Special session set for Friday on Illinois pension reform

Illinois lawmakers head back to Springfield on Friday for a special session. They’ll look at pension reform as a way to cut the state’s massive $83-billion pension debt.

The current proposal puts a lot of pressure on local school districts and taxpayers, too.

It’s the second day of classes at the new Northeast Junior High School in Silvis. Teacher Debbie Arnold is leading a goal setting session with students.

“We’re getting hit left and right,” said Superintendent Ray Bergles.

That’s as Illinois lawmakers get ready to consider making school districts pay for teacher pensions.

The controversial proposal sparked an angry response at the Illinois State Fair. That’s where Gov. Pat Quinn was booed by union members.

He’s calling the special session to tackle the state’s pension troubles.

“I think it’s stressful more than anything because it’s always the great unknown,” Bergles added.

Pension reform would cost the Silvis schools about $250,000 per year. Money that will jeopardize teaching jobs and programs for kids.

The district has already lost more than $500,000 in state money during the past three years. It would have a financial, social and educational impact.

“I expect the bill will go down in flames,” said IL Rep. Rich Morthland, (R) Cordova.

Morthland says you can’t fix problems by voting for bad bills.

“The schools will have no option to pass that directly on to property taxpayers,” he said. “And they’re already burdened enough.”

Silvis schools brace for the unknown with a bottom line that could hurt education.

“If we’re not going to be able to give them what they need, that’s not good,” Bergles concluded.

It’s not good for a state with a huge financial dilemma.