School Pensions Making Millionaires out of Retiring Employees

Bill Zettler recently submitted a Freedom of Information request on the pensions of 13 retiring public school employees from District 211 in Palatine, Illinois and he found that the people of Illinois are on the hook for over $50 million in pension benefits promised to people retiring at the average age of 58.

Zettler found that these school employees are seeing an average of $96,000 a year in pension benefits whereas the average Social Security benefit is $13,500 a year. SS recipients also don’t get their benefits until they’ve reached 63 at least while the average retirement age of these public employees is 58.

I’ll get right to Mr. Zettler’s pullout quote, one that really puts the whole situation in perfect focus. “If the purpose of taxation is to provide for the common good,” Zettler said, “we may ask what common good is provided by making public employees multi-millionaires in their fifties?”

What could be a better question? When Social Security only begins to kick in after 63, and when these pensions pay out five times more than the average SS payout, why are citizens footing the bill for these lavish pensions? How can anyone imagine that this is financial sustainable for the public treasury?

It should be reiterated that this $50 million in out going tax money is only the payout to 13 employees. There are thousands upon thousands of other retiring Illinois employees with similar drafts on the public treasury. Further, Illinois isn’t the only state in the mess. And it is supposedly a “law” that these pensions cannot be cut or denied to current retirees. This is simply unsustainable if allowed to continue to grow.

Why should these public servants get far and away more than anyone in the private sector?

Now, let’s be clear, here. I absolutely do not begrudge anyone getting a deserved and earned pension no matter how luxurious it is. But NOT at the public’s expense. If these teachers and school employees want a luxurious retirement, then they should make provisions of their own as it should be. They should not be the beneficiaries of compliant politicians that are handing unearned goodies to union thugs for fistfuls of campaign cash. Because that is how these unearned pensions become so rich; politics. It certainly isn’t because school employees somehow deserve benefits at five times everyone else’s!

What could be more galling than lower middle class Illinoisans struggling to get by day-by-day in their golden years while they are paying taxes that end up funding publicly created millionaires in their late fifties? It just isn’t right.

As I said, it isn’t just Illinois school employees that are enjoying an undeserved pension. This is happening all over the country. For instance, Jack Dean of wrote a great little piece in 2004 about the coming pension tsunami that will swamp government and bankrupt them all. In it he decries the fact that California’s state pension system will make millionaires out of public employees after only 22 years on the job.

This is simply unacceptable.

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