Guest Commentary - Robert Shouse
3:26 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

School Board President Outlines Pension Reform Requirements

The Macomb Community Unit School District 185 Board of Education recognizes there is no current issue in the State of Illinois that has greater impact on all citizens than pension reform legislation. The topic of pension reform reaches all counties in our state and will ultimately impact each and every citizen. Therefore, we believe it is important for us as citizen leaders to participate in this debate and work towards a reasonable solution.

Robert Shouse
Robert Shouse
Credit Rich Egger

Human capital and intellectual resources are fundamental to any school district. We firmly believe that it is our responsibility to protect that capital on behalf of the children we serve .

The topic of pension reform cannot be legislated as a single issue. To address pensions without  having predictable future funding streams does a disservice to the children in the State Illinois. We believe that any reform must continue to provide local control of our education systems.  Any reform measure must allow us to recruit and retain talented teachers and staff, and as important, it must be fiscally sustainable for not only the State of Illinois but for local school districts and individuals in those districts as well.

Overall, as a district, we do not support a shift of benefit costs to the school districts. The shift represents a de facto tax increase to property owners. Furthermore, such a shift will ultimately result in the financial insolvency of many school districts. During this period the children in those affected districts face the reality of a compromised education .

Should the ultimate decision include a shift of normal costs away from the state and to local districts, we ask that the following components be included in the legislation. These items will assist us in developing a predictable future and will minimize the fiscal impact. At the same time, the measures outlined below will help us maintain the quality of education we provide in our districts.

  • A gradual phase in of the shift of costs to the local districts over a minimum ten (10) year  period.
  • During this phase-in process, districts under PTELL will be given amnesty from the limits associated with this shift.
  • The legislation should include statutory restrictions prohibiting school districts from paying the employee’s share of TRS benefits costs.  
  • 100% Transportation formula funding  
  • 100% General State Aid funding  
  • A statutory shift from legislated benefits to a TRS benefits board created by membership to oversee the fund and make benefit decisions in the future.

We recognize the gravity of this decision but firmly support the reality that changes must be made in order for our State to maintain solvency. We urge serious review of the above objectives and are willing to meet with interested legislators at any time, should that be requested .

We all must work together to find an equitable solution. Thank you.

Robert Shouse is President of the Macomb Board of Education. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.