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Area teacher union heads ‘livid’ over pension bill approval

Val Dranias President Indian Prairie EducatiAssociati |  Submitted

Val Dranias, President of Indian Prairie Education Association | Submitted

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Updated: January 6, 2014 12:59PM

Local teachers unions are vowing to fight the constitutionality of state pension reforms at all costs, saying it was wrong for the General Assembly this week to break its contract with government workers and take away benefits.

“The state has a contractual obligation. You can’t rescind that,” said Kathryn Castle, president of the Elgin Teachers Association.

She said that the ETA is backing the Illinois Education Association’s promised court battle should Gov. Pat Quinn sign the deal.

The fear is that if the state is allowed to break its pension contract, future contracts also could be at jeopardy, union officials said.

Val Dranias, president of Aurora-based Indian Prairie Education Association, said workers put their money into the state pension system with the intent of getting it back at retirement.

“Now people are going to lose what they worked so hard to accomplish,” she said.

If the reform package is found unconstitutional, Dranias hopes the General Assembly will go back to Senate Bill 2404 that was approved by the Senate and had the support of the unions, although it failed to go anywhere in the House.

“I am pretty livid. It is an absolute travesty,” said Mark Bailey, president of the Naperville Unit Education Association.

“It’s ironic that legislators spent the morning approving millions of dollars for their friends and in the afternoon spending the life savings of hard-working people,” he added.

Bailey said he also found it ironic that pensions for judges were not included in the reform package because legislators indicated they wanted the judges to remain unbiased.

“That’s a bunch of baloney,” he said.

In the meantime, teachers nearing retirement are caught in limbo, union representatives said.

Castle said many are unsure whether they should leave now or continue to work extra years to save more for retirement.

On the other end of the spectrum, new teachers are equally confused.

“Young teachers are wondering if this was a good career choice,” Castle said.

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