We welcome letters, but please include your full name, address and a daytime telephone number. We edit all letters for libel, length and clarity.
Send letters to: Letters, Illinois Times. P.O. Box 5256. Springfield, Illinois 62705. Fax: (217) 753-3958. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
CHOOSE WISELY, AND DOORS WILL OPEN
Deirdre Fulton uses the term "anti-choice" ["Last choice," Dec. 9]. A woman is free to make many choices in regard to reproduction. Primarily, one is avoiding pregnancy by using contraceptives or abstinence. Being too young emotionally and being unprepared financially should both strongly figure in a teen's decision to get pregnant. (Young men, too, should think about their role.)
Other, more mature women can also make this choice. Bringing a new beautiful life into this world is an awesome yet rewarding responsibility.
Adoption, as Emily Roberts wrote ["Letters," Dec. 16], is another excellent choice; countless couples are unable to have their own children and would gladly welcome a child into their homes. Roberts also stated that her adoption agency gave her many choices as to the type of people she would desire to give her baby. She said the agency provided for all of her medical care, maternity clothes, nonjudgmental counseling, and even housing, had she required it.
I believe Emily Roberts showed great respect and love for her baby's life by choosing to provide an opportunity for her baby to have a secure and good life.
To quote this unselfish and loving young woman, "That is choice. That is real reproductive freedom."
To all women who whine about their "rights," think for a moment about your unborn child's rights. Real women give life, not take it. It is my belief that by seeking the right compassionate path you'll find doors opening for you.
ACTING IN GOOD FAITH
Rich Miller claims Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's relationship with unions has hit a rocky road in the discussion of the renewal of the early-retirement option for members of the Teachers Retirement System ["Class act," Dec. 16]. Truthfully, the unions aren't the only ones being hurt by Madigan's proposals. Teachers, administrators, professional staff at the State Board of Education, certified staff at the Regional Office of Education, in charter schools, at the School Board Association, and at the Schools for the Deaf and Blind all pay into TRS and are eligible for ERO.
Characterizing the current status of the pension issue as strictly a union concern diverts attention from the real problems. It also skews the issue by trying to appeal to those anti-union citizens who believe a union equates with something bad.
That is sad because here in Springfield, our union, 1,200 educators in the Springfield Education Association, work diligently every day to help the children of our city. Across this state, more than 100,000 educators (of the Illinois Education Association) do the same every day.
ERO, in existence for more than 20 years, requires districts and retirees to pay a contribution to help defray costs (contributions are based on years of experience and age upon retirement).
Madigan says ERO costs too much. There is no dispute that there are costs connected with the plan. But the bottom line is that the state, obligated by law to fund TRS at 90 percent, currently only funds it at 62 percent. If the state had paid its share over the years, this discussion would be moot.
Madigan dislikes the incentives that people receive at retirement. "Incentives," bargained by local districts, were implemented years ago for two reasons: to save districts (and taxpayers) money when the dollars couldn't be stretched far enough and to provide a small payment to retirees at the ends of their careers as an incentive to stay in the profession and to stay with a school district.
Educators (through their unions) agreed to this plan, knowing that deferment of payments would help our schools and students.
In good faith, we have honored our commitment, taking less in salaries over the years and working hard to earn the incentive, knowing that we could recoup some money at retirement.
Now, in good faith, the state needs to honor its educators and renew the ERO. If Speaker Madigan wishes to take this away, is he willing to put more money into our school districts' coffers?
Either the state provides more money to schools on the front end or to the retirement system on the back end. Asking TRS members to give up their well-earned ERO (and their incentives) to bail out the state's funding crisis is not a good-faith move.
President, Springfield Education Association
Trustee, Teachers Retirement System
FIRST THINGS FIRST IN 2005
What better way to ring in 2005 than with a New Year's resolution? Beyond the traditional self-improvement promises, many people are choosing to focus their energy on protecting Illinois' most valuable resource -- our schoolchildren.
As other nations are bolstering their educational systems, Illinois is failing to put its students first. We need to sharpen our competitive edge and grow the state's fiscal pie by nurturing a well-educated, highly skilled workforce. To that end, the state must invest in our children and fully fund our public schools. The Students First solution will help make the pie bigger and does not raise taxes.
We must ensure that all those involved in public education put our students first by being fiscally responsible and making the interests of the children second to none.
The General Assembly and the governor must fund public education before all other state programs and support legislation to make this commitment permanent.
The state needs to adopt zero-based budgeting to justify and prioritize all state expenditures to ensure public education is annually funded by the state at the Education Funding Advisory Board level.
Ronald J. Gidwitz
President, Students First Illinois
A BIG "PHINS UP" TO SPRINGFIELD
Happy holidays from Parrot Heads in Lincolnland! Our "Christmas in the Caribbean," held on Dec. 4, was a great success. We collected over 100 toys for Toys for Tots, and sent donations of $250 each to Mini O'Bierne Crisis Nursery, Friend-in-Deed, Kumler Neighborhood Ministries, and Catholic Charities. We also raised more than $1,500 to help send our member, Denise Riech, and her son, Nicholas, to a conference in Orlando for families with Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome.
We would like to extend our sincere thanks to all of those who helped.
Kate McAtee, president
Parrot Heads in Lincolnland