Cairo Association of Teachers - Newsletter

CAT Tracks for November 19, 2004

This article was posted on the IEA website yesterday. Hopefully, IEA pressure on your behalf is finally paying off...

Legislative News

IEA in the Thick of Fight to Preserve ERO

After Holding Bill for a Year, Madigan is Ready to Talk

IEA Secretary-Treasurer Martha Bowman testifies in support of extending the Early Retirement Option during a legislative hearing Thursday in Springfield.

Springfield, IL Negotiations could begin soon between IEA, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and other interested parties over a locally negotiated benefit affecting thousands of IEA members. During a House hearing, Speaker Madigan announced heís ready to begin discussions on the Early Retirement Option (ERO) legislation for teachers.

On Thursday, Madigan convened a house hearing on SB 193, legislation that would extend ERO, which is due to expire on June 30, 2005. Unless ERO is extended by that date, the option to retire early without penalty no longer will be available to members of the Teachersí Retirement System (TRS).

"ERO is a key benefit for thousands of IEA members. This option is of particular importance to those near retirement age and who might decide to retire this summer if ERO is going to expire," said IEA President Anne Davis.

During the hearing, Speaker Madigan defended his refusal, for the last year, to call the ERO bill for a vote, reiterating his long held position that payments to TRS place too much pressure on the state budget.

In her committee testimony, IEA Secretary Treasurer Martha Bowman defended ERO, saying the practice has allowed local school districts to deal with their funding crisis.

"It encourages more senior and more expensive teachers to retire, which frees up money for local school districts," Bowman said, adding that the benefit "has been in existence more than 25 years and is consistent with other state systems."

The biggest teacher pension cost for the state is paying the unfunded liability for TRS. However, it was pointed out repeatedly during the hearing that the unfunded liability is entirely the fault of the Illinois General Assembly, whose members during the 1990s failed to fully fund the pension.

"We didnít cause the problem, so taking ERO away from teachers because the legislature acted irresponsibly is wrong," Davis said.

"We strongly believe ERO needs to remain an option for our members who belong to TRS. We intend to make our position known, loudly and repeatedly, to all the members of the legislature until this issue is resolved," she added.