstitutional pension proposals. It also could give a false impression to IEA members and, possibly to the General Assembly and the general public that IEA and labor do truly not wish to participate in finding a solution to the pension mess. That would be the opposite of what we’ve been saying for many months. It also would not be true. In a sense, our choices are simple:

    * We can roll the dice, refuse to engage, watch the General Assembly pass unconstitutional proposals that have been endorsed by the governor and legislative leaders, then see what the state supreme court says. Or,
    * We can work like hell to negotiate a fair and constitutional solution that protects your pension and the pensions of every other affected IEA member.

    The former is, by far, the easier lift. Nothing could be easier, less stressful and less time-consuming than the non-engagement strategy. But that’s not what the members elected us to do and it’s not what they want us to do. We’ve asked them. They’ve told us. IEA members want and deserve more than a leadership team that sits on its hands sand says, “See you in court.” That’s not the responsible thing to do. On February 11, the labor coalition is holding a pension summit. The point of the summit is to use all the influence we can muster to convince Governor Quinn and the legislative leaders to reject illegal pension proposals and work with the unions for a fair and constitutional solution to this problem. At the top of the list of things we want the state to understand is that revenue must be part of any solution.

    Delivering that message is our focus. We don’t need any distractions. The stakes are too high.
    We don’t mind people disagreeing with the strategy, but we’re obligated to take the steps that we think are most likely to result in every IEA member getting the pension they’ve been promised. Thank you for your email.


    Dear Cinda,

    First, let’s re-read the petition:

    Illinois Revenue and Debt Reform, Not Pension Reform!

    Many Illinois legislators want to challenge the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions instead of addressing the causes of the state’s budget deficits. Illinois public employees have earned their pensions. Their pension is a constitutionally-guaranteed contract. That’s why I created a petition to The Illinois State House, The Illinois State Senate, and Governor Pat Quinn, which says:

    “Illinois has a pension debt and revenue problem. Most legislators know this, and they also understand the concept of justice and what lawfulness demands: that people must keep their covenants with one another. No justice is accomplished when diminishing public employees’ earned benefits and rights because of decades of legislators’ irresponsibility, corruption and incompetence. Stop Illinois pension reform. It is immoral and illegal.”

    Will you sign this petition? Click here: Illinois Revenue and Debt Reform, Not Pension Reform!


    It is disappointing to discover that you chose not to respond to me personally but to another IEA member instead. The petition does not say to avoid negotiation! Indeed, the IEA (and the rest of the Illinois We Are One Coalition) should “negotiate a solution to the pension problem.” That solution, however, should address the pension debt and revenue problems without consideration to increase teachers’ contributions, to diminish the teachers’ COLA, or to impair the constitutionally-guaranteed contract through modification of contract principles. A “fair” and “constitutional” solution does not mean sacrificing teachers and other public employees again and again.

    Furthermore, when you state, “[the petition] conflicts with opinions of [the IEA] members… We’ve asked them. They’ve told us”: according to Jim Reed, only “600” members were polled. This is not a reliable and sufficient sampling of the IEA membership or of any other organization for that matter. An interesting point of comparison is this petition has 5900+ signers [as of April 19th].

    In my previous post, I stated that many of us (especially retirees that the IEA does not legally represent) believe there will never be enough impairments of the Pension Clause to satisfy unscrupulous legislators with a mania for so-called “pension reform.” Too many legislators are dependent on the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago’s campaign money and influenced by the Committee’s collective ill-will toward public employees.

    Eric M. Madiar, Chief Legal Counsel to Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate, states it this way: “Pension benefits are under siege for two reasons: opportunity and political motives” (Defending and Protecting Public Employees’ Pensions against the Legislative Siege). Many public employees (read the comments on our petition online) argue that unions should not bargain away any of the public employees’ “constitutionally-guaranteed,” earned rights and benefits.

    Why? Because “a public employee obtains ‘vested rights’ in the Pension Code provisions relevant to pension benefits when the employee becomes a member of a pension system by making his or her initial employee contribution to the system. In addition, the ‘Pension Clause’ protects pension benefit rights as an enforceable contractual relationship” (Madiar, “Is Welching on Public Pensions an Option for the State of Illinois…”).

    Despite this important assurance from the Chief Legal Counsel and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate, key legislators are still saying, “Let the courts decide” on the issue of breaking a contract. It’s unfair that you assume I would advocate letting the courts decide or “rolling the dice” (the “easier lift”) as you call it regarding this crisis. This is a falsehood that needs no rebuttal.

    If legislators agree to meet with the Coalition, please “work like hell to negotiate a fair and constitutional solution” that does not diminish the existing contract already in place. Consider that any modification of contract principles will never be enough because it’s a revenue and pension debt problem. To be sure, “The stakes are too high.”

    Without a doubt, most of us believe every public employee has a “promised pension” guaranteed by the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions, and I will continue to support only competent, dynamic union leadership. Though your and my “entitled… opinion on the pension issue” might be “conflicting,” it should never be “disingenuous.” “The gravest of [offenses] is to argue sophistically, to suppress facts or arguments, to misstate the elements of the case, or misrepresent the opposite opinion…” (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty).

    Please read my previous post for elucidation and intention: Modification of Contract Principles (and what many petitioners want their unions to do.


    Glen Brown

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