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Decades of school funding debate fly right out the window

Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012

* For at least the last 30 years, Democrats and Republicans alike have pushed to change the way Illinois funds its schools. The idea was to rely less on property taxes and more on statewide taxes to help ease the local burden. Dawn Clark Netsch made the proposal a centerpiece of her 1994 campaign, and Gov. Jim Edgar successfully hammered her for it. Not long after, however, Edgar himself proposed just about the same plan.

One of the concepts behind this idea is that property taxes are not based on the ability to pay. So, it’s better to lessen that tax burden and shift it to a tax that is based on the ability to pay, like the income tax.

The feeling after the 2006 gubernatorial election, when the Democrats swept the state, was that Illinois was as close as it would ever be to achieving this goal. Gov. Rod Blagojevich had a different idea, however. Instead of a “property tax swap,” he proposed what turned out to be a catastrophically unpopular gross receipts tax. The momentum was lost and the issue began to fade away.

The Senate Democrats revived the idea a couple of years ago with their tax hike plan that would’ve provided some property tax relief. The bill passed the chamber, but went just about nowhere in the House.

* And now the state budget crisis has apparently taken the whole thing off the table and Illinois politicos are discussing throwing the car into reverse. Instead of talking about local tax relief, the big new idea is to pass the pain down the governmental food chain to the locals

Gov. Pat Quinn, responding to a dire new report on state finances Monday, said more clearly than ever that he wants schools and universities to help pay for their employees’ retirement costs.

A statement from Quinn’s budget office said the practice of state government paying for the retirement of downstate teachers and professors “requires careful examination and reform” because “employers need to have a stake in funding their own employees’ pension costs.”

Ben Schwarm, associate executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards, said schools can’t simply absorb hundreds of millions of dollars in new expenses.

“It’s either an $800 million cut in public education funding or … an $800 million property tax increase to cover the pension costs,” Schwarm said. “Either way, I’m not sure it’s the best way of solving the problem or in the best interest of the taxpayer.”

Sometimes, it’s amazing to me how fast things can change in politics.

I’m not sure this thing can pass, as I explained in my syndicated newspaper column this week. Downstate and suburban voters are not going to relish the prospect of paying higher local taxes, or watch as their schools are slashed even further.

There are also some who believe that House Speaker Michael Madigan is counting on vocal opposition to gain a bit of political advantage. His suburban and Downstate members can angrily vote “No” and then use the roll call in their campaigns this fall.

Either way, this issue needs to be debated in the proper context, and I think I’ve framed it the way it ought to be. Your thoughts?

* Related…

* Zorn: Researchers identify ‘effective’ school techniques

* State income tax collections up 65 percent

* Schools should pay more for teachers’ pensions: Quinn: Gov. Pat Quinn, responding to a dire new report on state finances Monday, said more clearly than ever that he wants schools and universities to help pay for their employees’ retirement costs. A statement from Quinn’s budget office said the practice of state government paying for the retirement of downstate teachers and professors “requires careful examination and reform” because “employers need to have a stake in funding their own employees’ pension costs.”

* Little dispute over report that Illinois soon to be $35 billion in hock

* Editorial: Fiscal doomsday drawing ever closer

* Pensions, Medicaid eyed during legislative session

* $35 Billion in Red should help Republicans win back Illinois

* Parents asked to protest veto

* Editorial: Yes, classrooms first

* Gov. Quinn to Deliver State of State Message

* Quinn to split budget address from State of State

* The plan to save College Illinois: Form a committee

* CME to reject $15 million in city TIF funds

* Preckwinkle to meet with worried ministers about morgue mess

- Posted by Rich Miller        


47 Comments
  1. - MrJM - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 9:56 am:

    @#$%&* Blagojevich!

    – MrJM


  2. - lincolnlover - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 10:15 am:

    I see nothing wrong with shifting some of the cost to the local school district. They make the deals and then the state has to pay for it. Its very easy to spend other people’s money, but when its your own, you get a little tighter with it. And why does it have to be 800 million property tax increase? Maybe it should be a more realistic approach to teacher’s pensions - like no big hike in the last four years of a teacher’s salary?


  3. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 10:17 am:

    Quinn should be more careful; his about face on pre-election promises are happening way too often. People paying higher income taxes that were promised to support schools won’t be happy seeing their property taxes going up. His bully tactics with legislators aren’t gaining him friends, either. He might end up more disliked than even Blagojevich by the end of his term, if that’s possible.


  4. - the Patriot - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 10:22 am:

    Cutting the state contribution to pensions will cut schools, not raise taxes. Most downstate schools are tax capped. That means without repealing PTELL, schools will have to find the money without raising taxes. Teachers won’t take pay cuts, so you will end up RIFing teachers. You cann’t cut the funding and prevent local districts from raising it on their own without drastic cuts in education.


  5. - Nieva - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 10:39 am:

    I have been paying for the local schools since I became a homeowner in the early 80s. We raised our property tax by vote in Gallatin Co. and built a new school when we consolidated the schools into a k through 12 county wide school.Over the years we would recieve atleast a 5 per cent increase every year to support the school and the higher wages that were demanded by the teachers. Now your telling me that I will have to pay until I die to support the retirement of those teachers and keep the school up and pay for the new teachers that are comming into the system. The way I figure this local taxes will rise about 300 percent over the next 15 years to cover this cost.That will put me paying about one third of my retirement income to support the schools. Where does it end. I will be paying the county around 500 dollars per month to live here. Home ownership becomes almost inpossible on a fixed income and most elderly will have to move to goverment housing or move out of the state. It has to stop somewhere and I have to believe we have reached that point!


  6. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 10:41 am:

    The problem is that the purse was not being controlled by the payor. The state was paying the pensions but the schools were determining how much to pay including some pretty outrageous pension sweeteners. Teachers would get a large bump in salary the last year of employment which would result in a pension much higher than the system had originally “intended”. Passing the cost on to the local districts will mean that the schools will have to justify their actions to those who will directly pay for it - the property owners. No more third party payor.

    Still, having the system be changed to a more state focused payor rather than local property owners is a better way to go - just not possible now so maybe this is the next best thing.


  7. - chi - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 11:13 am:

    -That means without repealing PTELL, schools will have to find the money without raising taxes.-

    Can someone explain what PTELL is, and why/if the above statement is true?


  8. - Plutocrat03 - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 11:16 am:

    “State income tax collections up 65 percent”

    Since they raised the tax 66%, they aren’t they falling short of revenue projections?


  9. - It Might Work in Theory - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 11:16 am:

    In theory, you could have both centralized state funding and local responsibility for pensions. State-based funding simply shifts the source of funds and distribution formula. If the state shifts $800m in costs to the districts, the state could (in theory) provide an $800m increase in funding to the districts to offset the costs. What the state now spends on pensions, the state could give to the districts.

    Shift of pension funds to districts could be allocated according to current costs, to ‘hold harmless’ districts for the pension deals they have already made. Or, the shift could be used to improve the distribution of funds. If each district received the same amount for pensions, then the districts that have chosen more expensive pensions bare those cost. (Also this could be rolled into general state runding, so that districts have flexibility for how they use the funding, rather than being stuck with a set aside for pensions.)

    Of course, this would not save the state money in the short-run, which appears to be the immediate goal/problem. However, in the long-run, the incentives would be better aligned for districts to be more responsible (or cooperative) in reigning in pensions costs.

    While the change to decentralization is a striking way to frame the question, there may be ways to revamp the pension funding system that are consistent with the decades-long education funding reform efforts.

    Is there anything inherently contradictory about combining local responsibility for pension decisions with centralized (and possibly progressive) state funding?


  10. - Fenestra - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 11:18 am:

    I always thought the Major League Baseball idea of a ‘Luxury Tax’ would work for schools.

    Come up with a base payroll for a school, if the school goes over that amount, they are taxed at say 10% of that amount, which is then sent to schools in poorer areas.

    New Trier residents want to be the New York Yankees of education? That is fine, they are taxed on the overage, with the proceeds being put in fund to distribute to the poorer schools.

    Also, I am not surprised decades of precedent are tossed out the window. We do live in an oligarchy where the pie is rapidly shrinking….


  11. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 11:20 am:

    ==Teachers would get a large bump in salary the last year of employment which would result in a pension much higher than the system had originally “intended”.==

    This is just not true. Any raises apply to all teachers and are actually less percentage-wise for staff closer to retirement.

    Those receiving salary “bumps” and promotions in their last years are administrators, not teachers. Whom will often take their ridiculously high pensions to other states, while pulling down high salaries in their next administrative positions.

    As for passing the costs to local districts, already over 60% of my property taxes goes to my school district. Should that number jump to 90%, while 90% of the teachers in our district don’t even live or contribute to the economy of our very poor/high minority community?


  12. - Stateline - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 11:27 am:

    There is not a good solution. We are going to pay one way or another. DuPage Dan is correct. At least with this proposal the schools will be accountable for those very sweet pay increases some districts chose to give some educators in their last years of service.


  13. - Dooley Dudright - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 11:28 am:

    Excellent framing of the issues, Rich.

    I agree entirely: the tax swap idea is dead. And the pension cramdown is a-comin’. Property-poor school districts are in for a world of hurt.

    And so — time for another way of attaining some modicum of fiscal fairness (and stability) for education. (As in: roll the boulder up the mountain. Again.)

    Time for a constitutional amendment to graduate the income tax.

    (Yeah, I know. My Political Prog-nos-to-meter on this one reads: “Slim to None. And Slim just left the building.”)


  14. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 11:37 am:

    Wensicia,

    I stand corrected.


  15. - SAP - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 11:50 am:

    chi: PTELL is Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, more commonly known as tax caps. Counties that have voted to become subject to PTELL have limits on how much they can limit tax collections every year. If the pension burden gets shifted to the locals, PTELL would not have to be repealed, but it would need to be amended.


  16. - Shemp - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 12:06 pm:

    ===I see nothing wrong with shifting some of the cost to the local school district. They make the deals and then the state has to pay for it.===

    Uh, the State designs the pension plans and sticks the locals with it, be it teachers, police, fire, etc. I am always amused at how it’s always the locals fault when they have to play in a strict set of rules that the State constructs. Anyone who has bargained against a union in Illinois knows the local taxpayers interest is not the priority with mediators and arbitrators.


  17. - Irish - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 12:10 pm:

    The large bumps in the latter years of employment were ended by Blago. It was one of the few things he did right. And there were some teachers that also got bumps. It was harder to do this for teachers because they were usually on a step + education scale that was laid out to give credit for longevity plus additional schooling the teacher completed that could move him/her up the scale. Example would be one step would be 5 years plus BA, the next might be 5 years, BA plus X credit hours, on up through Masters etc. This pretty much locked in what they would get when they retired. However a District could give a stipend for “extra work” or an additional class, the last couple of years to bump up the retirement amount. All of this was an additional burden on the state pension, not funded by the District.
    Blago ended that. Now any increase over 5%, I think is the figure, becomes the burden of the District. Districts have to be very careful because any additional pay in the last years of a teachers career cannot exceed the 5% per year or the District is on the hook for the extra percentage plus any additional pension that extra percentage earns over the lifetime of that teacher. So if you have a teacher that in their last year get a step increase of 3%, plus a wage increase of 2% by contract, any extra including stipends for coaching etc. would put them over the 5%. That extra and the pension it earns is the districts to pay.


  18. - Fair Share - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 12:23 pm:

    Rich, your framing of the issue is disingenous. The “tax swap” by definition was not supposed to raise new money for schools. So that was never a solution. Blago’s “gross receipt tax” would have raised new monies. Calling it “catostraphically unpopular” avoids the question of how/who will pay more, just like the GA did in 2007? Yes, they rejected the GRT and replaced it with …. nothing!


  19. - Cook County Commoner - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 12:23 pm:

    Home prices continue to decline; unemployment remains high; and foreclosures remain a problem. And the governor seeks to increase property taxes
    to help fund pensions for teachers when most home owners are struggling? Surreal doesn’t begin to cover it. However, the discussion may wake folks up to the fact that they are supporting a minority of governemnt employees in retirement with benefits they have no chance of ever receiving. Maybe this is a tactic to get more folks involved in government employee pension reform. Shrewd.


  20. - reformer - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 12:28 pm:

    Illinois relies upon property taxes to fund schools more than any other state.

    Property wealth is unevenly distributed across the state.

    Consequently, Illinois leads the nation in spending disparities between rich and poor districts.

    The state of Illinois currently provides a lower share of education funding than any other state. Pushing pension costs on the school districts would just make a bad situation worse for the majority of districts that have weak property tax bases.


  21. - Fair Share - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 12:29 pm:

    FDR was right - collective bargaining and public worforce are not compatible.


  22. - vole - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 12:32 pm:

    Reckoning up here boss. We are paying the price for Reagan’s “morning in America”. Now the realization that that there will be a heavy penalty for refusing to negotiate our way of living and recognize some limits when we all shared enough prosperity to make the change toward a sustainable state. This education/pension problem is just one of a multitude that we have kicked down the road. Face plant into a smaller pie. There is still enough wealth out there to get our butts out of the wringer but our polarization makes tapping it almost impossible at this time.


  23. - Irish - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 12:54 pm:

    The reality of this is that the GA and Governor’s over the last 30+ years had carte blanche and spent like there was no tomorrow. They deliberately did not make pension payments, and borrowed from the funds. They spent the money on their pet projects to get re-elected.
    They started the lottery to fund schools, and sold it to the general populace as the answer to school funding issues. When the lottery money began rolling in the GA and the governor at the time, took away the GRF funding for schools. They spent that money on their pet projects to get re-elected.
    When it became very evident that Illinois needed to increase the income tax to avert fiscal disaster, the GA and the governor decided that they would not increase taxes because they might not get re-elected.
    The income tax replacing the property tax was the correct way to go. It is the most fair. It is based on ability to pay. It solves the issue of a school employee earning money in one district and living in another. In other words the school employee contributes equally to their own pay as does the residents of their district. But the GA and governor did not pass it because they might not get re-elected.

    So now the GA and governor are blaming the state employees and the teachers who have contributed their portions of their pension, for the pension shortfall. They have to because if they admitted their own fault they might not get re-elected. They will blame the state employees and the teachers for having to shift the burden of caring for the folks in the institutions they are closing and for having to shift the funding of schools to the local level.

    I would ask that they eliminate all special projects for their districts and that they eliminate all grants from state coffrers to their districts. The time has come to stop worrying about getting re-elected and start solving the problems they were elected to solve. A judge gave the governor the freedom to move any revenue to wherever he needed it to solve the fiscal emergency. Everyone else has put skin into this game, it is time the GA and the Gov. do the same.


  24. - Kerfuffle - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 1:15 pm:

    Beyond the question of who should pay for ongoing teacher retirement costs going forward - state or local government - the larger question that remains is who is will be responsible for the huge existing unfunded liability. Local governments didn’t decide to skip payments, it was the state.


  25. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 1:20 pm:

    A sober assessment from Irish.

    As a state employee I am not going to say that since I didn’t cause the problem I shouldn’t have to fix them. That doesn’t work in a community.

    First, you would have to determine who caused the problem. Easy answer is the elected officials. However, we elected them. An uncomfortable reality is that we wanted the programs that the elected officials promised us. We also liked the idea that we didn’t have to “pay” for them.

    Then, you have to determine who is going to have to pay for this mess. With the economy in a shambles (let’s face it, we wouldn’t be trying to fix these problems if everything was hunky dory) and the pie getting smaller it’s all about proving who is to blame and getting the rich to pay for it all.

    Now the stuff has hit the fan and we spend our time looking for the villain. Try the mirror.


  26. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 1:23 pm:

    Good god, is Fair Share STILL posting driveby slogans?

    First, I’d argue that the two funding issues, while related, are inherently different. School districts are accountable to the state for how education funding is spent. If there’s any accountability regarding pensions, I don’t see it.

    Secondly, state funding of pensions only exacerbates disparities between poor and wealthy school districts. Wealthy school districts are already able to offer higher salaries, and thanks to the state’s generosity they’ve been able to pile on more generous pensions at no additional cost. To them.


  27. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 2:04 pm:

    It’s true, the swap concept seems to be gone. Rich, you’ve put it in your the context.

    At the moment, it doesn’t seem that there can be any rational discussion of what the state should fund and how it should do it.

    Leaders of the corporate community tell us the sky is falling regarding pensions. Yet, if I recall correctly, Schnorf pointed out last week that if the state makes its annual contributions and the funds earn an average 8%, there’s no problem.


  28. - titan - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 2:45 pm:

    Wensicia - you’re mistaken on the teacher pay bump thing (at least in some districts). There are some which have a policy whereby teachers submit a letter stating they’ll early retire in X number of years and those teachers are pulled off of the normal pay scale and are instead given a significantly greater % increase in those reaining years that puts them well ahead of where they otherwise would be for retiring at that same time.

    As to the main topic, putting it in the hands of the locals would simply INCREASE the inequity of the educational system - which is contrary to most of the envy/covetousness rhetoric we’re hearing of late. New Trier schools teachers will get richer faster (drawing the better teachers) and poor districts will stay poorer longer (chasing away their good teachers).


  29. - Original Rambler - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 2:58 pm:

    I’m with DD & YDD on this. As a Chicago taxpayer, I’m sick of non-Chicago school districts using my $ to “reward” administrators (and no doubt teachers at times via end of career lucrative appointments). Blago got this right, but I wish he would have gone further. Hats off to Quinn, Madigan & Cullerton if they can get this done.


  30. - lincolnlover - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 3:11 pm:

    Shemp - Not true. Each school district is allowed to decide how much of the teacher’s pensions they will pick up. Thus, it varies from district to district. Where my daughter teaches, the district pays 4% and the teacher pays 6%. Where my friend in Lake County teaches, the district picks up the entire tab. Also, teachers (and administrators) often receive a bump in salary the last four years of their employment so that their retirement is higher. Again, its a district by district thing. And who pays the district’s portion? The state pays a large part of it, but they have no say in how it is handled locally.


  31. - Griz - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 3:13 pm:

    Stop all the political rhetoric.

    Nobody gets more than 50K annually including medical. Cap the pension. The big dogs get the biggest bite put a muzzle on them. Nobody deserves a public pension over 100K a year. Throw out the perks, the part timers, the politicos and the union bosses. See how much is left.

    The majority of education dollars downstate are tax dollars. They will be shifted to pay for pensions and who will lose? the students. Fewer teachers, no books, crumbling buildings. We should all be ashamed for even thinking this is a solution.

    When in trouble beat the sick and the impoverished over the head and throw them in the street. If you want to save big money go after medicaid and reform the medical system. How about the prison system? 80K a year retire in 20 at 80% high school diploma. 75.00 for 15 minutes of CNA’s time.

    We the people are judged by how we educate and treat the sick and imprisoned.

    We should be real Proud of what We the People have done by electing clowns and letting rats leave the ship as it sinks pockets full of gold.


  32. - TwoFeetThick - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 3:32 pm:

    @Gris

    Good plan. We’ll implement your proposals for everyone hired tomorrow going forward, as required by the Illinois Constitution. Now, what suggestions do you have that would be legal for current employees?


  33. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 3:40 pm:

    ==There are some which have a policy whereby teachers submit a letter stating they’ll early retire in X number of years and those teachers are pulled off of the normal pay scale and are instead given a significantly greater % increase in those reaining years that puts them well ahead of where they otherwise would be for retiring at that same time.==

    @Titan,
    Are you sure about that? What districts? I’ve never seen a lane set aside for teachers with higher salary levels based on impending retirement; lanes are set at education/degree levels. I’ve also never heard of a situation where teachers were allowed to jump 4 or 5 steps in one year. Perhaps the teachers in these districts you refer to took non-union lead/administrative positions instead. No union contract I’ve ever seen supported what you’re describing.


  34. - Irish - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 4:00 pm:

    Wensica @3:40 pm - I totally agree. 16 years as a board member and three times Pres. never saw or heard of anything like that.


  35. - titan - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 4:07 pm:

    Wensicia - It is exactly as I described in at least a couple of the nicer suburban school districts that I’m aware of.
    Teachers (not going to any sort of administrative or extra duty arrangement) as an “early retirement” deal inform the district a few years ahead of reitrement, and then get a % increase in pay each of those years outside of the normal steps of education/tenure pay levels.


  36. - Judgment Day - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 4:20 pm:

    “Cutting the state contribution to pensions will cut schools, not raise taxes. Most downstate schools are tax capped. That means without repealing PTELL, schools will have to find the money without raising taxes.”

    Ok, a very tiny primer on PTELL…

    Tax Caps in IL (outside of the collars and Cook) are a local voter (referendum) issue. In the collars and Cook, they are state mandated.

    Basically, any tax district which is subject to PTELL (Tax Cap) has to deal with the following ‘rules’ (and many more):
    1) A tax district (local schools, in the example) prepares an annual budget, which is then broken down into the appropriate ‘Funds’. A Typical example includes:

    Grades 1 through 12 (Unit School district)
    [See 105 ILCS 5/17-2, 5/17-2.2, 5/17-3;
    DOR Fund Code 002]
    1.84% - for the 1988-89 school year and thereafter. Subject to backdoor referendum, as to portion of rate in excess of rate permitted on 7-9-57. May be increased to 4.00% by referendum; the time period is not less than 3 nor more than 10 years, or for an unlimited period.

    Link is: http://tax.illinois.gov/publications/LocalGovernment/PTAX-60.pdf

    It’s not uncommon for a single school district to have 10-15 different funds, and a number of additional separate bonded indebtedness issues.

    School districts (actually, almost all different types of local governments) have various funds (and associated tax rates) they can implement, but under PTELL, implementation is tightly controlled by both a required referendum and annual increase limitations.

    Now, what PTELL does do in these economic downturns is create a stable base amount of money (term used most often is “extensions”) for tax capped tax districts (for example, PTELL provides for a capped district to get an amount equal to the highest of the prior 3 years previous extension for all the ‘capped’ funds (+ any CPI adjustment, plus any new construction additions provided for under the statutes).

    Btw, last year, the CPI rate was 2.7% (1.0270), this next year’s tax bills will be based upon 1.5% (1.0150). The link is: http://www.ilparks.org/resource/resmgr/legal_resources/2011_cpi_information.pdf

    So, what it means in actual dollars is that if the highest extension for your Education fund was $5,000,000.00 in any of the last 3 years, and the state certified CPI was 1.1%, then your new max. extension amount can be $5,000,000 x 1.0110 =
    $5,055,000.00, of a maximum increase of $55,000.00 cash for the new budget year for your Education fund.

    What it comes down to is that unless the legislation transferring the teacher pension funding responsibility also provides local governments to treat such transferred expenditures as an allowable exception under PTELL, then most, if not virtually all school districts are likely going to be 100% out of the eduction business, and strictly into the teacher pension funding business.

    Actually, if the legislature doesn’t provide for some sort of add-on local financial methodology, this whole mess has real potential for the overnight creation of a statewide private school system, along with a vast increase in home schooling.


  37. - SAP - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 4:21 pm:

    Fair Share–The tax “swap” was a tax increase that was arguably larger than GRT. It had a large income tax increase, a new service tax, a new tax on retirement income over $50,000 offset by a very small property tax decrease.


  38. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 4:49 pm:

    Not to get in the weeds with Rich over history, but I’d argue that the best opportunities for enacting a tax swap came in the 1998 general election, 2002 dem primary, and 2006 general.

    Poshard almost certainly would have signed the swap. He was defeated by the defection of Chicagoland “progressives.”

    Vallas almost certainly would have not only signed the swap, but would also have had the chance. Ironically, the CTU and IFT backed Rod.

    And I think that Topinka probably would have signed it too…unlike Rod, she certainly left the door wide open. The CTU and IFT, despite getting the shaft from Rod for four years, endorsed him again.

    And let’s not forget Daley, who despite being “for” a tax swap, devoted precious little resources or political capital to getting it done.

    Those who do not fully understand history often learn the wrong lessons.


  39. - Sue - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 4:49 pm:

    Maybe just Maybe the IEA will wake up and see that pensions are beginning to starve the classroom just as people have been predicting would happen- The IEA will have to decide whether it wants to promote education as it claims it does or wants to promote bankrupting local school districts by going along with a transfer of the pension obligation onto the locals- Illinois cannot afford to continue to spend as much as it wants on classroom expenses(teachers, books, etc) unless it finally is willing to tackle the benefit expense of retired educators


  40. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 4:53 pm:

    @TwoFeetThick

    Current Teachers

    Teacher lump sum pay for early retirement. Split with district. Less years service lower long term pay out. Reduction in long term benefit retirement for early out.
    Produces cash at buy out for state. Oh, we have that, just not using it ERO!


  41. - Rod - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 5:20 pm:

    I agree with Rich the idea of funding reform for education in Illinois is now off the table unless litigation forces it to happen, which I doubt. The evolving position on having school districts become the responsible party alone with teachers for funding pensions throws a knife in the heart of the Chicago Public Schools survival strategy.

    That strategy involved getting the state to help fund the seperate teachers pension fund for Chicago to a greater degree. That too is now off the table and will in one year, because of legislation allowing CPS to limit payments to its pension fund, begin to create yet another funding crisis for CPS. Yet another nightmare for the Civic Federation to write a report on!


  42. - TwoFeetThick - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 5:54 pm:

    @Anon 4:53

    Early retirement will get you something in savings. A few million, maybe. Heck, for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s wildly successful and it saves $500 million. That still doesn’t get anywhere near what is necessary. And, early retirement initiatives can be too successful, causing problems on their own (see George Ryan’s last one, for example, which not only cost way more than predicted, but also decimated State government’s institutional knowledge).


  43. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 6:20 pm:

    @Sue -

    I’m no apologist for the teacher’s unions, as my above post makes clear.

    Look at the school report cards and you’ll see that it is ADMINISTRATIVE expenses that are eating up classroom dollars.

    And before anyone else makes any more uninformed claims, Chicago’s administrative expenses are below the state average.

    But, to paraphrase Supt Brizzard “our administrators suck.”

    Go through the administrative offices of your own school district and its probably a Who’s Who of sports coaches and former mediocre teachers who were smart enough to pucker up to the right behinds and land a nice desk job.

    Show me a great school and I’ll show you a great principal who demands and supports excellence.

    Show me a failing school and I’ll show you a failing administration.


  44. - Hawkeye - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 8:01 pm:

    Indiana is looking better and better.


  45. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 9:35 pm:

    @Hawkeye -

    Clearly, you haven’t been to Indiana lately.

    The Indianapolis Children’s Museum is their saving grace.

    Aside from that, they haven’t even been in the NCAA finals for a decade.


  46. - Snozberry - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 10:16 pm:

    Good points about any district TRS payments not counting under PTELL, just like construction bonds currently are. The issue is that many districts are in an unsustainable position - currently about 85% of every $1 in my district goes to cover payroll. Yet we are under the state average for spending per student. Add any TRS required payments and we will have to start the pink slips flying and cutting non required programs. I also expect to see cuts in transportation and payments for full day kindergarden.


  47. - frustrated GOP - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 11:03 pm:

    Interesting, I wonder what the small districts that are mostly crop land are going to do. NO school district is going to afford this hit without raising taxes a lot (which many won’t be able to do) or by reducing programs and raising fees.
    This can be a 10%-15% increase in expenses on schools that already aren’t getting paid from the State and unless there is enough non-residential isn’t taking in enough locally to pay for the students they are educating.

    This simply isn’t going to work
    BTW, if this does come to pass does that mean the school board get a majority on the TRS Board? Just wondering.


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