For years now, a small but very wealthy group, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, has been railing against public pensions. Last spring, they tried to pass a plan that would cut the pension benefits for teachers, firefighters and other public employees on the promise the plan would save taxpayer dollars.
However, the math of the Civic Committee’s plan is flawed, and the committee knows it. SB512 would have cost taxpayers more than $34 billion in additional money over the next 15 years. And it would have killed the state’s pension systems, leaving hundreds of thousands of teachers and retired teachers in a lurch.
Teachers don’t earn Social Security. For most, their pension is their life savings. And they’ve paid for it — 9.4 percent of every one of their paychecks has gone toward their retirement plan, a plan they believe is guaranteed by the state’s constitution.
As much as the Civic Committee, a group of Chicago-area millionaires, wants to blame the problems the pension systems are facing on public employees, the committee is wrong. No, it wasn’t the employees who siphoned money from the pension system. It was lawmakers.
In their zeal to end the pension system, has the Civic Committee thought about the future? If the pension system is killed off, what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of teachers who do now or will rely on it for retirement income? They have no Social Security to fall back on.
Then what? Then what will the Civic Committee do? They act as if public employees are the enemy of this state. We are not. We are representatives of the majority of working people in Illinois. We are the middle class.
We are in every community working diligently to improve our schools and to help our students. We care about the future of our students and their families, and taking away our earned retirement security sets a wrong example. We should all be working to build up the economic status of families, not tear it down.
We are not the enemy. We are Illinois.
Cinda Klickna, president
Illinois Education Association
From the Nov. 2-8, 2011, issue