A teachers’ union lobbyist is entitled to a taxpayer-funded pension, even though he only taught for one day as a substitute, according to an Illinois Supreme Court ruling last week.
SPRINGFIELD, IL—In 2007, Illinois’ then-Governor Rod Blagojevich (who was later sent to prison for corruption) signed into law a provision that allowed an officer or employee of a statewide teachers’ union who was a certified teacher as of the effective date of the amendment, to establish service credit in the for his or her union work prior to becoming certified as a teacher.
This enabled David Piccioli, who was a lobbyist for the Illinois Federation of Teachers from 1997-2012, to exploit the loophole by getting his substitute teacher certification in December 2006—just prior to the provision’s 2007 enactment.
On January 22, 2007, Piccioli worked for one day as a substitute teacher in the Springfield public schools, according to the court record.
“By taking these steps, plaintiff met the statutory criteria to qualify as a certified teacher prior to February 27, 2007, the effective date of the 2007 amendment,” the Court ruled.
However, in 2011, when negative media coverage exposed the scheme, the Illinois legislature passed another bill in attempt to take the loophole that Piccioli exploited away, as well as his pension.
As a result, Piccioli sued…and won.
Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that “the provision in the 2012 Act (Pub. Act 97-651 (eff. Jan. 5, 2012)) that repealed the 2007 amendment violates the pension protection clause in the Illinois Constitution and, therefore, that plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment.”
As of late 2018, the teachers’ pension fund that Piccioli is drawing from carried an unfunded liability of more than $75 billion, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Piccioli is not the first union employee to exploit a pension loophole.
“Last year the court upheld a dubious loophole that allowed government employees who left those jobs to work for their union in the private sector to still qualify for a public pension — with payouts based on their much higher salaries in their union roles,” the Chicago Tribune reported. “One example: Former Chicago labor boss Dennis Gannon, who started out working for the city, was able to retire at age 50 with a city pension based on his union salary of at least $240,000.”