Governor Wall Street moves to seize control of the Teacher Retirement System board of trustees.


Millionaire Governor Bruce Rauner made much of his private fortune by investing public employee pension funds.

Inaugurated just a few days ago, he is now moving to seize control of the Illinois Teacher Retirement System’s board of trustees.

The following email is from Bob Lyons who is elected by current retirees as their representative on the TRS Board.

Monday we had two open seats on our board and the outgoing governor appointed one of his people to the TRS Board that morning, though he should have known that the appointment was made too late.  Today that person and also two Quinn appointees, Marcia Campbell and Mark Harris, that were appointed, but never confirmed by the senate were told that they are no longer TRS trustees.  Campbell of course is a state officer of the IFT and has served with distinction for some years.  That means that now we have four openings for gubernatorial appointees that Rauner can make. Two Quinn appointees still have two years on their term.  Recall that there are a total of thirteen seats on the board with the State Superintendent of Education as our president.  Chris Koch was appointed superintendent under a Democratic administration and Rauner will have new appointments to state school board as well.  Six seats on the TRS are held by active and retired teachers.

Bob Lyons

The in box. “The bill could and should be defeated.”

Bob Lyons is a member of the TRS Board of Trustees.

“Putting Aside the Constitution” was how one of the Democrat leaders was able to justify what legislators plan to do next. She may have forgotten that to “uphold and protect” that very same document was in her oath of office.
…Andrew Bodewes, TRS legislative liaison, who serves the same role for the Illinois Teachers Retired Association (IRTA), reported to the TRS Board on the content of the so-far unnumbered bill that will reduce the costs of the existing pension systems of the State of Illinois. As some of us may know, Bodewes is considered an expert on pension law and once served in that role for the House Democratic staff. What he described to us was the bill, as it was written, [also affected retirees].


Between January 1 of 2013 and June 30, current retired teachers would be required to make an irrevocable choice between keeping their existing benefit of an automatic compounded three-percent increase [Cost-of-Living-Adjustment] in return for giving up their access to state provided health care vs. keeping the access to TRIP, or whatever will replace it going forward, but losing the existing COLA and having it replaced by the current Tier II COLA of three percent or half the rate of the CPI, whichever is less and, thus, compounding being replace by simple interest.


Simple interest means the number the percentage is taken from is always the cost of the pension for the year the new program starts, or the first year for new retirees. [According to] Speaker Madigan’s interview that has been circulated online, [Madigan believes] that a required choice is acceptable under contract law. Madigan, Cullerton, and Quinn are lawyers and constitutional leaders of the state and that would lead one to assume they understand the Illinois Constitution specifically governs our pension benefits – apparently not!


Bodewes expected that while the draft could certainly change in the next few days that some final version of it would be introduced on Monday, May 28. He also said legislators understood that having retirees in the bill made it less likely to pass and more likely to be found unconstitutional.


The Democratic leadership was also being told that Republicans would vote against the bill if current retirees were in the bill. The latter point may have more to do with the fact that the bill is written only by Democrats. The bill does have that portion of the current state contributions that cover the “normal cost” of the pensions of current employees being gradually shifted to the local school districts, which has also been opposed by Republicans.


While a self-imposed guarantee for state payments was not in the bill, the draft does call for the pensions to be at full funding in thirty years. Active teachers would have to make the choice between keeping the existing COLA which would be based on their salary for next year and losing state health care vs. Tier II COLA based on their ultimate final salary and continued access to state health care.

This proposed bill certainly could and should be defeated. If all retired and active teachers call their representative and senator in Springfield, it can be stopped. Legislators are scheduled to be in session over the weekend in Springfield, including Memorial Day. If the bill is passed, we can expect the unions and the IRTA to be part of a suit, [and there will also be a request for] an immediate injunction to delay the implementation of the bill until the lawsuits are settled. While the majority of us are covered by Medicare and giving up access to TRIP, especially when we don’t have any idea what it will be, would be the easy choice, there are certainly others that [would find] either choice a great hardship.

It’s also possible that by Monday May 25, it could be different.

–Bob Lyons

Was TRS’s Ingram telling a lie then? Or now?

Richard Ingram has been Teacher Retirement System Executive Director for a year.

For a year he has communicated to TRS members that the system was solvent and that the issue of reducing benefits was not on the table.

Then the press reported a memo by Ingram claiming that the system is threatened with insolvency by 2029 and that benefit reductions need to be considered in light of a “new reality.”

Retirees and pension activists Patricia and Richard Bryan point this out to the TRS Board of Trustees and to Ingram in a letter that was forwarded to me.  I reprint the entire letter at the conclusion of this post.

Take the time to read it.

The Bryans ask,  “Mr. Ingram, have you been telling the truth about our pension fund’s position all along, or did you only begin a week ago?”

Since the release of the leaked memo Ingram, the TRS Board of Trustees and some in the IEA leadership have been dancing.

As the Bryans point out, no matter the explanation, the damage is done.

The issue of benefit reductions for retirees, which even the worst of the pension killers in the General Assembly and the Civic Committee have not dared to propose, has now been given legitimacy by the very people who were charged with defending our pensions.

Dear Mr. Ingram:
On April 4 we wrote to the trustees, urging them to fire you.  Since then, we’ve read additional news stories and several of your letters to newspapers. We’ve also gotten explanations of your behavior from several trustees.  We are more convinced than ever that you can not continue to serve as our director.  In order to understand why you can not continue in your job, we must start with the obvious question — what is the job of TRS and its director?  

You, yourself, best answered this when you addressed a group in Crystal Lake on October 4, 2011.  A videotape of your speech can be found on YouTube at  
Dick Ingram, Executive Director TRS  
(Your answer to this specific question begins at about  4 minutes, 55 seconds.)  

 You say that your job is “promise keeper.”  You are constantly reminding the trustees as well as your subordinates that they are also promise keepers.  You said last October that every day you go to work you remind yourself that you are a promise keeper.  (Apparently you have stopped your daily reminder.)  The complete context of your talk makes it clear that the promises to which you refer are the benefits that are protected in the constitutional clause.  We agree.  Your performance in office should be primarily judged by your efforts to keep the promises made to TRS members.  But your answer was brief and necessarily simplified.  It leads to the more difficult question — what exactly are those promises?

Many believe that the best answer can be found in a scholarly article by Eric M. Madiar.  The author is Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate.  The legal and historical research behind his article is truly impressive.  The article can be found at  
Mr. Madiar’s findings have proven essential to TRS, IFT, IEA, and IRTA.  We assume that all TRS trustees have read the article.  We are forced to conclude, Mr. Ingram, that you have not read the Madiar article.  If you understood the guarantees explained in the article and TRS’s commitment to these promises, you would not have made your statements of this past week. 
You have recently announced your intention to educate TRS members about the reality of our pension problems.  Many of us have been observing and studying those problems for decades.  We voted for the constitution some forty years ago.  We raised the alarm when the legislature stiffed the pension fund year after year.  Many of us have been on top of this story for decades.  Forgive us, Mr. Ingram.  We hate to condescend, but perhaps you also need to be educated.  The political and economic pressures that you call “the new reality” are not new at all.  The unfunded balance goes back to 1953.  When the constitutional convention drafted our guarantee clause, the balance was worse than it is today.  Political and economic pressures are not reasons to abandon the constitutional guarantee.  The exact opposite is true.  Political and economic pressures are precisely the reasons our guarantee was created.  
You now ask the question — if the state won’t meet its funding obligations, should we consider reducing benefits to retirees?  Madiar explains with great clarity that this question itself is a huge threat to retirement security.  The question you asked this week was asked in New Jersey more than forty years ago. The question led to a tragic court decision there.  Retired teachers were devastated.  Madiar convincingly explains that the framers of our constitution understood that the very question was the biggest threat to retirement security.  They drafted our guarantee clause so that that question could not be used to reduce benefits for Illinois teachers.
Mr. Ingram, you ask a very important question.  But that question was thoroughly researched, extensively debated, and definitively answered at the time of our constitutional convention.  Many retirees were part of that public debate.  We were especially pleased with the pension guarantee.
It’s obvious, Mr. Ingram, that you were not watching this process.  No one could blame you.  We would estimate that you were in grade school out east when our constitution became the law of the state.  Your ignorance then was to be expected.  Your apparent ignorance now is completely unacceptable for the chief “promise keeper” of the TRS.

Frankly, Mr. Ingram, have you been telling the truth about our pension fund’s position all along, or did you only begin a week ago?

Your recent shocking statements have been rationalized with the explanation that you were only trying to tell the truth to the retirees and teachers.  We thought you’d been telling the truth all along.  We applauded each time TRS posted one of your letters. 

It’s obvious why you had to concoct the phrase “the new reality”.  You assumed office in January, 2011.  For over a year, your positions were consistent.  Did poor investment results cause the new reality?  No, 2011 was a banner year.  What triggered your reversal?  The trigger clearly was a flood of newspaper articles that began when a newspaper obtained a secret email from you to the trustees.  The email showed that while you were saying one thing to your members and the rest of the public, you were urging trustees to accept a far different version.

You’ve explained that the revelations this week were the result of your deep desire to tell the truth to your members.  Forgive us, Mr. Ingram, but this answer is not credible.  If the truth were in your secret memo, and you wanted your members to know the truth, then you would have sent them a copy of the memo.  We didn’t get a memo on February 9th.  Two months passed with still no announcement to your members.  This whole mess was not triggered by your desire to tell members the truth.  Quite the opposite, you simply got caught hiding what you now say is the truth.
You have recently asked if COLA or other benefit levels should be changed because of political and economic pressures.  Your apologists say that you haven’t made any specific proposals.  Obviously, such specificity is not required in order for an executive director to severely weaken our public position.  If your recent reported statements result in any benefit loss for retired teachers, then the slippery slope has just begun.  If the state can reduce the benefits of those already retired, then no teacher has a secure future.
There is only one position for TRS to take regarding the constitutional guarantee of retirement benefits.  It is the same position TRS has had since you were a child.  That guarantee is clear and unambiguous.  There is only one way TRS can protect the rights of all of its members.  It must insist that the constitution shields us all.  If Illinois takes away any of our retirement benefits, then the constitutional guarantee is meaningless, and every member’s benefits are at risk.
You have sent several letters to newspapers recently.  You deny that you advocated reducing any specific benefits.  You say that you did not propose any change in member benefits or COLA.  Instead, you say that you have outlined possible areas where lawmakers may look for a solution.  You include “changes in the cost of living adjustment, changes in retirement age and in the benefit formula, and increase revenues through new taxes.”
Apparently, the newspapers saw very little difference between the statements “We should reduce retirement benefits.” and “We must now consider options reducing retirement benefits.”  We don’t see much difference either.
We began this email by saying that we had urged the trustees to fire you.  How much better would you feel if we tried to retract the statement, saying instead that it was high time that the trustees considered firing you?
We noticed that there are some options for Illinois that you did not suggest.  Illinois could counterfeit hundred-dollar bills to solve the problem.  Another idea is that we could rob a number of banks in Indiana.  We imagine that you omitted these from your options list because they are completely illegal.  Yet it has always been the position of TRS that no retirement benefit may be diminished.  This is statute law and constitutional law.  Why would you include an option which TRS sees as illegal? 
Others share the TRS view.  Senate President Cullerton says it would be unconstitutional to reduce benefits for those already retired.  House Republican leader Tom Cross pushes cuts for active teachers, but has not advocated changing pension benefits for those already retired.  He said, “In response to your recent comments, I’ve never had members of the General Assembly advocate that…”  In fact, no legislator from either party has introduced a bill that included any reduction of benefit for those already retired.  The Sidley law firm, arguing for the dreaded Civic Club, differs from Madiar in many ways, but even they say it would be unconstitutional to reduce any benefit of those already retired.  I only know of one person in a position of authority who thinks it’s constitutional to reduce retirees’ benefits.  That person is you, Mr. Ingram, our promise keeper.
Mr. Ingram, you have been caught saying one thing publicly and nearly the opposite in a secret memo.  You have taken important positions without the authority of the majority of your board.  You have both contradicted and weakened long-standing positions of TRS.  You have severely embarrassed yourself, your board, and the institution.  Your initial comments started a firestorm.  Your later non-denial denials rekindled the flames.  We don’t know if you intentionally did all of this damage, or if you just stumbled into it.  We don’t care.
As Oliver Cromwell told Parliament in 1653, “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately…  Depart, I say; and let us have done with you.  In the name of God, go!”
Richard Bryan
Patricia Bryan

TRS members. Do you agree with Executive Director Ingram? Let TRS Directors know.

Recently Richard Ingram, the Executive Director of the Illinois Teacher Retirement System was quoted as saying that retiree benefits might need to be cut and that the system faced insolvency by 2029.

While not repeating Ingram’s Civic Committee line, the TRS board, including IEA representatives, supported Ingram and claimed that members must face “the new reality” that the state will not meet their obligations to retired and active teachers.

If you do not agree with this assessment, and instead believe that that we must fight for the state to keep their promise to the 300,000 Illinois pensioners who rely on their TRS benefits to live, send the Trustees an email and let them know.

Tell them your story. 


TRS is governed by a 13-member Board of Trustees. Trustees include the state superintendent of education, six trustees appointed by the governor, four trustees elected by contributing TRS members, and two trustees elected by TRS annuitants. Two appointed trustee positions are currently open.

Christopher Koch, Ed.D.
Molly Phalen
Vice President
Michael Busby Kenilworth
Marcia Campbell O’Fallon
Jan Cleveland Carmi
Cinda Klickna Rochester
Sharon Leggett Evanston
Bob Lyons Hoffman Estates
Cynthia O’Neill Carlyle
Janice Reedus Indian Head Park
Sonia Walwyn Naperville

The president of the Board of Trustees, by law, is the Illinois superintendent of education. The Board of Trustees elects its vice president from among its members. The Board of Trustees appoints an executive director who also serves as the secretary of the Board of Trustees. The executive director is responsible for daily operations at TRS.

TRS’s Dick Ingram scares the shit out of people.

A leaked memo by TRS Executive Director Richard Ingram has caused a flood of concerned emails into my inbox this weekend.

Ingram is predicting insolvency for the teacher pension by 2029.

And what is scaring retirees is his threat that reduced benefits to retirees was a likely solution.

First of all, Ingram seems to view things a little too much as a benefit problem and not a funding problem.

When he spoke to the IEA RA a few weeks back, I believe he was called out for this.

Changing pension benefits for already retired employees has not been embraced even by House Republicans, whose leader, Rep. Tom Cross of Oswego, has pushed strongly to reduce benefits for people who are on the job now but not yet retired.

But in an interview Friday, Ingram said the state might have to target cost-of-living pension increases for retirees. Retirees now receive automatic COLA increases of 3 percent annually, which is compounded.

“What we’re saying is that the number is so bad is that you have to start having those conversations,” Ingram said. “The reality is that if you look at the pension math, the single biggest cost is the COLA.

“I’m really stuck. I have to say that the math is not trueing up with what is constitutional or fair or earned or whatever else.”

Cross praised Ingram’s shift in position, but still declined to endorse changes in the benefits of already-retired members.

Some responses to the stir caused by Ingram?

IEA President Cinda Klickna:

In the recent TRS meeting, Ingram told the board that, “The evidence has mounted to the point that it is prudent to assume that we will not be funded at the levels provided in statute. Leading members of the General Assembly have all but said as much, and in the final analysis that is what really matters.”

The TRS actuaries have run figures that show decreases in State funding could lead to insolvency. These are realities that the TRS Board feels must be shared with members and discussed with legislators. IEA will continue in our ongoing efforts to find solutions.

Ingram’s point is that the pension issue needs to be addressed. Continuing to underfund the pension systems is not acceptable.

In my view, the best resource around is Glen Brown’s blog.

As a young man, I was taught to “pay my debts” and to “keep promises” that I made to others. I was taught to “face the consequences” of my actions. I was taught to “work hard” and “never give up.” Both of my parents never finished high school because they needed to find jobs to support themselves. They were uneducated, but they knew a lot about instilling responsibility, integrity, courage, discipline, and perseverance. I wish these values were evident in our Illinois policymakers today: to work hard to find the ethical solution for funding the public pension systems, to become morally intrepid without abdication, and to raise the needed revenue to pay the state’s debts instead of reneging on promises made to public employees who have certainly kept theirs. These are the issues regardless of what some legislators, the Civic Committee, the Civic Federation, and the Chicago Tribune, et al. propagate.

Glen is right, of course.

And so is Cinda.

Of course, the pension system’s solvency is threatened if the state doesn’t pay what it promised and owes.

Of course.

What else would happen when the state hasn’t paid its bill for 40 years?

Of course, those in the Civic Committee and even Ingram think the teachers should pay with reduced benefits.

Of course.

Who do you think they think should pay?

Of course.

Of course.

There’s nothing really new here.

And the solution?

Occupy your pension.

Organize. Join us in Springfield on May 2nd. Meet with your local legislator.