CPS chief wants same pension reform state passed for other teachers

Written By BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporter Posted: 03/28/2014, 08:59am
Array Supporters of Raise Your Hand, a public education advocacy group, voice their concerns at the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett made her position on the looming pension overhaul crystal clear — and she’s echoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“CPS is seeking the same changes recently made by the state of Illinois to their pension system,” she told the Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday. “We estimate that if the Illinois pension reform package were applied to CPS, that this would bring nearly $250 million in savings to the district this year alone.”

But another key player on the pension front has made her position clear, too.

“That’s not going to happen,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We’re not interested in that. That’s not acceptable to us.”

The CTU released a report earlier this month that said if the same pension reform, known as Senate Bill 1, is applied in the city, it would slash the pensions of city public workers, harm retirees and negatively impact the city’s economy.

Byrd-Bennett said the ballooning pension cost to the district affects students in the classrooms.

“Last week our district was informed by the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund that our required payment for fiscal year 2015 will be $696 million,” she said. “That represents an $83 million increase over this year’s already staggering $613 million payment. To put this number in perspective, this equals $1,740 per student.”

Lewis, though, said she doesn’t consider legislation like Senate Bill 1 an option.

State public-sector unions affected by the pension overhaul have sued to overturn the law, which was passed last year.

“Why would we enter into a program that will likely be found unconstitutional by the courts?” Lewis said.

Email: bschlikerman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @schlikerman

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