State news roundup for April 28, 2012


Illinois – Governor announces pension cut ideas

Today, Gov. Pat Quinn announced a number of proposed pension ideas that will adversely impact our membership. His proposal only applies to four of the five state retirement systems — Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), State Universities Retirement System (SURS), State Employee Retirement System (SERS) and the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS). The proposal currently does not apply to the Judges’ Retirement System (JRS) or the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund (CTPF). The details are still pretty limited but the main points include:

  • Requiring current active employees to pay an additional 3 percent of their salary toward the funding of their pension. (TRS would go to 12.4 percent from 9.4 percent and SURS would go to 11 percent from 8 percent.)
  • Reducing the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in retirement for Tier 1 employees (participants before Jan. 1, 2011) to a COLA that is not compounding and is the littlest of 3 percent or ½ of the Consumer Price Index. This is the same COLA that is applied to Tier 2 participants (those who entered after Jan. 1, 2011). The proposal also states that COLA would be either delayed five years after retirement or until the retiree is age 67, whichever occurs first.
  • Increasing the retirement age to 67 for current employees. (This may be phased in.)
  • Requiring the state to fully fund the pension in 30 years as opposed to current law, which would allow for 33 years.

The proposal the governor outlined would be posed to active members as a choice. Members could choose this benefit package, as previously outlined, and receive their health insurance premium subsidy. Or, members could keep the pension benefit structure they currently have but future salary increases would not count toward their pension and their health insurance premium subsidy would be dramatically reduced or possibly eliminated.


New York – NYSUT launches ad campaign to tout successes, urge ‘yes’ votes

New York State United Teachers today launched a three-week, statewide $2 million radio and television ad campaign to tout the good work of teachers in improving student performance in our public schools, and to urge voters to avoid deeper cuts to school programs by approving local school budgets on May 15.


The radio campaign, which begins today, and the television ads, which launch later this week, both focus on the run of excellent news about public school performance. Last month, America’s Promise Alliance reported that New York was one of only two states to have increased graduation rates by double digits. The report, presented at a national summit on increasing graduation rates, showed New York’s graduation rate climbed from 60.5 percent to 73.5 percent over a seven-year period, even with the state’s more rigorous standards and graduation requirements.

“Despite assertions by some in public office, New York is clearly moving in the right direction, and that’s a credit to the hard work and dedication of teachers and students across the state,” said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. “The challenge now is to continue making progress despite the cumulative impact of devastating budget cuts. These cuts – along with reductions being implemented around the state because of the new, horrific tax cap – are resulting in a new round of program cuts as well as reductions in teaching staff and support personnel. Together, these cuts are hurting every public school student in New York.”

To find out more, visit

Colorado – Commentary: Where does teacher time go?

Aurora Education Association member, Jessica Cuthbertson, is a literacy coach near Denver.  Her commentary for EdNews outlines the typical workday of fellow AEA member Roberta McDonough and the non-contract hours that teacher’s invest to be effective educators. McDonough is also a literacy coach and a sixth grade master literacy teacher at Mrachek Middle School. Even with a 50-60 hour work week, educators do not have the time to collaborate, analyze data and obtain meaningful professional development.

The complaints are familiar. Teachers want more time. Time for instruction, time for planning with colleagues and time to learn and develop as professionals.

The public is skeptical. More time? What about the average 175, seven-to-eight-hour days per school year spent with students? The additional 10 days built into a teacher’s contract for in-service, professional learning and work days? The shorter summer breaks and summer school opportunities?

Where does all of the time go?

Meet Roberta McDonough. She is a sixth grade master literacy teacher with 15 years experience. She teaches five classes daily at a large, comprehensive middle school outside the Denver metro area, which serves an increasingly diverse community of learners.

Read the complete commentary at Education News Colorado.

Pennsylvania – Privatized school buses cost taxpayers more

Did you ever hear the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is?”

In terms of contracting out services in public schools, no one knows that to be true better than PSEA. Subcontracting leads to substantial reductions in pay and benefits or the loss of jobs, and often sends taxpayer money to companies outside of local communities.

Now, a new study by the Keystone Research Center found that Pennsylvania school districts that contract with private bus operators end up spending more taxpayer dollars on transportation than those that manage their own bus fleets.

In its study, “Runaway Spending: Private Contractors Increase the Cost of School Student Transportation Services in Pennsylvania,” Keystone found that contractors “low ball” prices during the bidding process. Once districts are locked in, they have no leverage over increased costs for services or bargaining during contract renewals.

The study noted that one-time lump sum payments that districts receive from the sale of their bus fleets greatly influences their decision to contract out. But once they sell, it is extremely difficult for districts to go back to managing their own transportation services because it is so expensive to purchase a fleet.

Total costs for all taxpayers add up to as much as $223,900 higher when a typical Pennsylvania school district goes from providing all bus services in-house to contracting with a private operator. If every school district in Pennsylvania in-sourced transportation services, taxpayers would save an estimated $78 million.

To find out more, visit




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