Blaming teachers. I am a “negative demographic change.” I ain’t dead yet.

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Standing among the Chinese Terra Cotta Warriors at the Field Museum, created for the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, who died in 210 BCE. He’s dead and I’m not, making me a negative demographic change

I had some time on my hands this afternoon after coming back from seeing the amazing terra cotta warriors from China at the Field museum.

Because of that extra time I got into a Twitter debate with some folks about teacher blaming and shaming.

Three of them blamed teachers for electing Trump. We were blamed on two counts: We don’t teach civics well enough.

And 1 in 5 teachers are estimated to have voted for Trump.

I agree that the 20% of our profession that voted for the guy should be ashamed of themselves.

But that means 80% of us teachers didn’t vote for Trump. I only know of a couple of demographic groups with a better voting number against Trump than that.

When I responded with that I was told I wasn’t being reflective enough.

Sorry. I’ll try harder.

Then I read from Greg Hinz in Crain’s that the pension problem exists because not enough teachers are dead yet.

We are what is now called a “negative demographic change.”

Teachers are to blame for this too. Not the failure of the state to pay what they owe for over 7 decades.

Jeez.

From my point of view it is a positive demographic change. Particularly because, for the time being, it includes me.

And I’m not sorry.

Representative Guzzardi responds to our posts about retired teachers who are too old to receive Medicare.

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State Representative Will Guzzardi.

A few weeks ago I forwarded to my State Representative Will Guzzardi articles about the cases of 500 retired teachers in Illinois who, like Ms Jeri Shanahan, are retired and who are not Medicare eligible. According to the law she doesn’t qualify for Medicare because she retired too many years ago.

Both of the two state teacher unions have been unresponsive to the situation of these former teachers and union members.

It is, in my opinion, a scandal.

Today I received the following from Representative Guzzardi:

Hey there Fred,

Thanks for sending this along. I’ve seen you post about it in the past but frankly never took the time to read it and understand it fully. Now that I have, I see why you’ve continued to write about all this. I’ll talk to Rep McDermed when we’re back in session next January — if she’s going to re-introduce her bill on this issue, I’ll sign on as chief co-sponsor; if not, I’ll introduce it myself.

Good to hear from you, and hope you guys are enjoying your summer.

Talk soon,

-Will

https://preaprez.wordpress.com/2016/08/03/the-post-i-wrote-last-april-about-the-500-teachers-in-the-state-who-are-medicare-ineligible/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/opinion/ct-sta-slowik-shanahan-st-0803-20160802-story.html

The post I wrote last April about the 500 teachers in the state who are Medicare ineligible.

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This a post I wrote last April 16th about the situation with teacher retirees in Illinois who are Medicare ineligible.

I received a phone call from Jeri Shanahan today.

“Sorry if I am pestering you,” Ms Shanahan said.

“Not at all, Ms Shanahan.”

Ms Shanahan is a retired Illinois teacher who is not Medicare eligible. According to the law she doesn’t qualify for Medicare because she retired too many years ago.

If she moved to Arizona or Florida she would pay half of what she pays for health insurance. She chooses to remain in Illinois, so she gets socked.

A bill was introduced in the Illinois legislature to address this situation that impacts maybe 500 retired very elderly teachers.

Ms Shanahan told me the bill failed. It had either the opposition or no support by the IFT and the IEA. Ms Shanahan wasn’t sure and I couldn’t find out.

I wasn’t shocked to hear that. Some days I feel like the state teacher unions aren’t just not for us. They are against us.

Us being retired teachers.

Glen Brown posted about this issue a number of times back 2013.

http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2013/06/why-are-approximately-600-trs-retirees.html

http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2013/10/amid-all-medicare-advantage-confusion.html

http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2014/07/why-are-602-teacher-retirees-who-live.html

When Glen wrote about it in 2013 there were about 600 teachers impacted.

Retirees, 65 and older and not eligible for Social Security and Medicare, will pay the highest premium for Teachers’ Choice Health Plan in 2014: $719.96 (Illinois Department of Central Management Services. They are also paying more than twice as much as retirees not eligible for Social Security and Medicare but living out-of-state.

Now the number is 500. It is not 100 less because the problem is being solved, if you get my drift.

The state is just waiting them out.

Last year when Glen and I were Retired delegates to the IEA Representative Assembly, he brought the issue up.

“She should get a job and get her 40 quarters,” one IEA Retired leader told us, referring to Jeri Shanahan.

That right there is some cold stuff.

Shortly after the RA we got a message back from IEA lobbyist Will Lovett. It read, in part:

Our larger fear during the current legislative session is the fiscal health of the TRIP program. The Governor has proposed eliminating the state contribution to TRIP entirely.  We have had conversations about this concern dating back to 2011.   As you are aware, TRIP is funded by premiums paid by retirees, contributions by school districts, contributions by active members, and the state in turn matches the active teacher contribution.  The Governor’s proposed budget would eliminate between $95-$100 million in state funding for TRIP.  The program is roughly a $500 million program.  We wish that we could talk about a benefit enhancement or premium reduction for participants but protecting the program as it currently exists is our main priority in this current budgetary environment. 

Fairness for 500 retired teachers? The IEA has bigger fish to fry. She and the other 500 retirees are just not a priority in the current environment.

This weekend the IEA Representative Assembly is meeting again. Neither Glen nor I will be there. I’m not with the IEA anymore. And I think Glen has lifetime membership, which means he will be counted on the membership rolls long after his last TRS check. Will anybody speak for Jeri Shanahan and the other 500 retired teachers who are getting ripped off?

Not likely.

Here is Jeri Shanahan’s testimony before the Commission on Government Forecasting & Accountability.

Who fights for us?

 

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I received a phone call from Jeri Shanahan today.

“Sorry if I am pestering you,” Ms Shanahan said.

“Not at all, Ms Shanahan.”

Ms Shanahan is a retired Illinois teacher who is not Medicare eligible. According to the law she doesn’t qualify for Medicare because she retired too many years ago.

If she moved to Arizona or Florida she would pay half of what she pays for health insurance. She chooses to remain in Illinois, so she gets socked.

A bill was introduced in the Illinois legislature to address this situation that impacts maybe 500 retired very elderly teachers.

Ms Shanahan told me the bill failed. It had either the opposition or no support by the IFT and the IEA. Ms Shanahan wasn’t sure and I couldn’t find out.

I wasn’t shocked to hear that. Some days I feel like the state teacher unions aren’t just not for us. They are against us.

Us being retired teachers.

Glen Brown posted about this issue a number of times back 2013.

http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2013/06/why-are-approximately-600-trs-retirees.html

http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2013/10/amid-all-medicare-advantage-confusion.html

http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2014/07/why-are-602-teacher-retirees-who-live.html

When Glen wrote about it in 2013 there were about 600 teachers impacted.

Retirees, 65 and older and not eligible for Social Security and Medicare, will pay the highest premium for Teachers’ Choice Health Plan in 2014: $719.96 (Illinois Department of Central Management Services. They are also paying more than twice as much as retirees not eligible for Social Security and Medicare but living out-of-state.

Now the number is 500. It is not 100 less because the problem is being solved, if you get my drift.

The state is just waiting them out.

Last year when Glen and I were Retired delegates to the IEA Representative Assembly, he brought the issue up.

“She should get a job and get her 40 quarters,” one IEA Retired leader told us, referring to Jeri Shanahan.

That right there is some cold stuff.

Shortly after the RA we got a message back from IEA lobbyist Will Lovett. It read, in part:

Our larger fear during the current legislative session is the fiscal health of the TRIP program. The Governor has proposed eliminating the state contribution to TRIP entirely.  We have had conversations about this concern dating back to 2011.   As you are aware, TRIP is funded by premiums paid by retirees, contributions by school districts, contributions by active members, and the state in turn matches the active teacher contribution.  The Governor’s proposed budget would eliminate between $95-$100 million in state funding for TRIP.  The program is roughly a $500 million program.  We wish that we could talk about a benefit enhancement or premium reduction for participants but protecting the program as it currently exists is our main priority in this current budgetary environment. 

Fairness for 500 retired teachers? The IEA has bigger fish to fry. She and the other 500 retirees are just not a priority in the current environment.

This weekend the IEA Representative Assembly is meeting again. Neither Glen nor I will be there. I’m not with the IEA anymore. And I think Glen has lifetime membership, which means he will be counted on the membership rolls long after his last TRS check. Will anybody speak for Jeri Shanahan and the other 500 retired teachers who are getting ripped off?

Not likely.

Here is Jeri Shanahan’s testimony before the Commission on Government Forecasting & Accountability.

Diane and Barry. Retirees don’t scab.

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With Harriet on the picket lines in Waukegan last year. Retirees don’t scab.

Reading that Bruce’s people are contacting state retired employees to see if they would scab on strikers I thought back to November, 2003 when our union local went on strike for lower health care costs.

To say that millionaire Bruce Rauner and state workers have different world views may be stating the obvious.

I can’t say what kind of response Rauner’s people got.

But I know what Diane and Barry would have told them.

When I first started teaching in 1984, Diane was a kindergarten teacher in my building and she was also union president.

Barry was the social worker and building union rep.

They were married. To each other.

By November, 2003 they had been retired for a few years.

Their years of hard work for the families of Park Ridge and the promises of a fair pension in retirement meant that they seemed to have a pretty comfortable life. They had saved throughout their careers as teachers and bought a small home in Costa Rica where they could spend the cold Chicago winters.

It wasn’t exactly like Rauner’s nine condos and mansions, but they were happy to have it.

If you check the records you will see that early November, 2003 was pretty cold, even by Chicago standards.

We were walking picket lines in northeasterly winds that cut to the bone through the best LL Bean had to offer.

Yet there were Diane and Barry.

They had put off their annual stay in warm Costa Rica to be with us.

“Solidarity,” they explained.

Rauner wouldn’t understand.

Last year when teachers in Waukegan were on a long and difficult strike, members of our IEA Retired chapter made several trips to walk the picket line in support of our colleagues.

Hey. They weren’t even NEA. They were AFT.

Who cares?

They were on strike and so we were there.

“Solidarity.”

Retirees don’t scab.

A message to retiring teachers at the end of the school year.

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Some members of our Skokie Organization of Retired Educators (SORE) IEA Retired making a call on our local state representative.

This is the last day of school in Park Ridge, where I once taught.

I retired two years ago.

I want to send out a message to those teachers in Illinois who are leaving their buildings for the last time as full-time professionals and retiring.

Welcome to the club.

Literally.

Join our clubs:

If you have been an IEA/NEA member, go to ieanea.org and download the form for IEA Retired membership. 

And also join the Illinois Retired Teachers Association.

Some locals of the IEA give membership dues as a retirement gift. That’s a great idea.

Here is why you need to join both.

You want to keep active and connected to your profession and your colleagues.

You want to have a vehicle for fighting for what is good for students and teachers and you need a political organization that fights to make sure that the promises made to you are promises kept. We need to fight for that both inside the IEA and outside.

That is why you want to join both organizations.

In the IEA we need active retired members to make sure that one of the largest unions in the state doesn’t forget about us.

The IRTA keeps a laser-like focus on the issues effecting retired educators.

When I retired two years ago there was not even an IEA Retired chapter in the near north suburbs that I could join. But with the help of colleagues, we created one with membership and a mailing list that now numbers over 100.

Our North Lake Shore chapter of the IRTA – I am now the Vice President – has been active for years under the leadership of my old board member and retired teacher, Irene Jinks.

And enjoy your retirement.

I do.

Conventional wisdom is often not wisdom at all when it comes to retired and active teachers.

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SORE members hold a soup kitchen and serve half a cola outside Representative Robyn Gabel’s Evanston office.

Our chapter of IEA Retired, the Skokie Organization of Retired Educators, met over lunch yesterday with Will Lovett from IEA Government Relations.

Among other things, Will is our IEA Springfield pension lobbyist.

It was a full room at Ruby Tuesdays, down the street from Old Orchard Mall – another successful event organized by our chapter that is less than a year old.

“How many of you have never been to a Retiree event before?” I asked at the start of our program. A half dozen hands went up.

“What do you mean by an event,” asked somebody.

Tough crowd.

We are building IEA Retired in the north Chicago suburbs.

We decided to turn the program’s format upside down. Instead of Will talking and then answering question, we placed cards and pencils on each table and did the questions first. Anything not asked of importance, Will could fill in at the end.

The conventional wisdom is that all retired teachers care about are our pensions. And that same conventional wisdom says that young teachers are not concerned about their pensions.

It may be that the conventional wisdom is wrong.

About young teachers and pensions: Will shared with us that IEA polling data of IEA members suggests that the intensity of concern about the pension issue is highest among the youngest teachers.

That data flies in the face of assumptions many of us make about who cares about what.

I remember back in 2003 when our Park Ridge Local walked out on strike. The conventional wisdom was that the non-tenured teachers would be the least active.

We were wrong about that too. The youngest teachers were over-the-top active in the strike.

At the luncheon yesterday the first half-dozen questions were about charter schools and the bills before the Illinois General Assembly that would abolish the state’s undemocratic Charter Commission.

IEA and NEA policy towards charter schools was developed over a decade ago when the charter school movement was young. The union’s attitude towards them was more positive back then as long as it included the right to collective bargaining.

A number of retirees suggested the need for the IEA and the NEA to revisit that policy in light of more recent experience, and our friend and fellow-retiree, Bob Kaplan, reported to us that the IEA was doing exactly that.

My point here is that the interest in charter school development was definitely on the radar of retired teacher activists.

We’re not just a one-trick pony.

IEA President and Retired Chair speak out about Illinois retiree health care crisis.

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IEA President Cinda Klickna.

IEA President Cinda Klickna and Retired Chair Janet Kilgus today issued a statement about the plans to change retiree health insurance in Illinois.

Colleagues,

As you know, changes are planned for the state-backed insurance plans for SURS and TRS retirees.

 IEA staff and leaders are working hard to get you the latest insurance information and we’re pushing back on attempts to force our members to make snap decisions about such an important matter as health insurance.

President Klickna has contacted the governor’s office to make him aware of our deep concern about these proposals, but Gov. Quinn needs to hear directly from those who are about to be impacted.

Your help is needed. Retired educators must stand up for their pensions and insurance.

Here’s what you need to do.

Call Gov. Quinn at: 

217-782-0244 (Springfield)

312-814-2121 (Chicago)

 …or send the governor an email, using the form found via this link.

 Tell the governor:

  • The deadline for making key decisions about insurance must be pushed back. December 6 is not enough time to comply with the state’s request for information on dependents receiving TRIP benefits.
  • There must be no benefit cuts for retirees.

A hearing on this matter is scheduled for next week and IEA will be testifying.

 President Klickna will be “robo-calling” all IEA-R members this week to update them on this matter and to enlist them in this important fight.

Thanks for all that you do!

Important updates on Illinois retiree health insurance and eligibility audits. Our message is breaking through.

The Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability will be meeting in Springfield on October 23rd.

The Commission has oversight over changes to Illinois state retiree health plans.

The legislative members are listed here.

Yesterday’s Springfield State Journal has a lengthy article addressing retiree concerns over insurance changes and dependent eligibility audits.

With complaints continuing to come into lawmakers’ offices about changes planned to state retiree health insurance, a legislative panel has scheduled a hearing on the issue during the upcoming veto session.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability will hold a hearing Oct. 23 at the Statehouse to get updated information about the state’s plan to switch Medicare-eligible retirees to a Medicare Advantage plan.

It will replace the program familiar to retirees in which they are covered by the federal Medicare program and have Medicare supplement coverage provided by the same health insurance available to active employees.

“I hope we have some retiree groups who are allowed to testify and maybe ask the department (of Central Management Services) some questions,” said Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, a COGFA member. “There’s two things going on — verification of spouses and dependents and Medicare Advantage. I hope we can help people understand a lot more where they are going.”

“At this point, there is a lot of concern and thus a lot of distrust,” said Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, a co-chair of COGFA. “A lot of it is not understanding how this will work. A lot of my constituents feel they have not been properly educated about these changes.”

“There’s some concerns with retirees that they don’t’ understand why they need to be foisted off of the Medicare option and into the Medicare Advantage plan,” said Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, COGFA’s other co-chair. “They have a great concern it’s not going to be equal to the care they are getting now.”

Our concerns about dependent eligibility requirements are also getting through.

While questions about the Medicare Advantage plans will be part of the hearing, Poe also wants to delve into the state’s efforts to verify dependent coverage claimed by retirees.

“We’re getting a lot of calls, especially on verification,” Poe said. “I think (retirees) are reading a lot into it that Big Brother is wanting a lot more information than they’re entitled to. Why do they want to see your checking account, why do they want to see if your house is paid for, why do they want to know if you have mortgages? The people calling us feel they are prying a little further than they should.”

State officials are trying to determine if spouses and other dependents claimed by retirees on their health insurance are, in fact, entitled to coverage. The state hired a company to conduct the verifications. To prove that a spouse is a spouse, for example, a person must provide the front page of their 2012 federal tax return transcript and another document issued within the last 60 days from a bank, mortgage or credit card statement listing both names.

AFSCME said its retirees chapter is also fielding a number of calls from former state and university workers about the verification process.

“Given that there was no advance notice of this new procedure, and that the information requested is of a sensitive nature, it’s understandable that retirees are worried,” Lindall said.

The reason this message is getting through is that we have made it an issue.

Don’t stop.