Area teachers rally against proposed cuts to pension plans
By Stephanie Lulay email@example.com May 23, 2012 9:20PM
Updated: July 3, 2012 8:58AM
PLAINFIELD — Educators past and present had a message for Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross on Wednesday evening in front of his downtown Plainfield office: Hands off our pensions!
Holding signs that read, “I paid. You promised. Don’t Cut” and “Pension broken promises,” approximately 100 teachers rallied on Lockport Street. Educators United for Strong Public Schools and Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice also hand-delivered a petition to representatives in Cross’ office.
Education leaders said they want lawmakers to address viable pension funding solutions instead of pension cuts. Petitions delivered to Cross staffers also called for elected officials to hold public town hall meetings before voting for legislation that would ultimately affect teachers.
Organizer Joni Lindgren, a retired teacher from Elgin, said she offered to phone Cross herself, but staffers said he was on the House floor.
“We don’t get Social Security. A pension is a promise, and they need to honor that,” Lindgren said.
Dennis Grosskopf, a high school teacher from Minooka, said legislators are set on passing a pension bill without hearings.
“I teach American government. The legislative process is supposed to include public input,” he said. “If something’s changed, someone needs to let me know.”
He said this isn’t a pension crisis, but a funding issue that the statehas refused to fix for decades.
Joanna Abbattista has taught kindergarten at Old Post Elementary in Oswego for five years.
“Even though it doesn’t affect me yet, I want to support the teachers that are retired now because that will be me one day,” she said.
Dick Krase of Oswego, a retired regional superintendent for Grundy/Kendall counties, said it’s the state that hasn’t paid its fair share, not the teachers.
“They screwed up,” Krase said. “If they were in private practice, they’d be in jail right now.”
Ellen Poplawski, another Oswego teacher, said she has paid 9.4 percent of her paycheck into her pension for 28 years.
“It’s the businesspeople who are the driving force against teachers,” she said. “Money still talks in politics, and teachers are not where the money went.”
Plainfield Central English teacher Greg Bouchard said proposed pension cuts are illegal.
“We should be suing them every year. Quinn is starting to backstab our union leadership,” he said.
The Plainfield rally was the third area event in which Northern Illinois teachers have focused on House and Senate members of Gov. Pat Quinn’s pension reform committee. On May 4, teachers rallied in front of State Sen. Mike Noland’s office in Elgin. On May 17, teachers marched in front of State Rep. Darlene Senger’s office in Naperville.
Other rallies have been held in Orland Park and Peru.