May cancel Journal subscription after knock on teachers

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Rosemary Muller, One View

Dear Mr. Haley,

I think you are a great journalist and Wednesday Journal is a better paper than the Tribune. My husband and I canceled our subscription to the Tribune after 30 years, however, because of the paper's editorial policy on the pensions for state workers - especially those greedy, overpaid, underworked scapegoats de jour, teachers. The criticism of teachers and lament over the unfunded pension "promises" in your editorial [One school district - not ours - ends invisible 'step' pay hikes, Dan Haley, Aug. 11] were unwarranted and misplaced. Teachers and their unions are not responsible for the disastrous condition of the Illinois public pensions. You can place the blame squarely on the state and you, the taxpayer.

The public retirement plans have accrued a huge deficit because, for over 30 years, the state has illegally failed to fully fund the pensions, while teachers have faithfully continued to contribute 7 to 8.5 percent of their salaries for entire careers. Members of TRS (the pension plan for elementary and high school teachers) and SURS (the pension plan for state university and college teachers) were not allowed to pay into Social Security. If teachers held supplementary jobs to support their families, where they paid into Social Security, they are unable to receive their full share of retirement benefits because, except in rare cases, their public pensions will be decreased by the amount they collect from Social Security.

You may wonder why you, the beleaguered taxpayer (as if teachers do not pay state taxes), are liable for the state's raiding and underfunding of teacher pensions. You are responsible because, for the last 30 years, you were unwilling to raise the Illinois state income tax, or any other tax for that matter. You were able to avoid paying fair taxes because the state illegally plugged holes in its budgets and paid for programs by using the money that should have gone to pension funding. The state stole money from the teacher pensions to pay for programs, demanded by you the taxpayer, without asking you to contribute to the cost of the services you enjoyed. Who paid for those services? Teachers did, with money that was intended to fund their hard-earned pensions. How would you like it if the state garnished funds from your retirement plan to offset the cost of roads and other public services that you did not fund with your taxes? That kind of contract impairment, forbidden by the Illinois and federal constitution, would create a public outcry, but you seem to think it is fine to make teachers pay for public services enjoyed by all residents of the state.

Have you ever been a teacher, Mr. Haley? I was, for 10 years, before I graduated from law school in 1985. I have been a lawyer for 25 years, and I can tell you which job is more difficult: teaching. Teachers in this country have never been accorded the respect or status they deserve. To many Americans, teachers are nothing but the county's babysitters for working parents. Workers in private industries routinely get annual raises, profit sharing or bonuses, which are the equivalent of the step increases to which you refer in your editorial. The contractual raises, granted by local school districts, do not generally increase teacher salaries across the board, in addition to their annual step raises. The raises granted by school districts typically increase the dollar amount paid at each step. You contend that teachers are paid for "breathing and standing upright," a stinging indictment based completely on your own ill-informed opinion. I challenge you to teach for a day or two at OPRF, just "breathing and standing upright." The experience would educate and enlighten you, and may eliminate your penchant to reach for the facile quip, rather than research your subject matter, which I thought journalists were supposed to do.

Goldman Sachs, AIG and a host of Wall Street profiteers plunged us into this recession, and as remuneration for their conduct, they paid themselves outlandish bonuses. Are these tycoons, who invented arcane ways to leverage American wealth and reap unsustainable profits, vilified for their conduct? Actually, most were financially rewarded for it. Teachers, on the other hand, who are entrusted with children's welfare, are practically hung in effigy.

I am bitterly disappointed at your ill-considered criticism of teachers, and maybe our subscription to Wednesday Journal will have to go the way of our subscription to the Tribune. You owe teachers in this and other communities an apology. You also owe them some money.

 - Rosemary Muller is a River Forest resident, former teacher for 10 years and lawyer for 25 years.

Reader Comments

31 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Kpost  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 8:44 PM

@Brian. You activated the post and brought it to the top of the comment list. how exactly did you dig up a 3 year old thread? You would have to be searching for somewhere to leave your link. so lets keep it local, you say Illinoiz has the money and they are saying they don't?

Brian from Addiaon  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 8:22 PM

Amazing! After 2 years and 4 months of zero comments, two other commentators immediately post to cover up my enlightening info about widespread government fraud involving pension funds, which shows how there's plenty of money siphoned away which could be for ALL taxpayers benefit, especially the teachers who are relying on it in lieu of social security. Watch 'The CAFR Swindle' by Jerry Day on Youtue for brief breakdown, unless you enjoy being divided.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 6:03 PM

cont. We put in close to the same amount as you into SS (we paid in for 12 months). But the max payout is $30,000/yr. Most will receive much less. Yet, you want what you were promised, so do we. But we aren't going to get it either. You want my sympathy, sorry but our finances are a smidgeon of what you are getting and still want to increase upon, or what, you are going to strike. Shame on you.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 5:58 PM

Unionized teachers just don't get it. The economy has changed. I for one who will be entitled to SS. have been told since I was 20 not to depend on it in retirement because the money is not there. I don't get to double my benefits on my last couple of years of work and I will be entitled to Medicare which is running out of money. No matter what the legislature has done (it's a crime), the money is NOT there. You can keep raising what you will receive but the money will still NOT BE THERE.

realitysux  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 2:42 PM

Ignorance is supoporting public pensions while badmouthing thje idea of privatizing social security, allowing private ss accounts to invest in stocks and bonds, and claiming private equity and hedge funds are evil. The largest private equity investor in the country is the california public pension plan so it is ironic that public unions are the largest backers of the evil job killers.

Brian from Addison  

Posted: July 18th, 2013 12:16 PM

Watch "The Great Pension Fund Hoax" by Clint Richardson on Youtube, specifically starting from 56min-40s, where he breaks down the actual Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) of the Illinois TRS system and shows how the fund's investments are doing quite, quite well (though the well-deserved teachers will never see the full benefit because of the crooked setup). See the actual numbers for yourself and decide how you feel about the situation, and who's really being taken advantage of.

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 11:20 PM

Great example of misdirection. Is it factual? Yes. Does it represent the facts? No. Less than 20 minutes to skew the number lower so it would appeal to sympathetic voters. No retraction or clarification.

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:51 PM

@More info. Did I miss your point? I think I may have b/c I don't understand your reference in 2010.

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 2:57 PM

@Correct. That is also true. However, in 2010 only 3 of the 70 staffers with 25 years of service did NOT hold a Masters degree. Since we have real numbers we should use those. I'd would have been nice to see the example using d97 numbers.

More info from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 1:59 PM

@Correct Info: That's true for teachers with masters degrees. But in the interest of full disclosure for teachers without masters the range at 25 years is around $62,500-$67,500.

Correct Info  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 1:41 PM

FYI - the current teachers salary schedule has teacher with 25 years of experience making salaries of over $85,000 to over $97,000. For all salaries steps go to http://www.op97.org/job/cert10-11.html

Oh really? from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 9:40 PM

@Really: you do know that only one of the companies you reference is based in Chicago, right? (And, yes, I know that Google has an office in Chicago, but I would hardly consider Google to be a major employer of people residing in Oak Park.) Setting aside the current tech bubble, are you seriously suggesting that big raises, bonuses, and profit sharing are the norm in the private sector these days?

Really? from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 6:47 PM

@pmmedo: If you worked at Google, Groupon, Facebook, Apple or any other of dozens of highly successful tech businesses you'd be getting big raises, bonuses and profit sharing. Maybe you're just stuck in the wrong job.

What??? from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 6:02 PM

@Tellingitlikeitis: "D97 colluded with the union..." What?! For what gain? Aren't the D97 board members taxpayers just like you and I are? I'd assume D97 board members are smart, dedicated citizens acting in what they think is the best interest of the community. You're suggesting otherwise?

TellingItLikeItIs  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 3:54 PM

@Stick - The fact is up until last year, D97 colluded with the union to inflate retiring teacher's salaries by 20% annually for several years prior to retirement for the express purpose of inflating pensions. A 20% increase over 4 years amounts to 207%. Granted, reformers finally wrestled this boondoggle down to 6% in 2010. Still, after years of being told that pension inflation was simply "business as usual", it shouldn't be hard to understand the taxpayers' continuing skepticism.

pmmedo@gmail.com from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 10:41 AM

"Workers in private industries routinely get annual raises, profit sharing or bonuses, which are the equivalent of the step increases to which you refer in your editorial." Now that is an anachronism. Workers USED to get annual raises. That is no longer true. As for profit sharing and bonuses... those have been reduced or eliminated. Reality is that it is irrational to expect taxpayers to contribute more from dwindling earnings. They simply don't have the money.

Stick to Facts from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 8:12 AM

@Taxpayer from Oak Park: I am not sure about your math. A teacher who retires with 30 years at a 5-year average salary of $75,000 would hypothetically receive a pension of about $50,000. With the retirement incentive that average increases to about $85,000 and the pension to $56,000. Lots of teachers retire at less than those salary levels, however. And also remember that the teachers pay about 10% of their salaries into the retirement system.

vttk17a1 from Orland Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 7:46 AM

Why is it greedy to expect to be paid what you have earned? If the state had paid in what workers had actually earned, there would be nothing to discuss because the pension would be fully funded and solvent. What benefits are received would not matter. The big payouts, by the way, go to administrators, not teachers. They are the ones gaming the system and they pay nothing in themselves. We, the taxpayers pay it for them on top of their salaries.

Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 5:12 AM

@OP Resident: So, because bankers and investment company head honchos got lots of money, it's time for everyone else to line up? I don't support what happened with bank bailouts, and I don't support the lavish retirements to which teachers and other public servants apparently feel they are entitled. Sanity must be restored...and using bailed out bankers as the new benchmark for accountability is wrong and hurts us all. Your "feeding at the trough" mentality sickens me.

Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 5:05 AM

@stick to the facts: I just used the math you laid out. Assume a teacher makes $75K per year, and then is bumped up. By your formula, just because they are retiring they go from $75K up to about $95K by their final year. Assuming 30 years of service, this makes their pension increase by over $300K and their salary over those 5 years over $50K, costing taxpayers well over $400K for one teacher retirement. Now multiply that by thousands of teachers and you have the current crisis.

Stick to Facts from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 4:05 PM

@OPRF: Please, let's stick to facts: The retirement incentive most recently offered by D97 provides a 6% increase in each of the retiree's last 4 years. Depending on where that teacher falls on the salary scale that's a minor to a modest incentive. Pension is based on an average of the last 5 years of pay-- times 2.2% (roughly) times the number of years worked. No salaries are doubled; no pensions are doubled.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 2:21 PM

"Annual pay should be based on salary surveys, bonus awarded for doing things VERY well above the average and all MUST directly be linked to overall School performance." Yes, just like the bankers and investment company head honchos salaries were based on their overall performance. We bailed them out and they received millions in bonuses for screwing up and for screwing the country over. Glad that public service teachers must be held more accountable than those making millions and billions

OPRF  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 2:01 PM

@ Ms. Muller private workers Do NOT routinely get a Bonus or Raises. Sometimes but NOT routinely. The only thing that is Routine is the Teachers Union that makes it next to impossible to fire a bad teacher, and for doubling the final year's salary so their annual pension can be doubled! Heath care paid in retirement, come on now. Annual pay should be based on salary surveys, bonus awarded for doing things VERY well above the average and all MUST directly be linked to overall School performance

Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 11:36 AM

Interesting and passionate letter. So, it seems like you're trying to say that because there were people on Wall Street plundering and making millions, everything that hard-working teachers do is okay. I'm neither a robber-baron nor a union member....and frankly, both groups disgust me with their greed. There are many great teachers....and many not-so-great. Let's be careful with generalizations, but support those who do right by our children REGARDLESS of what they get paid.

Cathy Malone from Plainfield  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 11:18 AM

Thank you so much for taking the time to defend our profession and for doing it in a succinct and eloquent manner.

OPer  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 8:02 PM

Thank you for this letter.

JC  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 7:22 PM

"How Wall Street Crooks Evaded Jail" by Matt Taibbi in the current issue of Rolling Stone is a "must read". On the flip side of this discussion, I married a 4th grade teacher & one of my kids teaches at OP-RF. I've seen firsthand how much time and energy both devote to their students. Too often without strong support from parents and administrators. The recent ratcheting up of criticism has been tough on them. Every profession has some bad eggs. Doctors, bus drivers, lawyers and pizza makers.

sandy greenham from lockport  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 5:54 PM

Thank you for your message of truth.

Marilyn Vonch from Lockport  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 12:44 PM

Thank you, Rosemary Muller, for setting the record straight.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 1:20 PM

Excellent letter. Thank you for pointing out what others are blind to see. Your first-hand experience is valuable in the current argument going on in Oak Park re: the referendum. Unfortunately, the teachers are taking the brunt of the negative conversation there too. Thank you for taking the time to write and send this letter.

Lu from Oak Lawn  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 12:12 PM

Thank you for the response to those who can't and don't research and take the easy route and scapegoating the usual--teachers! Your comments on the underfunded pensions and that the constitutional obligation on the part of the state has been used for other purposes, a tactic no other pension fund would have tolerated. I especially want to thank you for pointing out the disrespect expressed toward teachers in this country. And people want to know why no one wants to go into teaching!