It's not clear Illinois lawmakers will come to an agreement on the pension problem anytime soon. But that's not stopping the Teachers' Retirement System from preparing for possible changes. One of the leading pension proposals would force employees to make a choice: give up state-backed health care in retirement, or accept lower pension cost-of-living increases.
Teachers' Retirement System spokesman Dave Urbanek says his organization already fields more than 100,000 calls a month. Forcing current and former teachers into such a significant choice, he says, would make that number skyrocket.
"If we have to, in a short space of time, reach out to all 366,000 members, the bottom line is we're going to need more people. We just can't do it with the staff that we have available and expect to do right by people."
Urbanek says it's been suggested all the system would have to do is create an online calculator where people could see how they'd fare under choice 1 or choice 2. But he says people will have more questions that that. He says TRS needs to start prepping now because it would have to hire more people and create a process to guide teachers through the changes.
Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey contributed to this report