Friday, May 20, 2011

Small Step Forward

Dear Friends,

First of all, thank you for your support and encouragement. Together, we are less isolated and more empowered. Know that your kind words and resolute action make a difference.

We have won a small victory through the collective effort of tens of thousands of Illinois voters. The House Personnel and Pensions Committee has postponed its hearing on SB 512. This seems to indicate that legislators realize we are watching. They cannot muster the votes they need to shirk their responsibilities.

Even so, there are four hearing dates scheduled for this upcoming week. Which means the Illinois House could call for a vote at any time. This ambush tactic is habitually used to foist bad legislation on Illinois residents. We've seen it previously with irresponsible budgets, with unproductive tax plans, with gambling legislation, and with previous attempts to dismantle state pension systems.

Call 1-888-412-6570 or click here to be connected with your state representative. Urge them to OPPOSE SB 512—PROTECT, NOT CUT PENSIONS for public employees. (1)

Please share these talking points with your friends and family:
  • The average pension to retired Illinois public employees is $32,000 a year. How well could you manage retirement on that income?
  • Illinois public employees contribute more from their paycheck to state managed pensions that private workers contribute to Social Security
  • Illinois public employees covered by pensions are not covered by Social Security
  • Illinois public employees contribute to their pension every pay check; Illinois legislators have habitually reneged on their pension obligations.

Contact your state legislators again today. And tomorrow. And next Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday so that they finally understand the message: Illinois residents deserve honest political service. We cannot afford, nor will we tolerate, continued irresponsiblity.

Just as we expect first responders to support us in time of need, so too do we expect Illinois legislators to make decisions in our best interests. It is in our best interest to provide retirement security in our communities. It is in our best interest to demand that our elected leaders do the right thing.

Our voices do change the outcome. We no longer stand alone. Call again. Email now. Ask more adults to join you. You intercession has been the only brake on this bad legislation. Without our vocal demands for ethical behavior, the Illinois Legislature has a green light to proceed with business as usual. And that business has bankrupt our state.

I cannot thank you enough for helping to turn the tide of malicious political rhetoric against public workers in our state. Your participation in the legislative process gives hope to the fire fighters and police who work while we sleep. Your support encourages nurses who care for the disabled and chronically ill. Your voice matters to the people who care for our children.

As a teacher, I am proud to know the community stands behind me. Thank you for time and thank you for demanding better from the Illinois State Legislature.

(1) Link provided by

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Teacher Needs Help

It pains to watch the virulent attacks on public employees like myself. Primary targets are the pension systems that support police, firefighters, nurses and teachers in their retirement. In Illinois, this debate now endangers my own family. Please consider the following:
  • Public sector employees are not covered by Social Security. Nor are we covered by employer 401K programs. The individuals who choose to serve our communities rely on public pensions for retirement security.
  • I have never missed a payment on my pension plan. 9.4 percent of my salary is removed from my paycheck by the Illinois Teacher Retirement System. I have no matching dollars to boost my retirement savings. I have no discretion in the investment of my retirement savings. I follow the law and expect my state to do the same.
  • The Illinois crisis, like those in other states, has resulted from the fiscal mismanagement of public dollars. Over the past 20 years, the Illinois legislature has not honored its pension obligations. Those obligations total less per person than a private employer must contribute to Social Security on an annual basis. Rather, the Illinois legislature spent those dollars to create a disgraceful example of political stagnation.
My pension rights are guaranteed by the Illinois Constitution. However, that Constitution is overseen by a body that has proven to be self-serving and deceitful. Legislation is pending in our state capital to drastically cut public employee pension programs. Those same individuals sworn to uphold and enforce our Constitution now maneuver to escape their financial responsibility by stripping public employees of their retirement security.

I ask you to contact your own elected leaders on behalf of the men and women who work to make stronger communities. Our political debate has swung too far; attacking committed citizens as economic drains is foolish, hateful and just plain wrong.

If you are a citizen of Illinois, please use the following link to contact your state legislators and express your opposition to Senate Bill 512 now moving through committee.

We must ask how dismantling private sector pension plans over the past two decades has served our nation. Yes, corporations buckled under the strain of their promises to employees. And yes, fiscal irresponsibility endangers public budgets at all levels of government. But what is the real cost of retirement insecurity for our citizenry?

I appreciate your recognition that teachers matter. I know you realize that first responders are critical. And I hope that you believe, as I do, that garbage men deserve to have promises they have paid for kept by their elected leaders. Public employees build the communities that we call home; honor their work by adding your voice to the debate.

Please stand up for that single teacher you remember most. Attacking the individual who paid their way is silly. Instead we must demand that bad managers accept the responsibility of their commitments.

Thank you for reading to this point. I hope that you seize this opportunity to create a world you are proud to pass on to your children. I truly appreciate your reflection, your personal support and your engagement with other thinking adults, Neil