A lawsuit filed earlier this week by Chicago Public Schools seeks to level the playing field when it comes to school funding and, specifically, how teacher pensions are funded in the state. A timely follow up to that lawsuit came Wednesday during the Governor’s Budget Address.
He proposed a $0 state contribution to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund. Literally zero dollars. Granted, the amounts CTPF has gotten in the past have been negligible ($12.2 million compared to $4.0 billion for teacher pensions outside of Chicago). That's about $31 per Chicago student and $2,500 per non-Chicago student.
But if you were looking for some pension relief for CPS in that budget proposal you will be looking for a while. It’s simply not there.
Pension funding is a hidden inequity in our state’s school funding system. Chicago is the only district in Illinois that pays its own teacher pensions; the state covers most of those payments for everyone else. A $215 million pension relief payment to CPS from the state was vetoed by the Governor late last year.
The Chicago inequity is one of three hidden inequities that our teacher pension funding system perpetuates. The system is also unfair to low-income and special education students across downstate and suburban districts whose federal funding is diverted to cover pension debt. (See an idea to fix this here.) The state's payment of teacher pensions for all school districts – from the richest districts with the highest-salaried staff to the poorest districts with the lowest staff salaries – creates an inequitable and regressive funding stream statewide.
We support the need to bring pension parity for Illinois school districts. Not only is it critically important for students in Chicago to see this funding restored immediately, it is also good policy statewide as we work toward fixing our broken school funding system. It's too bad it took a lawsuit to get to this point, but the Governor should make it right now, save the time and expense of a prolonged court battle, and just fix this obviously flawed and inequitable system.