Just weeks before former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein slammed teacher pensions as "hollowing out public education," Klein walked into the teacher pension office to collect his own annual windfall, sources told the Daily News.
Klein, who could rake in as much as $4.5 million this year at his new gig with News Corp., also will collect $34,000 annually for his eight years as chancellor.
Accepting the money seems to fly in the face of a harsh editorial he wrote last week, ripping into the guaranteed pensions earned by veteran teachers.
"Defined-benefit pensions helped bring the once-vibrant U.S. auto industry to its knees," Klein wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 10. "The promised benefits just proved too costly. In that industry, such pensions are mostly a thing of the past."
"Alas," he added, "the same kind of pensions are now hollowing out public education."
But Klein's eight-plus years as chancellor entitled him to a slice of the public pension pie, and last month he helped himself. His $250,000-a-year salary allowed him to cash out at a much higher rate for fewer years logged.
A teacher with a master's degree can make up to about $34,000 in annual pension payments only after 20 years of service.
Klein said through a spokesman that he had no comment.
Teachers, however, were ready to sound off about it.
"It's the height of hypocrisy," said Brian Jones, a second-grade teacher at Public School 30 in Harlem, whose own eight years as a teacher would net him about $6,400 in annual pension payments.
Other teachers understood why he took the cash - but wished he wouldn't bash them for doing the same thing.
"It's hypocritical, but I don't fault him one minute for getting the pension - it just shows how important the pensions are," said Jeff Kauffman, a teacher at Aspirations Diploma Plus High School in East New York, Brooklyn.
"People enter into public service knowing that you give up a lot. You can earn a lot more money doing other things, but you give that up knowing that you're making a difference and there's a decent medical plan and a pension."
The teachers union boss was less forgiving.
"It's very disturbing to hear that someone who has spoken out so vehemently against a pension system now has no qualms about taking part in that system," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.
I wish I could say unbelievable about this and mean it.
But I cannot.
Klein, like his boss the Mayor of Money, is a hypocrite.
That live in a world where they wag fingers at others over things like transfats, pensions, and accountability for test scores, but when it comes to themselves - everything is allowed.
The next time Klein writes or talks about the evils of guaranteed pensions, somebody in the news media needs to press him - not just ask him, press him - why he is collected a pension himself if he thinks they're so evil.