Saturday, January 29, 2022

Pope Benedict faulted over sex abuse claims: New report is just one chapter in his – and Catholic Church’s – fraught record


An in-depth report released last week alleges that former Pope Benedict XVI allowed four abusive priests in Munich to remain in ministry. The pope, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, led the German archdiocese from 1977 to 1982. The 1,900-page audit was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising but conducted by independent investigators. It covers the period from 1945 to 2019 and lists 235 alleged clergy who were perpetrators of sexual abuse and at least 497 minors who were victims.

Given Benedict’s status – he was pope from 2005 to 2013, until his historic resignation due to ill health – the news has put additional scrutiny on top leaders’ roles in allowing abusers to go unpunished. It also raises the classic questions of what Benedict knew, and when. As a journalist, I covered Ratzinger in Rome in the 1980s and wrote a biography of him in 2006. Today, as director of the Center on Religion and Culture at Fordham University, I see this episode as an opportunity to understand the church’s fitful evolution on dealing with abuse.

Influential role

After Ratzinger left Munich in 1982, he came to Rome to serve as Pope John Paul II’s top defender of doctrine. For 23 years he led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a body tasked with defending Catholic teaching, and arguably the most influential department in the Vatican.

As head, Ratzinger had a say in developing the church’s response to the increasingly public sex abuse crisis. John Paul consulted Ratzinger on important decisions, and major documents from other departments at the Vatican required his approval, or imprimatur, before they could be published.

Ratzinger’s initial responses to abuse cases mirrored his record in Munich. In one case in 1985, for example, he rejected an appeal to defrock, or “laicize,” an American priest who sexually abused children, even though the priest himself, as well as the bishop, requested it.

One of Ratzinger’s successors at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, defended his mentor by arguing that in the 1970s and 1980s, neither the church nor society at large understood child sex abuse properly. “It was thought that therapy could resolve the problem. Today we know that this is useless for these criminals,” he said after the release of the Munich report.

‘Weakness of faith’

Another key factor many critics blame for the hierarchy’s resistance to punishing clergy is an attitude called “clericalism,” or treating priests as superior. The late Rev. Donald Cozzens, a Cleveland priest, seminary director and psychologist who published a book on the priesthood in 2000, defined clericalism as an attitude of “privilege and entitlement” among clergy, elites who “think they’re unlike the rest of the faithful.”

Ratzinger and many other church leaders preferred to view the problem as a spiritual one. “I think the essential point is a weakness of faith,” Ratzinger insisted in 2003. He also blamed the secular world, particularly what he called the “unprecedented” moral breakdown of the 1960s and 1970s, and the acceptance of homosexuality.

Two studies by professors at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice showed that abuse did start to spike in the 1960s and declined sharply in the 1980s. But the researchers note that almost 44% of accused abusers were ordained before 1960 and dismiss the notion that gay men are to blame. Moreover, historians have often pointed out that pedophilia and other sexual abuses by clergy are nothing new but date back to at least the 11th century.

When The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” series finally broke the scandal wide open in January 2002, American bishops sought to institute a zero-tolerance policy for abusers and to hold bishops who covered up accountable. The Vatican pushed back, though the U.S. bishops were able to adopt a relatively strong system laying out procedures for removing accused priests.

Ratzinger also continued to minimize the extent of the scandal, arguing in November 2002 that “less than one percent” of priests were guilty of abuse and blaming the media for “a planned campaign” to “discredit the church.” The real figure was over 4% nationally.

A sudden shift

The previous year, however, Ratzinger had persuaded John Paul to let his office take charge of all abuse cases worldwide to expedite trials and defrock the guilty. The ensuing flood of cases seemed to have an effect: When John Paul died in April 2005 and Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI, he moved quickly to begin laicizing hundreds of abusers. He also apologized to victims and became the first pope ever to meet face to face with clergy abuse victims. This was a sea change for the church, and for Benedict.

But it went only so far. Though Benedict publicly dismissed a bishop whom he considered too liberal, he was not as assertive in taking action against bishops suspected of covering up abuse or being abusers themselves. A key example is the case of Theodore McCarrick, a former Washington, D.C., cardinal.

Allegations that McCarrick had abused children emerged in July 2018 and led to an investigation that showed that Benedict knew of other accusations against McCarrick of sexual misconduct with adults but took no public action.

After Francis was elected pope in 2013, he stripped McCarrick of his cardinal’s title and defrocked him. McCarrick has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually assaulting a teenager in the 1970s. Francis also began firing other bishops for covering for abusers and started to institute a system of accountability.

Benedict is nearing the end of his life, living in seclusion in a quiet monastery inside the Vatican walls. Beyond the damage to his reputation, he likely won’t face sanctions for his actions decades ago in Munich. But this episode helps illustrate how the Catholic Church got to this point and what remains to be done. And it may sway cardinals in the next conclave to choose a pope who has a stronger record on abuse.   

David Gibson is the director for the Center on Religion and Culture at Fordham University.  The article was published in The Conversation. For more information about the report, click here: Report on sexual abuse in German diocese faults retired pope | AP News

Friday, January 28, 2022

"On the vital, longtime, increasingly bonkers battleground of culture wars that are our schools and our kids and what they can learn, it keeps getting worse" -Abby Zimet


On the vital, longtime, increasingly bonkers battleground of culture wars that are our schools and our kids and what they can learn, it keeps getting worse. A new report finds wingnuts in calamitous power are begetting a flood of "educational gag orders" that are often sloppily written, factually inaccurate, vague enough to invite confusion if not egregious abuse, extreme enough to spark chaos, and "pedagogically pernicious," from banning ill-defined "divisive concepts" that cause "discomfort" to setting up a snitch line - cue helpful "tips" on Albus Dumbledore, creeping Sharia, teachers teaching and the terrorist group al-gebra - to report teachers "behaving objectionably."

In the process, they chillingly create "an Orwellian hellscape" where teachers are treated "as subversive internal threats who must be zealously rooted out at any deviation from orthodoxy" - a toxic, growing trend, writes Greg Sargent, that can "make teachers feel on such thin ice they end up whitewashing the U.S. past rather than communicating hard truths about it." The new report from PEN America, which for over a year has been tracking "censorious legislative efforts" across the country, finds a "steep rise" in gag orders," with over 71 bills introduced in state legislatures, or about three a day. Most are about sex, race or U.S. history; like earlier ones, writes Jeffrey Sachs, "All are sweeping, all are draconian, and few make any kind of sense...This is about putting the fear of God into teachers."

Indiana is a prime, crazed example: Its 8 pending bills all target K-12; many mandate severe punishments for deviant teachers - from termination to being sued by parents - or schools, like loss of state funds or  massive fines. HB 1362 bans teachers from discussing sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or “anti-American ideologies.” HB 1040 demands teachers "adopt a posture of impartiality" about historical events while also declaring Socialism, Marxism, communism or totalitarianism "incompatible" (with our) "principles of freedom." HB 1231 prohibits teachers from introducing "any controversial subject matter" beyond a topic or urging students to join a “political affiliation, ideology or sectarian (sic),” and permits a taxpayer - not even a parent - to “observe classroom instruction at any time."

Here, as in multiple other states, there are also requirements for “transparency.” Other bills require schools to post titles/authors of curricula on a website, or provide copies if parents want their kids to opt out, or tell parents if their child displays signs of “gender nonconformity” or asks to join a club about “sexuality (or)  gender identity,” thus rendering the concept of "transparency" equivalent to "obliterating a child's right to any privacy whatsoever." "Even at the best of times, (these) provision(s) would be grounds for concern," writes Sachs. "These are not the best of times."

Between COVID and CRT, that ideological zealotry is regularly replicated by lone-wolf protesters - often orchestrated by far-right groups - like Heidi St. John, who at a "ReAwaken America" cabal - everyone got COVID, not anthrax - called public libraries "evil organizations" that push a trans agenda on kids. In Virginia, Amelia King was charged by police after she furiously threatened a school board she'd "bring every single gun loaded and ready" before she'd let her kids wear masks; she later clarified she "in no way meant...actual firearms (but) all resources I can muster." She's prob got the support of her "moderate" new GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who on his first day banned mask mandates - a move many districts and parents are fighting in court - and the teaching of "divisive concepts," which he failed to define, citing as an example CRT, which, again, isn't part of his or any other state's public school curriculum.

Then Youngkin upped the autocratic ante, announcing his tip line - Tik Tok's on it - for patriots to report any teachers  "behaving objectionably": "We're asking folks to send us reports (to) help us be aware (of) their child being denied their make sure we're rooting it out." "Virginia is for lovers of the Stasi," noted Twitter, which wondered if there's a line to report officials acting like fascists. It could also be useful in Mississippi, where a state with the most violent racist history and the highest percentage of black residents is now barred from teaching why that is. When its Senate passed a bill banning CRT, all 14 black lawmakers walked out. "That nonsense wasn't worth our votes," said Sen. David Jordan, a former teacher and civil rights veteran descended from sharecroppers. Gatsby-like, he added, “We cannot continue to stumble into the future backwards.”

Hold my beer, says Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott, who's already passed a new-and-improved ban on CRT and mask mandates, just announced a Parent Bill of Rights to "help restore parents as the primary decision-makers of their child's education and healthcare decisions." He's also directed state education agencies to develop "standards" preventing “pornography and other obscene content” in schools after removing from school libraries two books, "Gender Queer: a Memoir and "In the Dream House," a "tour-de-force meditation on trauma (and) survival." Going full Stasi, he's sought criminal investigation of teachers who may have given "obscene" content to students; if convicted, they'll lose their credentials/benefits and go on a "do not hire" list.

And he's joined a witch hunt by a GOP fellow-obsessive who sent school districts a list of 850 books about race, gender and sexuality, asking where they are, what they cost, and what other books they have that “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress,” like that felt when you realize your children's education is in the hands of Nazis. Speaking of, and adding to Texas' twisted priorities, right-wing pundit and former Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett is on board with it all, wisely advising parents wary of uppity teachers to "not be intimidated by the cult of expertise." "When it comes to education of children," he says, "if you don't understand what they're talking about, you're probably right and they're probably wrong." He's especially incisive on CRT: “There’s something really bubbling up in this country now. Parents are wondering why would you not teach what is so obvious - that this is the greatest country on Earth?”

Finally, lest we forget, there's Florida, where Gov. Ron Death Santis is just as busy fighting the teaching of America's racist past as common-sense COVID precautions while hawking bogus treatments for it. Having already banned CRT and signed a controversial Parents Bill of Rights, he's now pushing a bill to block public schools from making white students feel "discomfort" about race; he's also promoting a bill to let parents sue schools if they don’t like what their kids are taught about race and sure let's call it critical race theory though it isn't, and a bill to allow parents to scrutinize video recordings of their kids' classrooms to search for signs of “critical race theory," or at least intelligent life. 

And so it goes: The hysteria is working so well a fearful Florida school district just abruptly cancelled a professor's civil rights history seminar for teachers in case anything in it violated the ban's prohibition on "theories that distort historical events," like, say, arguing that America is founded on systemic racism in order to uphold white supremacy. 

In an email sent to teachers, the superintendent blathered about needing "an opportunity to review (it) in light of the current conversations about critical race theory," adding he was "mindful of the potential of negative distractions if we are not proactive in reviewing content and planning its presentation carefully,” which in English translates to, "We're terrified by all this fascist insanity, you win, we're folding." J. Michael Butler, who teaches history at Flagler College, was scheduled to give a lecture on "The Long Civil Rights Movement, arguing the movement long preceded and post-dated Martin Luther King. Clearly, it still does: Butler blasted "a climate of fear" created by DeSantis and his ilk that has "blurred the lines between scared and opportunistic." Tragically, he said, “The victims of this censorship are history and the truth."

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then - to learn...Look what a lot of things there are to learn." - T.H. White, "The Once and Future King."

“These are not the best times” by Abby Zimet, Common Dreams


Abby has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Federal Reserve plans to raise interest rates ‘soon’ to fight inflation: What that means for consumers and the economy (The Conversation)


The Federal Reserve signaled plans to begin raising interest rates “soon” in a bid to tamp down inflation before it poses a serious risk to the U.S. economy. A hike would be the first time the central bank has increased its benchmark lending rate in over three years.

Lifting the borrowing costs consumers and businesses pay for loans has the effect of slowing economic activity, which in turn could curb inflation. But there are also concerns that it could put on the brakes too quickly. We asked Alexander Kurov, a finance professor at West Virginia University, and Marketa Wolfe, an economist at Skidmore College, to explain what the Fed is doing and what it means for you.

1. Why is the Fed raising interest rates?

Short-term interest rates in the U.S. are now essentially zero.

The Fed quickly cut rates to zero at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020 in an attempt to soften the blow of the sharp recession that began that month as the U.S. went into lockdown. As a reminder of how bad things were back then, over 40 million workers – a quarter of the American workforce – filed for unemployment in the first few months of the pandemic, a staggering number with no precedent in the job market.

Although the recession was short-lived – lasting only two months – and the economy has mostly recovered, the Fed has kept rates at rock bottom because many workers and businesses still need support as the pandemic continues to rage.

The big problem for the Fed now is that U.S. consumer prices have surged. For 10 months in a row, inflation has been above the Fed’s 2% target and reached an annual pace of about 7% in December. This is the highest rate of inflation recorded in the U.S. in the last 40 years. High inflation means the prices people pay for goods and services are continually going up – especially for basic items like meat and gasoline, as well as for manufactured goods like cars.

The Fed can ill afford to allow this to continue because if higher inflation becomes entrenched, it would damage the economy. And the longer it lasts, the harder – and more painful for consumers and businesses – it is going to be to bring it back to a more sustainable 2%.

So, the Fed has to act quickly before it’s too late.

2. How does the Fed raise rates?

The Fed sets a target range for what is called the “federal funds rate.” This rate acts like a benchmark for all interest rates in the economy.

While the Fed didn’t specify a time when it plans to raise rates, analysts expect the first increase to come in March, probably by 0.25 percentage point. This would affect banks’ cost of borrowing, which in turn slowly filters throughout the economy as lenders charge more for loans on homes, cars, businesses, college tuition and anything else you might want to buy with debt. Banks would also gradually increase the interest they offer on deposits and savings accounts.

The Fed does not directly control all these other rates, and the exact path they will take is not completely predictable, but the overall trend will be up if the Fed keeps raising its target rate.

Markets expect the Fed to raise interest rates at least two more times in 2022.

3. What does that mean for consumers and businesses?

Put simply, higher interest rates mean borrowers would need to pay more for the loans they get.

If the Fed lifts interest rates this year by 0.75 percentage point, as expected, this would translate into about US$45,000 in additional interest payments on a 30-year, $300,000 mortgage.

So, if you want to borrow to start a business, pay for college, buy a car or do anything else, you should expect your borrowing costs to be higher later this year.

On the other hand, higher rates are good news for savers and investors, as their returns from activities like making deposits and buying bonds will go up.

4. And how will it affect the broader economy?

Higher interest rates would likely slow down business activity. While this can help reduce inflation, it also means lower economic growth.

The Fed always makes decisions based on what is happening in the economy and on how economic conditions are expected to change. And changes in the economy are often hard to predict.

The biggest unknown at this point is what will happen to inflation later this year. This is uncertain because inflation is driven by multiple factors, such as supply chain shortages and strong demand.

In addition, the labor force participation rate has still not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and the economy is experiencing labor shortages, which could push wages and prices higher. If these COVID-19-related pressures don’t ease up soon, inflation could continue to stay high or continue to accelerate, which may force the Fed to increase interest rates faster than currently expected.

On the other hand, if economic or employment growth stalls, this will make it much harder for the Fed to raise rates without making things worse. The Fed will need to find the right balance between taming inflation and avoiding slowing down the economy too much.

by Alexander Kurov, Professor of Finance and Fred T. Tattersall Research Chair in Finance, West Virginia University and Marketa Wolfe, Associate Professor of Economics, Skidmore College

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Board of Trustees of the Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois

Matthew Hunt
Appointed/Elected: Appointed
1st Term: June 2019
Current Term Expires: July 2022
Residence: Glen Ellyn
Contact: Email Matthew Hunt
Andrew Hirshman
Vice President
Appointed/Elected: Elected
1st Term: July 2015
Current Term Expires: July 2023
Residence: Oak Park
Contact: Email Andrew Hirshman
Beth Anderson
Appointed/Elected: Elected
1st Term: July 2020
Current Term Expires: July 2023
Residence: Ashkum
Contact: Email Beth Anderson
Dr. Carmen I. Ayala
Ex Officio
Appointed/Elected: By Statute
1st Term: March 2019
Current Term Expires: No expiration
Residence: Downers Grove
Contact: Email Dr. Carmen I. Ayala
Norma Bellcoff
Appointed/Elected: Appointed
1st Term: June 2019
Current Term Expires: July 2022
Residence: Edwardsville
Email Norma Bellcoff
Kevin (Duffy) Blackburn
Appointed/Elected: Appointed
1st Term: September 2021
Current Term Expires: July 2024
Residence: Joliet
Contact: Email Kevin (Duffy) Blackburn
Joseph Blomquist
Appointed/Elected: Elected
1st Term: July 2021
Current Term Expires: 2025
Residence: St. Charles
Contact: Email Joseph Blomquist
Marsha Byas
Appointed/Elected: Elected
1st Term: July 2019
Current Term Expires: July 2023
Residence: Marion
Contact: Email Marsha Byas
Maria “Mia” Jazo-Harris
Appointed/Elected: Appointed
1st Term: March 2021
Current Term Expires: July 2022
Residence: Bloomington
Contact: Email Maria “Mia” Jazo-Harris
Maureen Mena
Appointed/Elected: Appointed
1st Term: April 2019
Current Term Expires: July 2022
Residence: Bolingbrook
Contact: Email Maureen Mena
David Miller
Appointed/Elected: Appointed
1st Term: August 2019
Current Term Expires: July 2024
Residence: Lynwood
Contact: Email David Miller
Fred Peronto
Appointed/Elected: Elected
1st Term: July 2017
Current Term Expires: July 2025
Residence: Elmhurst
Contact: Email Fred Peronto
Larry Pfeiffer
Appointed/Elected: Elected
1st Term: July 2017
Current Term Expires: July 2025
Residence: Carlinville
Contact: Email Larry Pfeiffer
Doug Strand
Appointed/Elected: Elected
1st Term: July 2019
Current Term Expires: July 2023
Residence: East Moline
Contact: Email Doug Strand

An unconstitutional diminishment of teachers' healthcare payments in Illinois by Fred Klonsky


                                                   Fred Klonsky in Italy

In the last newsletter, I published the press release from the Illinois Retired Teachers' Association (IRTA) announcing their intention to bring a lawsuit to stop the diminishment of funding to the retired teachers' healthcare benefit. I use the word diminishment intentionally.

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that public employee pension benefits cannot be diminished or impaired. The words, cannot be diminished or impaired, are written right there in the Illinois Constitution.

Not to get all legal here, but in Kanerva v Weems, there was a constitutional challenge to reduce state contributions toward health insurance costs for retired public pension system members and their survivors. The Court held that the challenge was unconstitutional.

The justices ruled that the Pension Protection Clause protects more than the pension annuity.  It protects all benefits of membership in a pension system, including health insurance benefits. In another case concerning the public pensions of the town of Harvey, Illinois, the Court ruled that public pension funding must be funded.

So, what happened with our healthcare benefit that led the IRTA to go to court?

Going back over nearly two decades, a state agency known as Central Management Services (CMS) would make a funding request to the Illinois Teacher Retirement System (TRS) board of trustees to fund our health insurance at a level equal to or no more than 5% over the previous year.

This year CMS, a state agency responsible to Governor Pritzker, made a request for funding lower than last year. The amount should have been around $130 million. CMS asked for $99 million. These funds come from active teachers and matching state funds.

Amazingly, the TRS trustees agreed to the diminished amount. Only the elected representatives of retirees voted no. Other teacher representatives who voted yes represent the state’s teacher unions. Half of the TRS board are political appointments. Two are elected by retirees.

I have been told that when Attorney General Kwame Raoul was asked for a legal opinion, he suggested that the diminishment was questionable. It’s not questionable. It’s illegal…

When the IRTA had their actuary look at the numbers, it appears that if the healthcare funding cuts become a reality, our healthcare benefit funding will dry up in two to four years.

In talking to IRTA executive director Jim Bachman this morning, he told me that this was less about funding than it was about the health and safety of retired teachers.

We are in the middle of a pandemic. What is wrong with these people? That is an important thing to remind Governor Pritzker. After all, CMS is his baby.

Fred Klonsky in Retirement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber:

Fred Klonsky in Retirement | Substack

Monday, January 24, 2022

Kanerva v. Weems: TRS Health Insurance Benefits Are Protected by the Constitution of Illinois


Kanerva v. Weems: Health Insurance Benefits Are Protected:

•       This was a constitutional challenge to an amendment to the State Employees Group Insurance Act which reduced State contributions toward health insurance costs for retired public pension system members and their survivors.

•       The Court held that this amendment was unconstitutional.

•       The Pension Protection Clause protects more than the pension annuity.  It protects all “benefits” of membership in a pension system, including health insurance benefits.

•       If there is any doubt about the scope of a constitutional protection for pension rights, those doubts are resolved in favor of the pensioner.


Kanerva and your health insurance benefits:

•       In Kanerva, the Supreme Court ruled that the Pension Protection Clause protects not only pension annuities but also “health insurance subsidies.”  (Kanerva, par. 49.)

•       In Kanerva, the Supreme Court invalidated amendments to the State Employees Group Insurance Act that “altered the State’s obligation to contribute toward the cost” of coverage by increasing retirees’ premiums and reducing the State’s contributions.  (Kanerva, par. 12-13.)  Importantly, the amendments challenged in Kanerva didn’t abolish a health insurance program.  They just made the benefits more expensive and pushed more costs onto retirees.


-from Attorney John Fitzgerald’s Power-Point Presentation at the IRTA Biennial Convention on October 30, 2017.

See also Kanerva v. Weems, 2014 IL 115811 | Casetext Search + Citator

"The Illinois Retired Teachers Association filed a lawsuit today seeking to correct an unconstitutional move by the State of Illinois which dramatically reduced contributions made to the Teacher Health Insurance Security Fund"


(January 24, 2022 - Springfield, Ill.) - The Illinois Retired Teachers Association (retired teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors, school nurses, et. al) filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to correct an unconstitutional move by the State of Illinois which dramatically reduced contributions made to the Teacher Health Insurance Security Fund. That move worsens the financial footing of the fund, which is already on the verge of default, and places the health benefits of retired teachers in dire jeopardy.

The lawsuit, filed in Springfield, states that more than 100,000 retired educators depend on the committed funding of the health insurance fund and that personal and family decisions have been made in justifiable reliance on the promises made by Illinois law makers and guaranteed by the Illinois Constitution.

“This is a disastrous blow to retired public servants and soon-to-be-retired public school educators,” stated Bill Funkhouser, President of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association. “Retirees have medical procedures they have planned for and long-term medical decisions that are projected. They need their healthcare as originally promised.”

Funkhouser added, “furthermore, I am shocked and appalled that the government is reducing our health insurance funding during a catastrophic pandemic. It’s unamerican, it is wrong, it’s not right and it must be reversed.”

The lawsuit details how the Department of Central Management Services reduced the contribution rates to the retirement healthcare fund from active employees and the State from 1.3% to .9% in FY2023. This decreases the funding to the teachers’ health insurance fund by $45.6M. Since the State of Illinois’s contribution is a matching amount, this automatically reduces the State’s contribution.

For FY2023, the employer’s percentage is reduced from .9% to .67%, which will represent a deficit of millions more being paid into the teachers’ health insurance fund.

Actuarially, these actions are causing the healthcare insurance fund to become rapidly insolvent. According to an independent actuarial review conducted by the Retired Teachers’ Association, the negative cash flows to the fund will result in a ‘total depletion of the Fund’s assets at some point during fiscal year 2023.’

Jim Bachman, Executive Director for the Illinois Retired Teachers Association stated: “We understand that flawed decisions made by multiple previous Governors have produced a difficult financial position for the State of Illinois. However, Illinois retired teachers do not believe that the solution to the financial situation is to poorly fund its health care insurance fund.”

Bachman added: “While the reduction may free up money for the State this year, it increases Illinois’ debt exponentially for future years to the sum of three-quarters of a billion dollars. This type of irresponsible underfunding is exactly how Illinois got into the budget situation it is in today.”

“The Illinois Retired Teachers’ Association does not believe that the State should attempt a short-term fix on the backs of Illinois’ more vulnerable retiree population,” Funkhouser said. “This is a population that has never failed to answer the call of this state. A population that has made sacrifices throughout their careers and who have never failed, not even once, to make their contributions for retirement and for their healthcare.”

Because the Health Insurance Security Fund is so close to default, and the health benefits to retired teachers are in immediate danger of being diminished, the Association believes the courts must and will act quickly to reverse a most unconstitutional policy, which will be detrimental to the everyday taxpayer.

According to the Terry Group, an actuarial and employee benefits consulting firm based in Chicago, the reduction in contributions reduces the expected revenues of the Fund by more than $750M, from FY2022 through FY2027.

"To help right this wrong, we need your help," Funkhouser concluded in a message to Association membership. "Right now, we are not asking for any money, but what’s needed is membership in the Association. There’s strength in numbers. There is power in numbers. If you know any retired educator, or soon to be retiree, urge them to join the Association and fight this fight with us. Forward this video. Call them. Text them. Ask them. Urge them to join. The health and safety of every TRS annuitant is at stake. We need members to win."

Click here for the video address by the president of the IRTA: Bill Funkhouser