With 49 elementary schools set to close this summer, and the district facing an additional $412 million in pension costs, the Chicago Teachers Union estimated hundreds – if not thousands – of teachers could be laid off to reduce district spending.
Public school administrators told lawmakers Thursday that some local districts would have to raise property taxes if legislators vote to have them cover the cost of teacher pensions.
Faced with an employee pension crisis that could become his biggest challenge, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he is putting his full force behind getting lawmakers in Springfield to achieve an overhaul of the state’s pension systems.
Gov. Pat Quinn and the state’s four legislative leaders remained split on how to fix the state’s severely underfunded public pension systems, though the governor did signal a shift in philosophy regarding teacher pensions.
The chances of making major reforms to the state’s public pension systems appear to be dead in Springfield, at least for now.
Prospects for pension reform in Illinois improved measurably late Wednesday night, when House Speaker Mike Madigan dropped his proposal to make public schools and state universities pay retirement costs for their employees, rather than the state.
Suburban school districts are pushing back hard against a 2005 state law that was meant to rein in Illinois’ skyrocketing pension costs.
A conservative think tank has proposed an alternative state budget that would cut wages for state employees by 10 percent; require retired workers to pay for their own health care premiums; and force local school districts to fund teacher pensions, instead of the state.