Imagine the frustration at the World’s Greatest Newspaper.
- You issue one editorial after another blasting public employees for the state’s pension mess;
- You attack teachers for using their voices to preserve education quality in Chicago, Lake Forest, Highland Park, Evergreen Park and elsewhere;
- You have the mayor of the state’s largest city pounding on his town’s teachers and demanding a more intense attack on public pensions;
- You insist the state, which has never adequately funded education, further damage schools by shifting the state’s pension costs to local districts, many of which are barely getting by financially.
You work so hard to demonize public employees and scare the public into accepting bad pension legislation and what do you get for your trouble?
Illinois voters overwhelmingly blame politicians for creating the state’s public employee pension mess, but like elected officials, they’re divided about plans to fix the problem, a new Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll shows.
The survey also found that Downstate and suburban residents oppose a major push by Democrats including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn to gradually shift the costs of teacher retirement benefits on to local school districts outside Chicago.
The Chicago Tribune’s new poll on the public’s attitude on public pensions indicated a lack of support for the proposal targeting both active employees and retirees.
Under that plan, workers and retirees could choose to forgo an annual compounded 3 percent cost-of-living increase to their pension in exchange for being able to have access to the state’s health insurance program. Workers and pensioners who choose to keep the cost-of-living increase would have to find their own health insurance.
Emanuel has noted that the compounded cost-of-living increase has been a large factor in driving up the unfunded pension liability.
The poll found that 32 percent of the state’s voters favored the plan, while 35 percent opposed it — within the survey’s 3.7 percentage-point margin of error. Another 33 percent of voters didn’t know enough about the proposal to take a side.
The TRIB poll confirms what was learned from the IEA poll taken in August that showed that the public isn’t hostile toward teacher pensions, that the public understands the teachers aren’t to blame and that retirees ought to get their pensions.
Respondents in both surveys overwhelmingly blame politicians rather than public workers for the pension problem. This holds true across all demographics in both surveys.
Blame for pension deficit in IEA poll
Blame for pension deficit in Chicago Tribune poll
The surveys used slightly different question wording. We asked respondents whether they thought “Gov. Quinn, the Illinois legislature or the teachers and college faculty” were “mostly to blame for most of the current pension systems deficit.” The Chicago Tribune poll asked whether the blame for the failed pension system should be placed on “public workers, state politicians, both or neither.” While the wording may be different, the intent and opinion of the voters certainly is not.
Ads help define education employees
The public supports teachers because voters, based on their own experiences as students or as parents of students, believe that teachers have the best interests of their students at heart.
The more that the public is reminded that teachers are committed to student success, the greater the support for education and for the goals of teachers, as identified and pursued by their union.
For several years, the IEA Representative Assembly has funded an advocacy media program. The latest radio ad, featuring Illinois Teacher of the Year Josh Stumpenhorst, is part of that program.
IEA members appear to understand the connection between having a good reputation and successful advocacy; more than $2500 has been donated to the Advocacy Media Program by members and IEA supporters this year.
Other aspects of the advocacy media program include an increasing IEA presence on Facebook and other social media sites.
It is crucial that IEA members share widely their stories about what’s happening in their schools. Every local should have a communications program that helps ensure the public hears about the work being done for students all year round, not just at contract time or when there is a crisis.
As we always tell members, “Define yourself, or be defined by your opponents.” Tools on the website can help local members tell their stories.
The IEA Communications Department also offers on-site training. Anyone interested should contact his or her UniServ director.