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PLAN SPONSORSchool District 27 Northbrook[, Illinois]KEY PLAYERKimberly Arakelian, assistant superintendent for finance and operations at School District 27 Northbrook PLAN TYPES457(b)/403(b) plan; defined benefit plan PARTICIPATION RATE58% in 457(b)/403(b) When the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued final regulations for 403(b) plans in 2007, school systems had to examine how their affected plans were administered.

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As the district reviewed plan administration, it noticed that the fees on the annuities were high—nearly all of those products were subject to wrap fees, and participants faced surrender charges if they wanted to transfer their money to another vendor.

The district also realized that, because participants owned these investments, it was not protected from fiduciary liability for participant investment choices.

SOLUTION: Arakelian says, “We asked, ‘What can we put in place that benefits participants, allows them great fund choice and reduced fees, and protects and helps the district in terms of exposure [to] fiduciary liability?

’” A school board member had heard about the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association (IPPFA).

Founded in 1985, IPPFA is a not-for-profit organization whose primary function is to educate and train all Illinois Public Pension Fund trustees.

By leveraging the buying power of hundreds of public-sector employers, IPPFA built a defined contribution (DC) co-operative that public-sector employers could join at no cost—the Wise Choice for Educators Combined 457(b)/403(b) Plan.

Joel Babbitt, benefits coordinator with IPPFA in Chicago, says there are 21 core funds for the 403(b) portion of the plan and 22 for the 457(b) portion.

Additionally, participants may choose from over 5,000 mutual and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) through a Schwab Personal Choice self-directed brokerage account.

Before adopting the Wise Choice plan, the district had to get employees and the employee union on board.

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