The new CTU contract, sick days and pensions.

Darwin school staff in Logan Square.

I don’t buy the story that Mayor Lightfoot is Rahm 2.0, plus I supported the teachers and the CTU’s strike demands.

One of the changes to the contract is the ability to accumulate sick days. Teachers can now count the days as pensionable.

Under their new contract, Chicago Teachers Union members would be able to accrue more than six times as many unused sick days as before.

The tentative agreement reached Thursday between the city, Chicago Public Schools and the CTU allows union members to bank 244 sick days, up from 40.

That’s more than enough days to cover an entire school year — an increase that could allow a longtime employee to retire a year early and still receive their full pension.

The 40-day cap was the result of 2012 contract negotiations following scrutiny of a policy that allowed employees to cash out up to 325 sick days at retirement, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in payout to employees when they retired.

Naturally, the union-hating Illinois Policy Institute went apeshit over this part of the agreement.

Without getting too weedy, I want to share a few facts about sick days and pensions.

After all, I am the pension guru.

While sick days are a cost calculated as part of the teachers financial package, they are not a real cost until they are used. The cost to the district is the added cost of a sub. The ability to accumulate days saves the district money.

With the previous 40 day cap, teachers were more likely to use sick days rather than lose them, costing the district money.

While most public school teachers in Illinois pay 9% towards their pensions, some Chicago teachers pay 2% as a result of an earlier contract agreement.

But, it was instead of a salary increase, something the IPI doesn’t bother to mention.

If public school teachers had Social Security instead of a teacher pension, they would only pay 6% and districts, the state and CPS could not have evaded making their retirement contributions.

Which they did.

Seventy percent of the cost of public pensions is interest on the debt, not as the benefit to the employee.

Teachers retiring two years early is another cost saving to the district. Veteran teachers, although worth every penny, are paid a higher salary. Retiring a year or two early allows the district to hire younger, lower paid teachers.

The state’s teachers outside of Chicago can already accumulate 340 sick days and use them as pensionable credit.

But one or two years of pensionable sick days added to the normal costs of the pensions systems is a relatively small amount

And this gets to the crux of the matter.

“When Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says ‘there’s no more money’ to give away to end the CTU strike, she’s right. Pensions are the main reason why,” says the IPI.

The IPI is wrong.

As I wrote yesterday, the reason why is that the state and legislators in Springfield have not met their responsibility to adequately fund either the schools or the pensions.


9 thoughts on “The new CTU contract, sick days and pensions.

  1. Wouldn’t it be nice if truth, facts, and reason could sway the IPI and their supporters?
    In a recent post on

    Steven Pinker said: “Closer to home, I’m often asked why I even bother to try to persuade people with data and graphs, because everyone knows that people never change their minds when faced with contradictory evidence. But this is an exaggeration. People indeed dig in and double down when evidence challenges a sacred belief that is close to their social identity. But Nyhan and Reifler have shown that evidence can change people’s minds, even on highly politicized issues, such as whether there has been a rise in global temperature (among people on the right) or whether George W. Bush’s military surge in Iraq in 2007 reduced terrorist attacks (among people on the left). When the facts were presented in clear graphs, even the partisans changed their minds.”

    Fred, I’m glad that you are so persistent.

  2. There is so much bad math and untrue statements about “savings” from early retirements here, I don’t know where to begin. A system that has some collecting pensions for a longer period than they worked is unsustainable.Well, it’s sustainable if you don’t mind the majority of school funds going to pay for pensions.

    1. When someone writes that I’m wrong and they don’t know where to begin and then don’t begin, it’s usually because they got nothin’.

      1. Fred, it’s true – I just heard it from my school district finance director. The biggest debt my district faces is the unfunded pension liability. And here, they had the nerve to tell the local paper if the voters wouldn’t pass their tax measure, they would cut programs.

        Teachers need to pay more toward their own pensions, and this accrued sick leave ctap needs to end.

      2. Juanita,
        If you live in Illinois and outside of Chicago your school finance director just lied to you. Districts pay a very small amount to the teachers pension fund. No way is the unfunded liability their largest debt. That is a debt fully owned by the state of Illinois. Teachers already have paid the largest share of the pension, almost 10% of their paycheck and their contributions over the years keep the fund solvent. In fact Tier 2 teacher payments are the only thing limiting the growth of the liability, although they will receive less of a benefit when they retire.

  3. Cory Booker supports charter schools. Feel the Bern…and Warren!!!
    Sen. Bernie Sanders interrupts Chicago Teachers Union podcast with phone call: ‘You guys have won a victory that will not only be for Chicago but be for the whole country’

    NOV 04, 2019
    “Well, listen,” Sanders said. “I just called to congratulate you and the union on what looked to me like a very significant victory at a time of having a major funding crisis and staffing crisis in public education. You guys have won a victory that will not only be for Chicago but be for the whole country. So very proud of what you have accomplished. Look forward to working with you in the future.”

    A spokesperson for the Sanders campaign confirmed the call and said it was not prearranged.

    Sharkey thanked Sanders for his support, his work toward educational justice and for headlining a CTU rally in the days leading up to the strike.

    When the call ended, the hosts shared their excitement.

    “That was awesome,” said co-host Jim Staros, who teaches at King College Prep. “I have my Bernie sticker on underneath this shirt.”

    While the teachers union has not endorsed a presidential candidate, all three front-runners endorsed the union in their contract fight. In addition to Sanders’ rally appearance, Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined teachers on picket lines, and former Vice President Joe Biden called in support. Many candidates, including Julián Castro and Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, have also stated their support for Chicago’s educators on social media…

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