One of the many hold-ups to a solution for Illinois' pension problems is who should pay for public school teachers' retirement benefits. There's a lot of concern about shoving retirement costs on to schools. Which is why one education group's stance on the matter is initially surprising. Illinois pays the pension costs for Illinois teachers outside of Chicago. As lawmakers look to reduce what the state owes, they're considering shifting that cost onto schools. That suggestion that has caused many legislators, and their school districts, to balk. They worry it'll either hike local property taxes, or force schools to cut back on classroom expenses, or both. It stands to reason education advocates generally decry the cost shift too, but Stand for Children, an education policy group, has come out in support of it. Policy Director Jessica Handy says her group would rather Illinois have schools pay their employees' pensions, than have schools face deeper cuts in state aid that's supposed to help poorer districts:
"If there's a finite pot of money, cuts are going to have to come from somewhere, we want to make sure that the cuts are done in the most equitable way, so that our most at risk kids are protected."
Handy says now, Illinois' priorities are flawed. By paying schools pensions, the state's giving more money to a wealthy district that can pay its teachers six figure salaries, than it gives to a poor district that pays its teachers much less.
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