24 hours after Illinois lawmakers approved a new pension plan, the people it impacts the most are speaking out.
On Wednesday, December 4th, 2013, News 8 visited George O. Barr Elementary School in Silvis, Illinois to see what teachers think of the new plan.
Most say they’re frustrated and disappointed.
“No matter what goes on at a higher level, we take the hit for it,” 1st Grade Teacher Stephanie Ruhberg said.
Under the new plan, the state is expected to save more than $160 billion by cutting retirement benefits for current state workers. However, to Stephanie, it’s one more cut too many.
“We’re a small district, so we’re already scraping by with what we can.”
That $160 billion will also come from pushing back the retirement age for workers ages 45 and younger. Stephanie, who is 28, and Mary Rossmiller, who is 43, will both be affected.
I would have retired between 60 and 65,” Rossmiller, a 4th Grade Teacher, said. “However, now it’s going to be closer to 70.”
Supporters of the new pension plan say it will help fill Illinois’ $100 billion pension shortfall, but Rossmiller says it will do the opposite for teachers.
“It is hurting not only our new teachers who put less in and are going to have to work longer years, but those of us who have been here who were putting in more and when we go to retirement there’s going to be less.”
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn called the approval of the new plan a “win for the people of Illinois” and says he plans to sign it into law “promptly.”
However, Rossmiller and Ruhberg have a different word for it.
“It is not a win for the people who pay into the state retirement system,” Rossmiller said. “It is a betrayal is what it is.
“It’s a mess is what it is,” Ruhberg said. “It doesn’t bode well with getting people that want to come to Illinois and teach. We’re already having to cut back on teachers. We’re already having to make class sizes bigger. There’s no draw for our state.”
That’s making her think twice about her future and whether she’ll stay in Illinois for her teaching career.
“I’ve thought about it,” she said. “I live in Iowa so it would be easy for me to go teach in Iowa, but I love the school I work at. It’s just so frustrating.”
Both Ruhberg and Rossmiller are hoping their stories in Silvis will reach lawmakers in Springfield.
“I wish that lawmakers would see how much they are hurting the middle class economy in Illinois,” Rossmiller said.
Meantime, other opponents – mainly labor unions – have vowed to fight the measure in court.