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Schools balk at picking up pension costs

The Illinois Association of School Boards says local school districts can't afford to pick up the tab for teacher pensions.

The Chicago News Cooperative quotes Ben Schwarm, executive director of the association, as saying the plan being floated by legislative leaders would cost schools $800 million a year and force spending cuts, tax hikes or both.

About a third of the state's school systems are already on financial watch lists maintained by the state board of education.

House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have been talking up the idea of having local districts pick up the pension tab — saying it would give school boards more "skin in the game" when they hire teachers and set their salaries.

Teacher pensions are now funded by contributions from the state and from teachers themselves, but the state has failed to pay its full share, leaving the funds at risk of running out of money.

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