Recently the BND highlighted the O’Fallon Township High School “financial crisis” where Superintendent Darcy Benway spun the “crisis” as the state’s lack of payments and unfunded mandates, which may result in the elimination of two sports and meager staff reductions.
We are often told the reason school districts cannot pay their bills is because the state isn’t providing the districts with the promised funding. Fair enough. But why can’t the state pay its bills? It’s our state’s unsustainable pension system that administrators and teachers have overloaded with six figure salaries that is bankrupting our state and endangering our schools.
An April 22, 2016, article in Forbes by Adam Andrzejewski highlighted that “highly compensated, six figure school administrator/teacher retirees cost IL taxpayers nearly $1 billion per year.” With over 100,000 teacher pensions in Illinois, $1 out of every $3 collected by our state income tax goes to pensions.
Instead of addressing the pension issue, we are delivered scare tactics employed to pass a new county-wide 1 percent school facilities sales tax that will raise over $20 million a year in perpetuity. This regressive tax will squeeze pennies from the poor and elderly by forcing them to pay more for gas and clothing while the highly paid in our school districts enjoy taxpayer-funded pensions.
Our school districts should share the blame for our underfunded schools with the state. If we don’t address the pension issue, the python of the pension system will continue to squeeze us until we are all broke.
Mary Gray, O’Fallon