Pension spiking practices show 'misplaced priorities,' Caulkins says
State House hopeful Dan Caulkins wonders how a school board reaches a point where the students are no longer the priority.
“What’s happening with this so-called 'pension spiking' is just shameful,” Caulkins told the Chambana Sun. “These people know they won’t be around to pay these bills, so they don’t seem to be that concerned about the fallout. This has absolutely nothing to do with improving kids test scores or bringing them up to grade level, which we seem to be forgetting is the only reason everyone is supposed to be there in the first place.”
Since 2005, several public school systems controlled by the state have been forced to pump more than $50 million in penalty payments into the Teacher’s Retirement System after violating a state law that caps end-of-career raises and sick time payments for retiring educators, according to the Illinois News Network (INN).
INN found that most of the gouging took place over the same two-year period when the state was forced to operate without a balanced budget and many top school administrators were clamoring about not being able to properly run their schools due to funding issues.
The practice of “pension spiking” is also known to drive up taxpayer-funded pension payments, an added burden in a state already saddled with more than $130 billion in unfunded pension liability it can hardly afford.
Caulkins is running against Democrat Jennifer McMillin in the 101st House District, which spans parts of Champaign, McLean, Dewitt, Macon and Piatt counties.
“These kinds of things have to be exposed to voters in these districts so that they know what their school boards and administrators are doing,” Caulkins said. “These boards know this practice is illegal, but the well-off school boards don’t seem to care about having to pay the fines.”
Caulkins said making the whole issue of school pensions all the more perplexing is the widely held misconception about the cause of the problem.
“The truth is we are funding pension plans according to schedule,” he said. “It’s just that the rising demand based on the promises made are outstripping contributions. Something has to give. I don’t know how a school board can approve something like these raises when they know there’s not even enough money in the budget to do some of the most basic things for students. I see it as an extreme case of misplaced priorities.”