by Ben VanMetre
Governor Quinn is finally talking the talk on the severity of Illinois’ pension crisis. “Based on current projections” Quinn said earlier this week, “by 2016 the state will spend more on pension contributions than education funding.”
Quinn is right. He acknowledges that pensions are eating into the education funding for our kids.
The Illinois Policy Institute spotlighted the urgency of this issue three months ago in its report Playing Favorites. The results show that contributions to the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), dedicated to suburban and downstate teachers, are on target to become the single largest education expenditure within the next five years. That’s because growth in teacher retiree costs are outpacing General State Aid for non-Chicago schools.
Money meant for the classrooms is now going to pay the retirement benefits for teachers. Just over the past five years, 71 cents from every new dollar set aside by state government for PK-12 education went to teacher retirement costs. The crisis is already here.
It’s time to save the state’s education system. Illinois needs a pension overhaul. Nothing less. Reform must include shifting from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. A shift of this magnitude may seem tectonic, but Democrat-controlled Rhode Island celebrated similar reform with bi-partisan success.
Quinn’s rhetoric is a move in the right direction. Too bad his proposed policy reforms don’t match the urgency of his words.