Harper: Governor Not Hearing District's Message on Pensions
Despite Dist. 202 making a personal plea to not shift pension payments to school district, Gov. Pat Quinn either "didn’t understand or didn’t care," superintendent says.
We start the 2012-13 school year with same high hopes and expectations for great teaching and learning for all of our students that makes our schools so strong and vibrant.
However, we also begin the year with the same financial challenge which has plagued us for the last several years: unreliable state funding.
Unfortunately, to make matters worse, Gov. Quinn wants to shift teacher pension payments, which the state now pays, to local school districts to help clean up the state’s own financial mess.
Shifting teacher pensions to local districts would cost Plainfield School District 202 $10 million or more each year. District 202 is doing everything we can to keep this from happening.
In July, a group of suburban educators and elected officials including District 202 Board of Education President Roger Bonuchi and I met with Governor Quinn and several state legislative leaders to show the governor how shifting teacher pensions would impact us.
We told the governor:
- The recession has already hit our district very hard through declining property values and rising numbers of impoverished families needing more services;
- We routinely lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in school fees that families cannot or do not pay;
- We’ve already lost millions of dollars in state aid because of shifting formulas and inadequate state revenues;
- We’ve already cut nearly 350 full-time teaching, support and administrative positions to save more than $42 million since 2009;
- Another $10 million in expenses would force us to cut dozens more positions, radically alter our educational program or both.
And, we emphasized that (contrary to what the governor seems to believe) District 202 does not have tens of millions of dollars sitting in reserves as do some wealthier districts, none of which experienced the astounding growth that we did in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In short, the governor didn’t understand, or didn’t care.
He listened politely, and then reiterated that shifting teacher pensions is the best option to reduce Illinois’s debt.
The fact is, shifting teacher pension to the local school districts will severely hurt our students and families. What’s more, simply moving the pension obligation to the local school districts does nothing to actually fix the pension system, which is significantly broken.
Please contact your state officials, including the governor’s office and urge them to actually fix the broken teacher pension system once and for all so that the state can truly improve its financial problems.
Meanwhile, we will continue to work with our state representatives to try to convince the governor to not put the burden of the state’s fiscal problems on the backs of our children.
Best wishes for a successful 2012-13 school year. Together, we will continue to prepare learners for the future.