CHICAGO – A new report released by Illinois Policy Institute revealed that thousands of retired state educators are being compensated for time they didn’t spend in school at the taxpayers' expense.
“No one is against teachers taking time off when they or
loved ones are sick, but what we’re seeing here is a severe abuse of the
system,” Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy
Institute, said in a recent press release.
“Teachers’ and administrators’ contracts
give away more sick time than most will ever use. Then, unused sick time can be
carried over for decades and used to inflate educators’ pensions.”
details how accumulated sick leave can be converted to service credit at
retirement, significantly increasing pension benefits. The majority of the school districts allow up
to two weeks of accumulated sick leave over the duration of a teacher’s
career, and 70 percent of retirees are taking advantage of this perk – equating to
about 73,000 people. This is expected to
cost taxpayers $3.4 billion over the next 30 years – a cost, the Institute says,
taxpayers simply cannot afford.
points to this practice as a major contributing factor in the state’s massive
pension debt, which is currently sitting at $130 billion in unpaid
“The purpose of sick time is to allow people to get well
without losing significant income when they face illness, not to inflate retirement benefits by tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Debrowski said.
The Institute reports that more than 6,800 retirees will each
receive more than $100,000 in additional benefits due to accumulated sick leave.
Each of the top 10 beneficiaries will receive $350,000 or more in additional
benefits. As a result, the
total pension benefits accrued by Illinois teachers have increased nearly 1,000
percent between 1987 and 2015, growing at an annual rate of 9 percent a year. The
report explains that this growth rate far surpasses the growth rates
of state revenues and inflation, as well as the taxpayers’ ability to pay for
those benefits during that same period.
Moving forward, the Institute suggests modeling the private
sector by granting sick leave on annual use-it-or-lose-it basis; and that
school districts be responsible for paying the annual pension costs for their
employees, rather than the state, in order encourage more fiscal
It further recommends that
new employees be given self-managed retirement plans, with an option for
current employees to also participate. It stated that both can be done without a change to the
Illinois Constitution. By enacting these reforms, the Institute believes
progress can be made on the state’s looming pension crisis.