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Placing Illinois Teachers in Social Security

Updated: December 13, 2019

Issue: Requiring newly-hired Illinois teachers to become part of Social Security would help ease the burden on TRS, lower the state’s contribution to public pension systems, help ease the long–term financial problems facing Social Security, and create more income stability for retired teachers.

Discussion: Making newly-hired teacher pay into Social Security and allowing them to be eligible for benefits would affect all current and retired teachers.

Illinois teachers have never been part of the Social Security system. Most teachers rely almost solely on a TRS pension during retirement. Active teachers contribute 9 percent of their paycheck to help fund TRS and school districts contribute 0.58 percent of every teacher’s salary to the System. Last year, all told, teachers contributed $929.1 million to TRS and school districts contributed $149.5 million.

For new teachers to become part of Social Security this scenario would mean a mandatory 12.4 percent payroll deduction split evenly between the member and the employer, which in the case of Illinois teachers is school districts and state government. Teachers would still be required to contribute 9 percent of salary to TRS.

For school districts, the cost of teacher pensions would immediately rise by a considerable amount. Instead of contributing 0.58 percent per new teacher, every district would have to contribute 6.2 percent per teacher. It is estimated that this increased cost would equal $629 million for Illinois school districts in the first year. Districts would still have to contribute 0.58 percent for each participant in the current system.

A 1999 study by the General Accounting Office found that adding teachers and other public employers from around the country who are not currently in Social Security would create, at best, a temporary surge in revenue for Social Security. Over the long term, adding teachers to Social Security would only increase the System’s total obligations and deepen the program’s long-term funding problem.