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Special stipend for state school chief

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* The Chicago Tribune has uncovered a unique stipend for state school Superintendent Tony Smith

Smith, a recent transplant from California who was Rauner’s choice for state school superintendent, by law was placed in the Tier II [state pension] plan, just like most educators hired after Jan. 1, 2011.

State Board of Education spokesman Matt Vanover said Smith’s exact stipend has not been calculated, but it is intended to match retirement benefits provided to his predecessor, who was a member of the more generous Tier I plan of the Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois, known as TRS.

“The board … decided to structure the contract so that the payment to Dr. Smith would be the same amount as if he were a Tier 1 employee,” Vanover said in an email to the Tribune.

Such a stipend came as a surprise to Steve Grossman, president of the Skokie-based North Suburban Teachers Union as well as a member of the state’s Teacher Recruiting and Retention Task Force, which is examining the Tier II plan and its effects on the education workforce.

Already, Tier II educators “feel like they’re being treated as second class citizens,” Grossman said.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - CharlieKratos - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:47 am:

    Hypocrisy as a governing strategy. Interesting approach.

  2. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:47 am:

    Remember, it’s only corrupt when it’s “other” people.

  3. - AnonymousOne - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:48 am:

    Special rules for special people…..Rauner will take care of those deemed “worthy.” No hypocrisy in that, is there?

  4. - PublicServant - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:50 am:

    You’re my bud, so you get the equivalent of Tier 1 benefits even though you began work for the state after tier 2 for “everyone” went into effect, because we know tier2 bennie’s are pathetic, so, you, my superstar, get the old bennie level.

  5. - No Longer A Lurker - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:52 am:

    If Tier II is good enough for all the other new hires why isn’t it good enough for Smith? Unbelievable.

  6. - Juvenal - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:52 am:

    Wow, StatehouseChick.

    Something to say about THIS on your editorial page, right?

  7. - Ducky LaMoore - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:53 am:

    committee of the whole, anyone?

  8. - Bulldog58 - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:54 am:

    It doesn’t help that this is ‘outed’ the morning after Rauner dumps a 500 page pension reform proposal that cuts benefits into the mix.

  9. - Stones - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:55 am:

    The Rauner crew’s actions speak louder than the rhetoric.

    BTW, I wouldn’t call Tony Smith a “superstar” hire. He left Oakland, CA under less than favorable circumstances.

  10. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:55 am:

    At least Smith didn’t have to call Arne Duncan after not “qualifying”…

    Does it make it more difficult to “sell” that Tier II is ok when the Governor’s appointee gets special treatment go forgo Tier II?

    The other side is if the predecessor was Tier I, why not have the new appointee as close to that tier if you can’t put them there?

    For me, weighing to predecessor precedent, but the “hidden” aspect, it could’ve been handled better. Not “great” optics.

    @TribTowerChick - read my column how I’m mad about uncovering a Rauner non-story, oh, and blame Madigan for it too #ReadEditorialsSkipRealNews

  11. - Joe M - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:57 am:

    I hope the teacher’s unions highlight this and don’t let up - especially if Rauner tries to push his new pension ideas. A General Assembly hearing might be in order too.

  12. - JS Mill - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:57 am:

    I am just dyin’ to here the explanation from the governor or his team on this one. Incredible hypocrisy. There is no excuse, especially since this had to be “discovered” and wasn’t explained upfront. A new low.

  13. - Downstate GOP Faithless - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:01 am:

    It seems with each passing day, Gov. Rauner is acting more like the long time inside guy. I don’t have an issue with that so much, except that you can’t play outsider and do these things.

  14. - GA Watcher - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:02 am:

    I can already hear the response: we’ll soon see that this additional stipend will be worth every penny as we witness Mr. Smith exhibit the superstar qualities he brings to his position.

  15. - Luggie - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:05 am:

    Another example of how the Rauner administration’s governing philosophy is firmly based on classism. Different rules apply depending on what class they determine you belong in.

  16. - Juvenal - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:07 am:

    Let’s not forget, StateHouseChick:

    This guy was hired without a national search, the only candidate considered and interviewed based on Rauner’s recommendation.

  17. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:08 am:

    “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” The thought process of Governor Rauner.

  18. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:11 am:

    Isn’t the point of Tier II the reality that pension benefits of the past 50 years are unaffordable and cannot be given anymore.
    So what makes him special?

  19. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:11 am:

    @TribTowerChick - tired of waste in national searches for qualified people? Me too. Rauner made me a believer #RaunerCronyismIsACrock

  20. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:12 am:

    The Administration discovered that its policies don’t work, but instead of facing the facts and changing, decides to work around their own policies and then pretend that they do.

    It is beyond hypocrisy. It is maladministration on many levels.

  21. - Aldyth - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:13 am:

    Do as I say, not as I do.

  22. - Name/Nickname/Anon - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:13 am:

    Is he paying the additional contributions that he would have to pay if he were Tier 1?

  23. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:19 am:

    According to Tribune, he isn’t even paying into TRS, ISBE is paying it for him.

  24. - slow down - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:21 am:

    This tells you all you need to know about the Rauner administration. They will do everything they can to lower the wages and benefits of the working class people of this state in the name of making the state more competitive for business, all the while taking care of themselves for gracing us with their presence in state government.

  25. - Concerned Observer - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:22 am:

    Charlie Pierce has it right. Today’s “Republicans” can be summed up in four words:

    “I Got Mine, Jack.”

  26. - thunderspirit - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:24 am:

    In the words of Claude Rains: I’m shocked — SHOCKED — to find that gambling is going on in this establishment.

  27. - Norseman - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:25 am:

    The hypocrisy has been well addressed by others. I’m curious as to how they end up calculating this stipend.

    To JS Mill, I suspect the answer to your question is that they will say Smith is a superstar who is doing battle with the corrupt union bosses intent on protecting the political class who are bilking the taxpayers. So it’s ok to charge the taxpayers with an extra stipend that we’ll deny ordinary state workers.

  28. - vole - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:29 am:

    bu … bu … but … exceptional people deserve exceptional pay and benefits! Just how Rauner, Inc. works.

  29. - JS Mill - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:29 am:

    @OW- if I read your first post correctly, you are ok with Smith’s package being tied to his predecessors? I think that’s works fine (not great) except for pensions. His boss has railed against pensions and made reducing pensions a key point. He failed to get in front of this issue for good reason/s.

    1- it is grossly hypocritical

    2- foolishly naive.

    If Tier 2 is good enough for everyone else it should be ok for Big Tony. Leadership by example.

  30. - Piasa - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:31 am:

    Self-perception is everything to these folks. What others percieve is irrelevant.

  31. - @MisterJayEm - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:33 am:

    Looks like the kind of insider cronyism that we’d expect from the corrupt leadership of Greece or Puerto Rico — right, @StatehouseChick? #GreeceRaunerRico

    – MrJM

  32. - Say It Ain't So!! - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:37 am:

    Someone needs to check to see if any other of Rauner’s Superstars are getting these kind of deals.

  33. - OJ - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:41 am:

    Many predicted that the lack of uniformity in retirement benefits would lead to labor strife. I believe California had a 2 Tier system until it imploded. If the boss can get a pay bump, why can’t everyone else?

  34. - Cassandra - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:41 am:

    Deeply annoying, but…is he going to be around long enough to vest in the state’s pension plan? I thought these state govt ceo types came and went rather quickly so maybe Rauner is thinking of this more like a private sector hire.

  35. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:42 am:

    - JS Mill -,

    You read correctly, and your own 2 choices are probably a fair assessment.

    I don’t condone, nor do I find the manner this was handled even remotely acceptable in the optics of just blatent gross hypocrisy.

    Where the Rauner Crew continues to fail is setting the table of “A or B”, just like yesterday. “This or that”.

    It’s not that the “deal” is so blatently hypocritical, it’s the hypocrisy of “hoping” no one finds out. For me, in this very narrow and specific instance, this is another if the “coverup worse than the crime”

    Further, “own it”, and make the case; “We, as an administration, for this position, are going to go about benefits that are as close as they were in with the previous appointee.”.

    Ok, I can “live” with that, even with the hypocrisy, because of the precedent. Not great, but ok. But, don’t “mask” your choices, to have it discovered as an obvious skirting of your own narrative.

    With respect, hope that helps.

  36. - walker - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:45 am:

    So Tier 1 pension benefits are considered part of the compensation standard to be met for all new Rauner hires? How on earth do we make progress by maintaining such retro standards?

    Another case where the education career world exists in another universe.

  37. - Norseman - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 9:58 am:

    === I believe California had a 2 Tier system until it imploded. ===

    Source please? I follow several public pension and government management sites and I’ve not seen anything like you’ve described. I have seen articles discussing how CA got out of its budget problems by making pension changes for new employees, RAISING REVENUE and making cuts.

  38. - Just Me - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 10:37 am:

    Not good for the Governor’s team, not good. Agency heads are not your CEO-pals who get huge compensation packages. They get good packages, but need to be consistent with the law and the spirit of the law. I hope Team Rauner doesn’t try to twist themselves into a justification here and instead just says, “The Governor was unaware of this arrangement, he’ll be speaking to the Chairman about it later today.”

  39. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 10:40 am:

    History repeats itself.

  40. - Newdealer - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 10:43 am:

    After much thought Gov. Rauner decided he liked his government stirred, not shaken.

  41. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 10:47 am:

    If this guy is such a superstar that he rates special treatment, why does the governor need that other big money education superstar squirreled away on the DHS budget?

  42. - Sue - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 11:40 am:

    Although I strongly am supportive of the Governors-this was just STUPID. Roll back the stipend or get the superintendent to resign

  43. - Former Merit Comp Slave - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 12:03 pm:

    That will do a lot for the governor’s crumbling creds

  44. - Chicago 20 - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 12:07 pm:

    Rauner is the epitome of an insider.

    Take a look at the back loaded MPEA debt that Rauner signed off on while he was on the MPEA Board.

    Then see that it was Rauner who is responsible for hiring Don Welsh for over $500,000 a year.

    Don Welsh just spent over $5 million on the recent 2015 NFL Draft.

    The 2015 NFL Draft had an impact on the hotel occupancy in Chicago with a .7% increase or 258 additional room nights sold for the month, when compared to the 2013 numbers.

    Chicago’s share of the hotel tax for those rooms amounts to $2,885.

    When Bruce Rauner was the Chairman of Choose Chicago he couldn’t spend enough money on tourism.

    According to Bruce Rauner it was an investment.

    “A dollar more spent by the city on marketing today generates two dollars back in city tax revenues within nine months,” Mr. Rauner said in an interview. “Not many investments double in nine months.”

    Rauner couldn’t be wronger.

  45. - D.P.Gumby - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 12:16 pm:

    So it was too much work to do an Amend. Veto for all state employees, but not too much work to do a “unique stipend” to create a Tier I pension for one state employee. Got it.

  46. - anon - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 1:40 pm:

    lets not forget that he is being paid more than his predecessor from an alternative budget!

  47. - Jasper - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 3:04 pm:


  48. - Emily Booth - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 3:41 pm:

    dysfunctional dysfunctional dysfunctional

  49. - special state employee - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 7:17 pm:

    ISBE rank and file employees have had no raises, COLAs or step increases in at least 7 years. Almost everyone hired at ISBE is currently brought in at the lowest step, and many are struggling financially on what they are paid. They are paid below the starting salary of most first year teachers with a bachelors degree. They have also been without a contract for two years. Some of the senior management, however, have received bonuses in the tens of thousands of dollars since Rauner took office. The needs of students are of the least of concern in the current culture of ISBE.

  50. - Courser - Thursday, Jul 9, 15 @ 8:23 pm:

    I wish that the governor would explain how this is different than the “corrupt bargain” that he claims the unions have been engaged for decades. Cronyism is alive and well and, as many headlines from the past several years will attest, the administration at the State Board of Education is certainly among the most corrupt in the state.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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