CHICAGO (CBS) — Citizen advocates have called for changes in a state law allowing local school boards to use big pay raises to boost the pensions of retiring teachers.

The Chicago Tribune has reported several school districts paid their educators and administrators higher salaries as they neared retirement, allowing them to leave with enhanced pensions. Those districts have paid penalties for providing pay hikes larger than 6 percent by sending additional wire transfers to the Teachers’ Retirement System to cover the higher pensions.

Roger Eddy, director of the Illinois Association of School Boards, said most districts have been trying to follow the 2005 pension law designed to govern early retirement options.

“I think, in most of these cases, folks thought they were operating under what they believed the intent of the legislation to be, and then were a little surprised by it. I’m not going to say that’s in all the cases, because maybe some of them just said, ‘Hey, look, this is the best person for the job. We want to hire the best person.’ And then, for whatever circumstances that might arise in someone’s life, that person retired,” he said.

Maryam Judar, executive director of the Citizen Advocacy Center, said a big problem is almost all such personnel matters are decided behind closed doors.

“If these exorbitant wire transfers and payments are being made outside of the public eye, something’s got to change, because these are the exact type of government decisions that the public should know about,” she said.

The Tribune reports the governor has proposed changing the relevant pension law to restrict salary hikes for retiring teachers to no more than the rate of inflation.