Solving the Pension Crisis and Making Illinois Schools Competitive

John Heintz Chicago
John Heintz, Chicago

Currently guiding the Chicago consultancy Second Rail, John Heintz has past experience as assistant superintendent and chief legal officer of Niles Township High School District 219. Focused on ways of improving organizational performance and student achievement in Chicago, John Heintz authors regular blog articles on the Second Rail website.

In one recent piece, Mr. Heintz looked at ways in which transformation can occur in the educational realm. Unfortunately, the “what-was-good-enough-for-me-is-good-enough-for-my-children” syndrome stands squarely in the way of change. One aspect of the equation Mr. Heintz draws attention to is the pension crisis and a system that is rife with excesses.

Mr. Heintz proposes a simple solution, that of requiring all parties with financial exposure to sit at the table during negotiations. In Illinois, only school boards and teachers’ unions work out arrangements, with the state government that actually pays the pensions having no negotiating authority.

As the state cannot “go out of business,” the stultifying situation arises where the teacher’s pension is secure and there is no real motivating force for innovation in the way things are done. When the rewards educational employees accrue do not correlate with merit, risk taking is not encouraged and stagnancy easily sets in.


Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Develops 3D Muscle Imaging

Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago pic
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

John Heintz’ former roles in education include serving as assistant superintendent for operations and chief legal officer of Niles Township High School District 219. Outside of his current professional responsibilities, John Heintz supports the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, an organization that undertakes cutting-edge research into neuroscience and bionic and musculoskeletal medicine.

Recently, individuals at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago unveiled a new 3D imaging technique that could help make muscle disease and injury treatment more effective. About 20 million Americans struggle with these conditions, which encompass diseases such as muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy and injuries such as rotator cuff tears.

Using 3D rather than 2D imaging techniques, clinicians identified strange patterns of collagen structures within muscle tissue for the first time. Standard 2D imaging techniques had only shown collagen outside of the muscle. The discovery of highly organized chains of collagen within muscle could point to new ways of treating muscle diseases and injuries.

In patients that had developed fibrosis, the number of collagen cables was much higher than normal, suggesting that they may play a role in the development of disease. Reducing the amount of collagen in muscles could reduce pain and possibly eliminate the need for surgical intervention.

Making City Schools Competitive with Those in Wealthy Suburbs

John Heintz Chicago
John Heintz, Chicago

Based in Chicago, John Heintz is a thought leader in the Chicago and global educational sphere. With teaching and administrative experience that includes serving as the chief legal officer at Niles Township High School District 219, John Heintz currently leads the innovation-focused consulting firm Second Rail. In late 2016, the Second Rail site featured a blog article on the topic “When Will Chicago Schools Outperform the Suburbs?”

This turned out to be a trick question, as the top-performing urban schools consistently outperform schools in even the most desirable Chicago suburbs by a wide margin. Unfortunately, this commonly asked question masks the reality that for many Chicago students the odds of securing a spot at Harvard University are higher than gaining admittance to prestigious and selective large-city schools like Northside College Prep.

Navigating schools in large city school systems is challenging, with nearly every aspect of the academic experience less well funded resulting in significant challenges for parents unwilling or unable to move to the suburbs. While annual spending per student at poor schools in Illinois averages $8,000, spending at the wealthiest public schools can approach $30,000. At the core of this problem is a system in which local districts control the allocation of funds. This will change only when legislators find the willpower to mandate the elimination of these inequalities.