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A few questions for those conservatives so eager to cut the pensions of government employees

If all you’re doing is cutting costs at the expense of lives and futures, I don’t see public sector workers accepting that. Nor would it have my support.

In this 2013 photo, an Illinois government employee participates in a demonstration at the State Capitol in Springfield.
Sun-Times Media

I’m not a public sector union member, so I ask the following questions as a taxpayer, in response to a recent op-ed by Adam Schuster of the Illinois Policy Institute.

What would Schuster and others who call for public pension reform do if that reform were actually achieved?

Would they support using the financial savings to make permanent Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed improvements in city services — such as for police, affordable housing and expanded mental health services — once federal funding for these needs expires?

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Would they, on the state and county level, support fully funding and increasing supports for adults with disabilities, medical services, clean energy and Great Lakes water management?

Would billionaire Ken Griffin then stay in Illinois and encourage businesses to move here?

Would a state or city tax increase be acceptable if the money went to programs rather than pensions?

If Chicago teachers agreed to pay their pension contributions without the existing “pickup,” would advocates for this change press CPS to make sure that each school has a permanent nurse and social worker? That old school buildings are repaired? That schools in less wealthy communities are equipped the same as schools in wealthier communities? That special education staff are hired to meet the needs of all students?

Would advocates for pension reform insist that promises for these kinds of improvements be put in writing — in laws, budgets and collective bargaining agreements — to build trust?

Or would they say, “The government spends too much. Families and businesses are taxed too much. People don’t need more government aid. Let’s save money instead of funding all these programs?”

If so, all you’re doing is demanding that costs be cut at the expense of lives and futures. I can’t see public sector workers accepting that, nor would it have my support.

Jeffrey Taylor, Irving Park

Proof masks in schools work

People who are questioning Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s mask mandate for schools should compare results among schools that do and do not have this policy.

At about 100,000 students, Polk County, Florida’s school district is about 30% the size of the Chicago Public Schools. Yet it has suffered 3,804 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its students since the beginning of school year. That is more than twice the number of cases confirmed in Chicago’s schools by CPS — 1,832 cases — in roughly the same time period. Florida’s school year began earlier but not by that much.

It’s probably unreasonable to attribute the entire six-fold difference between per-capita infection rates in the two school districts to mask mandates — Chicago has one and the Florida district does not. Due in large part to COVID mitigation efforts that have no direct connection to education, Illinois is an overall healthier place to live than Florida.

But even so, six times the infection rate is so large that it is hard to imagine an indirect cause.

Frank Palmer, Edgewater