Study: By 2024, retirees will cost Illinois more than current teachers

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - By 2024, Illinois taxpayers will spend more on retired teachers than current teachers in the classroom.

The new study's grim forecast comes Monday as the president of the State Senate says he agrees with Governor Bruce Rauner on a plan to reduce the cost of those retirement benefits. 

By the time little Adeline enters 5th grade, researchers say Illinois will be spending more on retirement benefits for teachers than on actually educating her and every other students from pre-kindergarten to high school.

FOX 32: How does that make you feel?

“Left out. Overall, it makes me feel a little left out,” said Adeline’s father Edward Hampton-Gross.

FOX 32: These financial numbers make you upset?

“Absolutely they do. Absolutely. I believe our young people, they are our future,” said Nicolaus Wilburn.

The numbers are grim. The Illinois Policy Institute found that from 2009 to 2014, the state added 8.9 billion new dollars to school funding; 89 percent went to teacher retirement costs, including pensions and health insurance for retired teachers. The IPI says a typical teacher in Illinois, after retirement, collects more than $2 million in pension and health care benefits.
“If you want to start talking about reforming education financing, you have to start with pension reform,” said Ted Dabrowski of the Illinois Policy Institute.

A pension reform proposal that could save Illinois taxpayers a billion dollars a year was the subject of a telephone conversation Monday between Gov. Bruce Rauner and state Senate President John Cullerton. Despite some confusion last week, Cullerton said the two now have an agreement in principle.

“So, now we'll just calm down, sit down and draft the bill so we'll get an agreement,” Cullerton said.

The pension reform bill would apply not only to the pensions of suburban and Downstate teachers, but to those of tens of thousands of other state employees, too. Cullerton said their unions fiercely oppose the measure and it won't be easy to enact.