Friday, August 15, 2014

“After a seven-year legal fight led by WEA, the Supreme Court has upheld cuts in retirement benefits for more than 100,000 K-12 educators”

[Note: The legal basis for protection of public pension rights in Illinois is stated in the Illinois State Constitution (Article XIII, Section 5). Public employees in Washington do NOT have an explicitly-stated constitutional protection].

“Washington Education Association President Kim Mead denounced the decision to reduce educators’ pensions. ‘It’s not right for the Legislature to unilaterally cut retirement benefits it promised – and to take away what educators already earned,’ Mead said.

“WEA and other groups sued the state after the Legislature approved the cuts in 2007 and 2011. The Court’s first decision upholds the Legislature’s vote to eliminate gainsharing for WEA members in retirement Plans 1 and 3. The second decision upholds the elimination of uniform cost-of-living adjustments for current and future retired educators in Plan 1… 

“Mead said the Legislature has balanced the state budget over the last seven years by slashing educator retirement benefits, underfunding health care and cutting teacher salaries. The cuts in educator compensation total billions of dollars – essentially a tax targeted solely at public school employees and other public workers.

“The Supreme Court’s McCleary decision said Washington must fund public education as the paramount duty of our state, and the Court has specifically stated that educator compensation is included.

“‘If we want to have good public schools and provide the quality education our students deserve, we must provide a compensation package that attracts and retains quality teachers and education support staff,’ Mead said. ‘It’s time for the Legislature to invest in its public school employees instead of asking them to sacrifice even more…’” 

from WEA decries court decisions on pension cuts.
This report is also posted in Klonsky’s Blog. 

Click on the "pension analyses" tab for an in-depth study of this common legislative theft.


There are seven states that have their constitution as the legal basis for protection of public pension rights under state laws. They are Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, and New York.  The strongest constitutional language (which includes past and future accrual protected) can be found in the state constitutions of Alaska, Illinois, and New York.

As stated by Alicia H. Munnell, Director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (2012): “[Only] a handful of states protect pensions under the contract theory. [They] have state constitutional provisions that expressly prevent the state from amending the plan in any way that would produce benefits lower than participants expected at the time of employment. Illinois and New York have such a provision...” (State and Local Pensions: What Now?). In Illinois, there are several antedated court cases that have upheld the Illinois Constitution (Challenging Public Employees’ Earned Constitutionally-Guaranteed Benefits). 


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