Generous teacher pensions continue as Illinois’ financial crisis worsens
State has worst U.S. credit rating; Chicago on same path as bankrupt Detroit
By Kelly Riddell, Investigative Reporter
September 2, 2014
If the Illinois Teachers Retirement Service (TRS) had to pay out all of its pensions today, it could only afford to give its members 40 cents on the dollar.
Yet the number of six-figure pensions TRS has been doling out has increased 24 percent this year compared to last, with about 6,000 retired educators collecting more than $100,000 annually, according to records obtained by Open the Books, an online aggregator of local spending that tracks educator salaries, pensions and vendor spending.
The group’s Labor Day report found more than 100,000 retired Illinois educators had been paid back what they invested into the system just 20 months after leaving work, a financial burden linked to union collective bargaining, which can cost taxpayers $2 million or more per teacher over the course of retirement.
"For most school districts pension payments are one of the top five annual expenses," said Adam Andrzejewski, founder of Open the Books. "Are we going to educate children or provide lavish lifetime benefits for administrators and teachers? There’s not enough taxpayer money to do both."
Without reform, TRS’s pension plan could go bust by 2029, the fund’s executive director Dick Ingram told The State Journal-Register back in 2012.
Even though Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and the state legislature pushed through legislation aimed at overhauling the pension fund last year, a court challenge brought by organized labor threatens to stymie that progress. In May the court decided to issue a temporary injunction against the new law — leaving the fund’s solvency in limbo.