From The Chicago Tribune:
Two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience were allowed to count their years as union employees toward a state teacher pension once they served a single day of subbing in 2007, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation has found.
Steven Preckwinkle, the political director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and fellow union lobbyist David Piccioli were the only people who took advantage of a small window opened by lawmakers a few months earlier.
The legislation enabled union officials to get into the state teachers pension fund and count their previous years as union employees after quickly obtaining teaching certificates and working in a classroom. They just had to do it before the bill was signed into law.
Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing qualified him to become a participant in the state teachers pension fund, allowing him to pick up 16 years of previous union work and nearly five more years since he joined. He’s 59, and at age 60 he’ll be eligible for a state pension based on the four-highest consecutive years of his last 10 years of work.
His paycheck fluctuates as a union lobbyist, but pension records show his earnings in the last school year were at least $245,000. Based on his salary history so far, he could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.
His pay for one day as a substitute was $93, according to records of the Illinois Teachers Retirement System.
Over the course of their lifetimes, both men stand to receive more than a million dollars each from a state pension fund that has less than half of the assets it needs to cover promises made to tens of thousands of public school teachers. With billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities, the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, which serves public school teachers outside of Chicago, is one of several pension plans that are in debt as state government reels in a fiscal crisis.
A spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers emphasized that the lobbyists’ actions were legal and that they made “individual decisions.”
Read more here.