CTU Chief Lewis: Teachers aren't to blame for pension fund woes
Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis said Wednesday that the teachers pension fund has serious financial problems, but that teachers aren't to blame.
"It wouldn't go bankrupt if people would pay what they're supposed to pay," Lewis said. "This did not come because (teachers) didn't pay their fair share."
After a public speech at the City Club of Chicago, Lewis was asked about rumors the pension fund would be bankrupt in seven years.
She initially denied the fund was in trouble, responding, "not ours," before acknowledging otherwise, then seeking to explain the "root causes" of its financial predicament.
"This (looming bankruptcy) did not come because people didn't pay their fair share," Lewis said. "Let's not put blame where it doesn't belong."
A Chicago City Wire analysis recently revealed the the Chicago Teachers Pension fund paid out $1.5 billion last year, but only earned $7.8 million. It is underfunded by nearly $10 billion.
Teacher contributions to the fund wouldn't come close to supporting the retirements it promises.
A 2016 Illinois Policy Institute study found that the average Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher contributes just $133,179 to their pension over an entire career, before collecting more than $2 million in retirement.
CPS teachers contribute two percent of their salaries per year to the Teachers Pension Fund, or $1,680 for a teacher earning $84,000 per year.
Teachers shouldn't have to increase their annual contribution, Lewis said. She called on suburban and downstate taxpayers to provide more funding for CTU's pension fund, but expressed pessimism because Governor Rauner "hates us."
Lewis expressed support for a head tax on all Loop businesses to fund CPS and called on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel-- "bless his little heart"-- to cede control of schools to elected boards.
She said they can do away with "costly privatization schemes" and other efficiency measures, like using software in place of manual processes that replace school clerks.