CHICAGO — A review of suburban Chicago school labor contracts show that at least a dozen districts are offering post-retirement bonuses to teachers and administrators.

The Chicago Tribune ( ) reports that discovered the bonuses at taxpayer expense by reviewing more than 20 labor contracts in Chicago suburban districts.

The bonuses are largely used to reward educators for staying with a district for a long time and to offer higher earnings after the state limited educator salary increases. The bonuses are also a way to boost educator earnings after the state reined in salary increases that had been inflating the pensions of suburban and downstate educators.

“Our rationale was to try to recapture as close to possible the spirit of the two 20s (20 percent raises given in the past),” said Dennis Duffy, president of Vernon Hills District 128’s teacher union.

But some districts, such as Deerfield 109, have been making efforts to cut back on post-retirement benefits.

“I believe that given the new normal of the post-2008 economy, boards of education recognize that teachers have gained so much ground on salaries over the last 10 or 15 years that the old retirement benefits agreed to years ago are too generous and no longer in sync with economic realities,” Deerfield 109 assistant superintendent for finance and operations Greg Himebaugh said.

The bonuses are calculated differently from district-to-district, such as a flat amount; a set figure multiplied by an educator’s years of service; or a percentage of an educator’s annual salary, which can be lucrative in affluent districts that pay six-figure salaries.

It’s not clear how many districts provide the post-retirement bonuses across Illinois, though school officials in Chicago suburbs said they are aware of neighboring districts that do it. McBarron, from the Illinois Education Association, said the statewide union does not track the practice.

Some districts do not give post-retirement bonuses but instead help their retirees cover health-care premiums until Medicare age or longer. In other cases, districts allow educators to cash in unused vacation or sick days at retirement.

School officials have acknowledged that payouts to individual educators aren’t always publicized or transparent.

Information from: Chicago Tribune,

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