SPRINGFIELD – Educators from around the state carried file boxes filled with signed petitions to the Illinois State Capitol building today asking lawmakers to repeal the 3 percent threshold on pensionable teacher salaries before they leave Springfield and help preserve the profession.
Teachers from Geneva, Rock Island, Carbondale, Triad and Aurora as well as a faculty member from Illinois State University came to Springfield to share their stories about how the 3 percent threshold is hurting students and staff in each of their schools.
Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association, said this issue isn’t just about the educators in the schools and universities, it is also about the students.
“This has a direct impact on students. When you don’t have enough people going into the profession, it hurts students. When teachers can’t afford to take extra classes to hone their craft, it harms students. When class sections go unfilled, students lose. When you can’t pay someone to coach football or direct the school play or write curriculum during the summer, it’s our students who suffer.”
Last year, deep within the budget implementation bill, lawmakers passed a provision that limited bumps in salary to 3 percent for members of the Teachers’ Retirement System and State Universities Retirement System for those in the last 10 years of their career, unless the employer wanted to pick up the excess pension cost. The threshold had been 6 percent prior to that. IEA is asking the 6 percent be restored.
This law unfairly penalizes veteran educators and significantly reduces lifetime earnings for all teachers. Because educators can qualify for a pension after five years and can leave their school district or higher ed employer at any time, employers are now arguing for a 3 percent limit on all salary increases across the entire contract, creating havoc in districts negotiating new contracts.
“Our students are missing out on working with experienced, talented staff members in our schools. When it comes to coaching sports and other extras the district is bringing in less qualified people to fill those rolls rather than violate the 3 percent threshold,” Geneva Education Association President Kevin Gannon said. “And the same goes for substitute teachers. This law is handcuffing our teachers and preventing them from taking on extra opportunities to serve our kids.”
Andrew Frey, president of the Triad Education Association, shared the story of a teacher who had been with the district four years, received excellent ratings who left to go back to school for nursing after this passed.
“It broke my heart. She was a great teacher. With low pay and uncertain retirement, you can leave to do something else where you can still do good in the world and also feed your family.”
The others participating in the press conference were Annette Jaynes, president of the Carbondale Education Association; Andrew Frey, president of Triad Education Association; Kevin Gannon, president of the Geneva Education Association; Sandra Fuller, Aurora Education Association-West; Jarrin Williams, Rock Island Education Association and Ben Stiers, incoming president of the Illinois State University Education Association.
The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.