How to Make a Fortune in Public Education: America’s Looming Pension Disasters

James Freeman:

The story doesn’t necessarily look better when one examines some of the specific beneficiaries of government pension systems. Steve Cortes writes in RealClearPolitics:

I grew up in Park Forest, Ill., a working-class suburb of Chicago. In my youth, Park Forest was pleasantly middle-class — a solid community of well-kept lawns, strong churches, and active sports. Unfortunately for my hometown, times have been tough over the years, reflected by a jobless rate about twice the national one and a poverty rate 43 percent higher than the state of Illinois average. As a consequence, Park Forest has lost almost a third of its peak population of 30,000 since the 1970s.
But like many such struggling communities, one class of people has found a way to prosper: public employees. Recently, Fox affiliate Channel 32 and Open the Books detailed the exorbitant pay package for part-time interim school Superintendent Joyce Carmine. She retired in 2017 making $398,000 annually, the highest-paid superintendent in Illinois, in a community where the median household income is $44,000. She will receive, courtesy of taxpayers, a pension of just under $300,000 for the rest of her life. Adding insult to injury, the school district hired this retiree back as a consultant at the rate of $1,200 per day for a total of 100 days, bringing her pay this year to $419,000 total for part-time work. Given the modest $75,000 median home price in Park Forest, her salary equates to 5.5 home purchases…per year.
If you can believe it, the story gets worse. According to Mr. Cortes, most students in the school system don’t meet state academic standards and by the time “those students matriculate to the local Rich East public high school, only 16 percent meet expectations and a truly shocking 0 percent exceed them.”

The photo accompanying today’s column shows a 2011 political demonstration in Illinois and a poster created by a government employees union which reads, “Defend the Middle Class.” But as in other states, many government workers in the Land of Lincoln have long since left the middle class. Mr. Cortes adds: