Another Oak Park educator is feeling the effects of a decision made last year by the Illinois General Assembly to allow the Early Retirement Option to automatically expire last July.
The program provided educators in the state, who are members of the Illinois Teacher Retirement System, the opportunity to retire early while receiving their full pension if they were willing to pay an upfront penalty.
Since 2005, ITRS members had been contributing a small percentage of their earnings to help fund the early retirement program. Now that the program is expired, that portion will go back into teachers' monthly paychecks.
The educators who had depended on the program, though, have been left scrambling. Paul Noble, a veteran Oak Park and River Forest High School English teacher, is just the latest to feel the effects.
"I planned to retire one year early, in 2020," Noble said in an email statement. "I intended to pay the ERO penalty and receive my full pension for 35 years of service to District 200. Illinois' decision not to renew the ERO program means that I now face a 30 percent reduction in my lifetime pension because I will be one year short of the 35 years required to be fully vested."
Several months ago, Noble requested that the D200 school board allow him to extend his employment at the high school, i.e. "delaying my currently contracted retirement by one year, until the end of school year 2020-21," he said in a statement.
"It is no one's fault but my own that I did not foresee the termination of the ERO program," Noble stated. "And there is certainly a cost savings to the district in hiring a new teacher to replace a veteran teacher for one year. But to say that I was disappointed would be an understatement."
Noble's situation is similar to that of former Lincoln Elementary School Principal Cathy Hamilton, who applied to, and was approved by, District 97, for the early retirement option in 2013. When the ERO program expired two years later, Hamilton — who had been principal for 15 years — requested that the D97 school board push back her retirement for another three years so she could leave with a higher pension.
As with D200 and Noble, the D97 school board upheld Hamilton's early retirement request, which meant it didn't allow her to stay on as principal any longer. Instead, the district found an administrative position for Hamilton.
D200 officials would not comment directly on Noble's situation. They only confirmed that the board voted down his request with the Faculty Senate in attendance. Noble was the Faculty Senate's lead negotiator during the last round of contract talks in 2014. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for 2018.
Answer Book 2019
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