Govt. Teacher Opposes Income Tax Hike

May 4, 2009

An Open Letter To Members of the Illinois State legislature:

Dear Illinois Legislator:

I am a non-union teacher at Harold L. Richards High School in Oak Lawn. This Wednesday, thousands of my union colleagues will take the day off and descend en masse on Springfield for the Illinois Education Association’s annual Lobby Day. This year’s major goal is to browbeat you into supporting a massive state income tax increase, to throw even more taxpayer dollars into teacher pensions. The teachers-cum-lobbyists will couch their self-serving pleas in altruistic rhetoric, but their goals have nothing to do with the quality of classroom instruction–or they would be in the classroom on Wednesday providing it!

Not all teachers in my district support the union or its political agenda. There are those of us who feel that genuine concern for children should be expressed by effort in the classroom and not by self-serving picketing and political lobbying. Our nation and our state are in the midst of a serious economic crisis. This would be the worst time to enact any kind of tax increase.

People are losing their homes, businesses and jobs, but the union stubbornly refuses to accept any compromise that might involve teachers sharing even the mildest hardship. Like spoiled children, the union stalwarts demand that taxpayers be made to shoulder the burden of funding our gold-plated, lavish pensions. With callous disregard for the welfare of others, the greedy union teachers will ignore the fact that economic conditions have deteriorated drastically. Union employees at GM, Chrysler and Ford have all recognized that conditions have changed, and all have accepted compromises in order to keep their firms afloat. The state’s public employees can and should do the same.

Currently, public school teachers can retire as early as age fifty-five with a lifetime guaranteed income of roughly 75% of their last working income. Local school boards also frequently grant end-of-career “bumps” that enhance this benefit even more, and many teachers double dip by continuing to teach in other systems or even returning to part-time substitute teaching in the same system after their so-called retirement. Reform is badly needed, and if balancing the budget without a tax increase means reform, I am prepared to accept it. Please reject calls for any increase in taxes in these recessionary times, and ignore the political pressure coming from those who have only their own selfish interests at heart.

Thank you for your time. Sorry I cannot come and see you personally on Wednesday, but I will be at work.


Jerry Kohn
H.L. Richards High School
Oak Lawn, Illinois

1 Response

  1. Randy Flood says:

    While this letter is well written and articulate to say the least, Mr. Kohn apparently has a few things he forgot to research or consider prior to his writing it.
    The direction of the union is not about taking teachers out of the classroom, nor is it about so-called “gold plated,lavish pensions”.
    I am a state employee, and have been so for 16 years. The average state employee working until age 62 with 30 years of service can retire with a whopping average pension of $18,000 per year. If that’s what Mr. Kohn calls gold-plated and lavish, he really needs to pull out a dictionary and use it. In this great country, that’s barely above poverty level for a single person.
    Those of us who are in a union, as I am, stand up for the rights of all. We put in our time, give our all for the citizens of the State of Illinois, as do the teachers of this state. However, I am not willing to sacrifice my future nor the future of any other for the bad choices our past political leaders may have made.
    When Mr. Kohn mentions that the union wants the taxpayers to fund our pensions, that is not the whole of it. Had our past political leaders not refused to pay into our pension fund, or had they used our tax money wisely, the state would not be in this predicament.
    Mr. Kohn also mentions employees at GM, Chrysler and Ford. Well, Mr. Kohn, I have to give you an “F” in your research. What you’ve failed to recognize is that those employees are far different from state employees and teachers, as are the unions that represent them. If you look into the law regarding unions in the public sector, you’ll find that we have many restrictions that are not found in the private sector. One of these, is the ability of the State of Illinois to stop payment on our pensions that are guaranteed by the Illinois State Constitution. If you see the CEO of GM trying to stop pension funding, you’ll see a strike very quickly. We, on the other hand, are restricted in that sense.
    The only way our great state can dig itself out of the rut it’s in, is for everyone to do their part. Do not expect that we can alter our pensions, increase our medical payments or even take pay cuts and have the fiscal crisis averted.
    There are those who would believe this will do it, but when you look at the big picture, there are only about 40,000 union state employees that would be required to take cuts on behalf of the millions living in Illinois.
    I pay my taxes, and I believe that the only fair way is for every person in the state to pay their share. Not a few, but every person. A minor tax increase won’t have a large impact on anyone, but everyone helping that little bit can possibly save our state.
    The children that you teach every day, are the future. If they see that only one body of individuals can be made to suffer in order for a larger body of individuals to gain, what does that teach them? Shouldn’t the lesson be that we are all created equal and we should all work together for the common good?

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