Funding in CPS and pension issues

December 27, 2009 at 2:43 am 11 comments

A comment in the Skinner post reminded me that I’ve been meaning to post about the allegedly dire situation of funding for our schools.  (For once, I use the phrase “allegdly” withouth sarcasm — I only say it because I don’t know the true situation of the funding and much of which I’ve heard has come from politicians which in Illinois I mean really… not a whole lot of trust there.)

I’ve been to 2 meetings in the past few months where a politician (someone familiar with the state budget) has alluded to funding cuts getting even more extreme next year.  They say the truth is that Illinois is in dire circumstances in terms of money overall and that CPS will be significantly affected in the upcoming year.

Having served on a Local School Council for almost 2 terms now, it’s sickening to hear this given some of the crazy things I’ve learned about how a principal operates their school budget.  For example:

-A growing neighborhood school (mine, for example) is adding one classroom a year as the school grows.  CPS doesn’t pay for funding for furniture for the new classroom.  That has to come out of the school’s own budget (much of which CPS provides, but it’s slim and hey, shouldn’t CPS be footing the bill for desks for new students?)

-Schools that are sending teachers for Professional Development for new textbooks/curriculum need to find a way to cover the cost of the substitute the day a teacher is out.

-CPS does not actually provide a teacher for each classroom.  They give less than the full amount needed and the school needs to figure out how to fund the extra spots from their internal accounts.   Growing schools are often in the position of begging for extra teaching spots at the begining of each year which is usually a fight with CPS.

For a little background, one of the problems that is frequently mentioned about CPS budgets is the “pension problem.”  Back in the “good old days” (meaning 30+ years ago) CPS teachers were promised a pension if they stuck it out in the system for something like 34 years.  (I know, you’d think plenty of people would have lost their minds facing a room full of 28 beasties year after year.)  The pension provides something like 80% of their salary (calculated at retirement) and health benefits for life.  If you start teaching in your mid twenties, you can retire in your late 50’s and you’re pretty well set.   The problem is that 30+ years ago, nobody expected many of these teachers to live past, oh 76 or so.  And we all know how that has changed.  So the state is paying 80% salary for many people (women) who may live well to 100.   I believe the “problem” applies to all city employees, but teachers happen to be the biggest single group.

CPS has tried to get the teachers’ union to allow a change to this which is a no go (I wouldn’t be too happy either if I’d busted my butt for 34 years only to have the city propose ripping me off as I’m set to schedule my Alaskan cruise.)   However some of the city’s frustration is based on the teachers’ union’s refusal to revise the pension plan for new, incoming teachers.  My personal opinion is that the world is different now and nobody else in the US is being promised such a generous pension.  Plus we know that lifespan is making the plan virtually impossible to fund. 

So…. I’m not trying to rile anyone up (especially the teachers who read the site and who make great contributions to the comments!)  Just passing on what I hear out there in case people hear the term “pension problem” and are curious to know the background.

Mainly I just worry about what next year holds.  I see these schools operating on such a miminal budget and things that are considered basics in the suburbs are being or have been cut.  I can’t imagine what else there is to chop and I hate that it makes me question whether we’re doing our son a disservice by sticking it out in CPS.

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. hopeful  |  December 27, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    I think you did a great job of writing about an issue that is sensitive to teachers specifically. I am a teacher, and while I want my pension, I do agree that compromises must be made, given all the things you mentioned.

    In fact, if the board actually funded classroooms fully, stocked with paper, glue, books, etc…I wouldn’t have to purchase those things myself, and could put several thousand dollars a year into a retirement fund for myself!

    I, too, think very serious cuts are coming like Chicago has not seen in a long time. If you talk to any teacher who has been in the system more than 20 years, they will all tell you stories of 40 kids in a classroom as the norm (and this does still happen, just not as often). I will not be surprised to see that reoccur. We currently have some specialty programs, like preschool for all and after school tutoring, that I personally believe will be completely eliminated within the next 2-3 years. It is very concerning, and as a teacher, I am worried about the impact on the students I love. I don’t know that answer, but it is definitely something to watch. Hawaii’s teachers were forced to take something like 15 furlough days this past year. This meant nearly a day off school for students and teachers every other week. The CTU is very powerful and I doubt they’d let that happen here, but one way or the other, cuts are inevitable.

  • 2. Mike  |  December 27, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Regarding: “My personal opinion is that the world is different now and nobody else in the US is being promised such a generous pension. Plus we know that lifespan is making the plan virtually impossible to fund. ”

    Agreed. Additionally, the defined benefit system currently in place penalizes non-career teachers (those who are driven out by the stress, etc after a few years). They earn a lot less and save less for retirement than they otherwise would. The pension also acts as a kind of golden handcuffs for those who toil away for their 30 years in a job they hate (admittedly to spend the next 30-40 years at 80% pay on permanent vacation).

    We need to find a way to change this for everyone’s sake.

  • 3. IL / social security  |  December 31, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    “My personal opinion is that the world is different now and nobody else in the US is being promised such a generous pension. Plus we know that lifespan is making the plan virtually impossible to fund. ”

    Teachers in IL do not pay into, or receive Social Security as EVERYBODY ELSE IN ALMOST EVERY OTHER PROFESSION OR STATE DOES. That is the reason the pension is generous, so the CPS teachers do not retire and have to live by eating cat food in studio apartments.

  • 4. cpsobsessed  |  December 31, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Really about the no SS? Thats weird. So why not just switch incoming teachers to a normal plan and get them as past of SS? In this day and age I think I’d feel more secure about having SS as my backup than a pension plan that could be stupidly invested, no? Plus, it just puts teachers and other city employees on par with the rest of workers.

  • 5. IL / social security  |  January 1, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Really, IL is one of the states where teachers get no SS (There are about a dozen other states where teachers get no SS and the teachers depend on pensions from the states). Now it makes sense why the pension is so generous.

  • 6. chicago parent  |  January 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Pension Gap Divides Public and Private Workers by Dennis Cauchon, USA Today, February 21, 2007. “Retired government workers are twice as likely to get a pension as their counterparts in the private sector, and the typical benefit is far more generous. The nation’s 6 million retired civil servants … received a median benefit of $17,640 in 2005, according to the Congressional Research Service. Eleven million private-sector retirees covered by traditional pensions got $7,692.”
    to read the entire story, click below

  • 7. wr  |  January 4, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    The situation with CPS is very different. Teachers here receive no Social Security, and the pension is the only retirement they will receive. CPS teachers have paid into the Pension their entire careers. However– the state has been taking a “Pension Holiday” meaning they have not been paying into the pension. This has lead to the pension problems today. The state not paying into the pension. See the weekend newspaper.

  • 8. hopeful  |  January 5, 2010 at 7:35 am

    Wow, so your principal is retiring! If you are at the school I think you are at, she has a TERRIFIC reputation among teachers and other CPS staff across the city. I have spoken to many, many teachers that would have given everything to have worked for her. That is a huge loss to the system for her to leave. Sorry to hear it. I hope you get someone just as good to replace her.

  • 9. so sad  |  September 17, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I am a tenured teacher now in the reassigned teacher pool. I am currently waiting for an assignment. I’ve got 10 months or so in the pool. I am now weighing my options-I may have to pull down my pension at a 20% hit if I am flipped to a cadre in the next 10 months. I never thought I would be in this situation. Your thoughts?

  • 10. KC  |  December 7, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    There are a lot of things that need changing. I do not think the pension system is one of them. This link is the best way I can explain why…and addresses some misconceptions that have been shared.

  • 11. anonymouse teacher  |  December 7, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    @10, I think that now that the state has altered the state teacher’s pension fund, Chicago is definitely next. This is concerning to me, but not because I am counting on having a pension. I have always thought it would disappear before I could ever retire. Right now my concern is if the CPS pension gets “reformed” before the next contract, negotiations will be messy and the rumors are already swirling regarding those negotiations.

What do you think?

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