Issue: In 2018, a website was launched that identified 30,000 TRS members as a "$100,000+ Salary & Pension Club." The website has been circulated via social media and several news sites.
Discussion: The website was created by the OpenTheBooks.com watchdog organization. In Forbes magazine, the group said that Illinois is home to "the most out-of-control" and "corrupted... education pay-and-pension systems..." However, a closer look at the numbers shows that membership in this "$100 K Club" was the exception for Illinois teachers, not the rule.
The website’s data was based on two-year-old statistics gathered at the end of fiscal year 2017. TRS provided the group with records through a Freedom of Information Act request.
There were 30,492 active or retired TRS members in 2017 who either received a salary or a pension of $100,000 or more.
But here's what OpenTheBooks.com chose not to mention:
- There were a total of 110,043 retired TRS members in 2018.
- There were 13,383 retired members receiving a pension of $100,000 or more in 2018.
- Therefore, the $100 K Club comprised just 12.25 percent of these TRS members. In other words, 87.8 percent of active and retired teachers in Illinois were not members of the $100 K Club.
- The average TRS pension in 2018 was $55,796.
The website created by the OpenTheBooks.com enables anyone to search a map of Illinois and pinpoint all TRS members who received either a salary or a TRS pension of $100,000 or more in 2017.
TRS did not provide OpenTheBooks.com with any member addresses or other personally identifiable information but was required by the FOIA law to sort member salary and pension information by the school districts where active members were employed and by the last districts that employed retired members.