Tuesday, June 29, 2038

NOTE: To find the most current posts, please scroll down to the two big red arrows. You can't miss them.

Thursday, June 24, 2038

Friday, May 28, 2038

Items of interest in the Archives: The 2013 STRS Board Election

Many people have been very interested in reading about the irregularities of the 2013 STRS board election. There are many posts related to this topic, beginning the first week of April 2013, after the ballots were mailed to retirees from STRS. You can find them by going to the Archives for this blog, over in the right sidebar, and clicking on dates beginning with April 7, 2013. Dennis Leone announced his candidacy for a retired seat in November, 2012. There is a lot of information about him in the Archives, beginning with November 12, 2012 posts. 5/28/13

Wednesday, February 27, 2036

.....so what REALLY happened in 2003 that touched off a firestorm at STRS that is still smoldering today? Read it here, from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. (Hint: It ain't over yet!)

More here (Akron Beacon Journal, 2003)

Wednesday, April 11, 2035

Thursday, March 10, 2033

To find current, day-to-day posts -- pull your scroll bar down a ways, just below the big red arrows (you can't miss them). Thanks.


Monday, September 15, 2031

Note from this blogger.....

In case you weren't aware, I am quite willing to post opposing views on this blog; in fact, I welcome such opportunities. If you disagree with anything you see posted on my blog, please feel free to submit your views and I will gladly post them.
Kathie Bracy 
kbb47@aol.com 9/15/10.........................................

Monday, February 24, 2031

Find your state representative and senator here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2029

Gettin' a little tired.....

Some communications to Mike Nehf and Tim Myers, dating back as far as 2009, continue to go unanswered. Looks like it will be a long wait, but we haven't forgotten. You can see them here and here.

Saturday, April 29, 2028

I know, it's weird.........

Many posts that appear "at the top" for a while are eventually moved down, where they can be found under their original posting dates. Also, if you are confused by the postdating, this is done to keep these posts up there; otherwise, they drift down when new posts are added. It's a "blog thing" which I have no other way to control. KB

Wednesday, February 24, 2027

Handy links: Contacts, information and more (short version)
This is an abbreviated version of the original 'Handy links' post.
 Click here to view a more complete list. (Some of it is old.)
STRS Board.....STRS website
Board calendar
E-mail contacts at STRS (old, but some may still work)
Map/directions to STRS, 275 E. Broad St. Columbus, OH 43215
Rich DeColibus' PowerPoint presentation STRS' PBI Program; Does it work?: click December 21, 2008 (blog Archive) and scroll down to December 23 posts.
Popular links; click, then scroll down: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 24, 2026

SPECIAL (must read):

Dennis Leone's INVESTIGATIVE REPORT on STRS: May 16, 2003...Who is Dennis Leone?........(PDF version)...More on Dennis Leone .......(PDF version)
Dennis Leone's STRS Report to ORTA, March 2007
Dennis Leone's Testimony at the Statehouse 9/5/12
The Plain Dealer article that started it all
Historic PBI vote, January 16, 2009

Sunday, February 23, 2020


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dayton Daily News: Pension cuts looming for Ohio teachers and retirees

Pension cuts looming for Ohio teachers and retirees
Laura A. Bischoff  Columbus bureau 
Dayton Daily News, March 28, 2017 
Pension cuts looming for Ohio teachers and retirees
Columbus — The financial strength of the State Teachers Retirement System — the second largest pension fund in the state — is being questioned after actuaries told trustees to make big changes. Now, teachers and retirees may face benefit cuts.
STRS Ohio’s expected annual investment return — 7.75 percent — is too rosy, retired teachers are living longer than expected and payroll growth isn’t keeping pace with assumptions.
Trustees agreed to change assumptions after Segal Consulting recommended the changes based on a review of five years worth of data. The assumed rate of return will be dialed back to 7.45 percent — though some board members wanted to be even more conservative and set it at 7 percent.
STRS Ohio is the retirement system for 490,000 teachers and retirees. It had $72.1 billion as of June 30, 2016.
All told, the changes will pile on an additional $6.5 billion in accrued liabilities — a gap in money available to pay promised benefits. Ohio pension systems are required to be able to pay off their unfunded liabilities within a 30 year window.
But changing the assumptions used by STRS means the system’s funding period will jump from 26.6 years to 59.5 years. This will require STRS to come up with a new plan to get back within the 30-year window.
“They're trying to make the best decisions they can with the bad hand they were dealt,” said John Cavanaugh, executive director of Ohio Retired Teachers Association.
STRS told members in its March newsletter that the board is looking at changing benefits “to preserve the fiscal integrity of the pension fund.”
One option on the table is to cut or suspend the Cost of Living Adjustment for teachers and retirees. A 2012 change in state law allows pension boards to change the COLA without approval from the General Assembly.
A vote on the COLA is expected at its meeting in Columbus on April 20, though it could be delayed, said STRS spokesman Nick Treneff. “The COLA is a big lever because it impacts all the retirees and all of the members,” he said. The COLA now is 2 percent of the base pension, starting on the fifth anniversary of retirement.
The STRS board also voted to change up its “asset mix,” so that its investment portfolio has less risk and volatility. That configuration, though, means it’ll likely bring a lower rate of return: 6.84 percent over the next decade, according to consultants.
Cavanaugh said retired teachers have been calling his organization with concerns.
“As you can imagine, no one is thrilled with a potential cut in their COLA,” he said. “We also understand that they have a several billion dollar math problem that they're trying to solve.”
In 2012, Ohio lawmakers adopted the most sweeping pension overhaul in state history, impacting 1.7 million government workers and retirees. The changes brought significant cuts to pension benefits and required employees to work longer. The overhaul was needed to shore up finances of the public retirement systems.
Like in other states, Ohio’s public pensions are defined benefits systems. The pension benefit is based on age, years of service and final average salary and it’s guaranteed. Defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) funds, are more common in the private sector.
Public employees in Ohio do not participate in Social Security.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bob Buerkle on the STRS funding crisis

From Bob Buerkle, March 21, 2017 
Written by Bob Buerkle in January, 2017
 I've been following the latest discussions at STRS about their funding since last spring.  Everything that they have been proposing is going to be so costly that there is no chance that STRS can be under 30 years of funding unless they steal more money from the retirees again. 
First it was to try to manipulate numbers wherever necessary in order to be able to claim that the Health Care Fund, (which isn't even a pension plan requirement), could be solvent for 65 years. If this becomes a reality, which it should not, then the health care cost sharing will be reversed from 20 years ago. Retirees will pony up 90% of the cost and STRS will kick in the other 10%.  SOLUTION: Drop this 65 year plan.  Since STRS is phasing in the age 60 with 35 years requirement, the health care plan will only be necessary for 0-5 years before retirees must go on Medicare.  This compares with up to 15 years of pre-Medicare coverage that STRS provided in the past.  
Next it was actuarial psycho-babel known as "Closed Funding" so they could possibly survive another "once-in-a-100-years" Great Recession.  I think the chances of this happening again in this century are about as likely as seeing Halley's Comet again in the next 20 years.  This is an impossible goal to achieve without more pension benefit take backs in the future.  SOLUTION:  Take appropriate action if another Great Recession ever does return.  Penalizing retirees for something that may never happen again is not in the best interests of our pension recipients.  If our STRS investment experts could lose less money than the general market during large pullbacks that would be most helpful.  Better yet, invest 10% of our money in Government Bonds and everything else in Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway stock which has returned over 20% per year for 50 years, including all the ensuing recessions.  Just investing in the S&P 500 Index would also have satisfied all of our actuarial needs. 
Most recently STRS now wants to lower the earnings assumption from 7.75% to 7.5% or even as low as 7%.  Such a change would immediately propel the STRS funding ratio close to or at infinity again.  By doing this the STRS Management and Board can say "we now have to drop the COLA again" so they can right the STRS Ship.  SOLUTION: Leave the earnings assumption alone.  They already reduced it from 8% to 7.75% which cost us about 15 more years tacked on to our funding period and eliminated our COLA for a year, followed by a one-third reduction for as long as it might take for humans to populate another planet.
I believe the following statements are all accurate.
Retirees are the ones paying for STRS Investment mistakes
No usual and ongoing demographic changes caused this problem
The 3% simple COLA did not cause this problem
No service formula benefits of any kind caused this problem, including the 88.5% for 35 years
The combined effect of all of the above did not cause this problem
Bob Buerkle

Points made by Bob Buerkle in his February 2017 speech to the STRS Board

From Bob Buerkle, March 21, 2017
Here are the points I tried to cover at the February STRS meeting and you can post them.
As usual, the 3 minutes of time that STRS allows speakers goes by so fast that you can never get through all of you points, let alone any in-depth understanding of our suggestions.

Here are a few of the points I brought up.  I did not give the STRS a written copy of my speech.
1. I gave the Board the history of the last 50 years of their actuarial assets, unfunded liability, the funding period in years (which have ranged from 14 years to Infinity) as well as the funded ratio which has ranged from a low of51% in 1979 to a high of 92% in 1999 & 2000. What this showed is that STRS was over 30 years of funding in 26 years (plus 4 more when we were at infinity).  It also showed that STRS had a funded ratio of 56% in 2012, the year new pension system legislation was passed.  However, in 4 other years STRS had a lower funded ratio and they were not considered to have a funding period at Infinity.
2. I also presented a revised copy of what has become known as the “COLA Tree” that visually explains how the COLA benefit adds up over the years.  In example #1, it shows that up until 01/07/2013 the Ohio Revised Code 3307.67 said that “The State Teachers Retirement Board shall annually increase each allowance or benefit payment …by 3%”.  I told the Board that because of the changes affecting retirees and active teachers, STRS is not, and can no longer be considered, a top quartile pension system.  Example #1 also shows that, in the past, a teacher fortunate enough to live 33 years into retirement would live to see their original pension double.  As my Example #2 COLA Tree shows however, is that retirees have lost over one third of their original COLA benefit and for those retiring beyond 08/01/2013 who receive no COLA for 5 years will never the 55 years required to double your original pension.  It also shows that all of the newest retirees with a $50,000 pension will lose $519,000 due to their shortchanged pension payments if they live 33 years after retiring.  That equates to over 10 times their original $50,000 pension benefit.  That’s exactly the same as having no pension for 10 years.
3. I did not have time to explain 5 reasons that retirees from 40 years ago received much better benefits than today’s retirees, including structurally, financially, kept promises and benefit improvements.

4. I also have ideas that I could not get to that could significantly improve their funding period and funded ratio.

Bob Buerkle

Monday, March 20, 2017

Bob Buerkle's speech to STRS Board, March 16, 2017

To STRS Board Members and 512,583 other STRS Members:
Everybody can understand that when your investment experts did not prevent the loss of 48% of our pension fund during the "Great Recession," some long term repair had to be put in place.  The STRS Board took the easiest way out.  They hit the easy button.  First they killed the COLA for a year for retirees.  They also killed the COLA for five years for retirees after July 1st, 2013.  Then they reduced the COLA by a third thereafter for every retiree.  Now the STRS Board is seriously looking at a vote to cut the 2% COLA by another 50% to 100% at their Board meeting on Thursday, March 16th, 2017.
STRS claims that they are acting as our fiduciaries.  A fiduciary is supposed to have your best interests foremost in their mind.  They should use every option available to them in order to deliver on the promises they have made and which deliver on our expectations regarding our financial needs.  They did not!
Question: How could it be possible that retroactively reducing promised pension benefits was in our best interests?  This funding crisis could have been solved using the same strategies that New York, Georgia, Colorado and 29 other state pension systems used to solve their financial problems.  For the most part their rule changes applied only to new hires, while they left the promised benefits to retirees and current workers intact. These options were explained to the STRS Board by Bob Buerkle and others but the Board ignored their recommendations.  Bottom Line:  STRS had tools available to them that they never considered using.
As an STRS Board member your job is to be the best fiduciary you can be and represent all current teachers and all retired teachers.  It is not, and never has been, your job to be a fiduciary to anyone who is not a member, anyone who has never been a plan participant, anyone who has never paid the required STRS contributions from their paychecks.  It is also not your job to be a fiduciary to any “maybe I want to be a teacher when I grow up” third grader.  Those future new hires will have to be offered a new pension plan that STRS can afford after the promises to current workers and retirees are fulfilled.
The only fiduciary obligation you have is to the current vested members working towards retirement and the current retirees who are already there.  You might very well think that you are doing the best thing for our members and they should be appreciative of your efforts.  Instead, current workers, who are looking at the additional 5 to 8 years of required work before they can get an unreduced pension, coupled with all of the COLA betrayals for future and current retirees, think differently.  The STRS solution choices have also created great animosity between actives and retirees as well as Employers who must now budget for 5 to 8 year career extensions for their highest paid teachers.  STRS actions, if not reversed, will force every Ohio School district to find taxpayer support in the form of new levies that STRS has forced them to seek.
The 2008 “Great Recession” was a once in a hundred years “Black Swan” event, but you act like it will soon occur again.  Thinking like that is wrongheaded and unnecessarily punishes all STRS Members.
STRS needs to rethink, rework and undo the damage being done to all current and retired workers, as well as with every school district in Ohio.
Instead of voting on more carnage towards our members, stiffen your backbone and stand up to Legislators for us.  Table any proposed changes and direct the Actuary and your Investment advisers to develop a 30 and a 35 year Investment return plan to mirror the S&P 500 returns, along with a new retirement plan for new hires.  As fiduciaries for our members, any plan that does not restore all lost COLA benefits within 3-5 years should be considered unacceptable to the STRS Board.
Submitted by Bob Buerkle 
2003 Cincinnati Retiree 
Former CFT Retirement Chair
(Click images to enlarge)

Dean Dennis’ speech to STRS Board February 16, 2017

Members of the Board, 

On February 16, I drove from Cincinnati to present before the Board. Having paid into the STRS Defined Benefit Plan for 35 years, I was quite upset over the mismanagement that caused the 1% deduction in the COLA for retirees who planned on the 3% promise. Worst was the COLA freeze teachers now retiring will have to endure, not to mention the entire revamping of the retirement schedule. It was my understanding that under the Defined Benefit Plan, STRS assumed all the risk. Changing the language to effect benefits after one retires I believe to be illegal. I'll share my wife also taught for 35 years. We were not expecting to lose half-a-million dollars in our retirement; especially after a combined 70 years of funding our pensions. The expectation under the Defined Benefit Plan, especially once retired, is that a benefit would stay the same, or increase, but would never be reduced (ORC 3307.67 states COLA's shall increase 3% annually). I believe past practice also establishes this. That said: 

On February 16, I presented before STRS. It is my very strong belief that over the years our Board's have allowed a smaller and more efficient investment staff to grow and become a bloated less efficient financial operation. We also are spending unnecessary monies on consultants as a result. From a person who understands investments, STRS has become upside down. Instead of managing the investment department, you now are reacting to their inefficiencies. They need to be reacting to your management. Due to their mismanagement, you are once again considering cutting member benefits. Don't over react too soon. You need to give the market time to recover. We set our goals for 30 years, why do we not trust the 30 year market cycles? 

Please listen; if you see a team that sets a benchmark goal that shoots for less than 8% annually, then you don't need that team. It shouldn't take a staff of 70 plus investment professions to find the symbols (VOO), (SPY), or (VFINX) and invest in the S&P 500 index. You are tolerating too many unnecessary investments using target assumptions that underachieve our benchmark needs. With 8% returns we can easily meet our funding goals. We should not be using the monies of our members to pay people to experiment by trying to beat the market indexes. It is very well documented that over 66% percent of money managers consistently under-perform the S&P 500 index. Employing over 70 people, paying them, and then giving them bonuses to under perform an index that has been around since 1926 is both irresponsible and reckless. I'll share again what I shared at the meeting (with3 minute time restraint). I'll state it in bold. 

There has never been a 30 year period in the long proven history of the S&P 500, where the S&P 500 index hasn't gained at least 8% annually. In fact, over 60% of the time it averages over 10%. There have been 60 such thirty year periods. This should be easy to understand.  In fact ask your investment advisers from Callan, like I did. I spoke with three individuals from Callan and they seemed to be in agreement with my premise. If you have any doubts please set a meeting, I'm happy to drive to Columbus again. To farther drive home my point, I can also show you that over the last 20 year period that the S&P Mid Cap index has nearly doubled the S&P 500. We should be doing better and spending less in doing so. 

So, the S&P 500 index should be your baseline annual investment benchmark utilizing an 8% return objective. If you feel compelled to consider other investments, then they should always be above this benchmark. Listening to our investment team get rewarded while the rest of us are getting punished should be a red flag. It wasn't lost on some of us that while the investment team was getting positively acknowledged during the presentation for exceeding the performance of some of their peers; we were aware that our investment staff's performance lagged the market by nearly 2%. Last year the S&P 500 returned 9.8%, why would we even consider moving our benchmark down from 7.75%? The only reason that makes sense is that the investment staff can't be trusted to keep up with the market indexes or invest in them. 

Lastly at this point the 30 year unfunded liability needs to be adjusted to 35 years. Unfortunately due to under performing investments future teachers will have to work 35 years to qualify for full retirement.  Having to entice future teachers into our system when they have to work for 35 years and then wait until the age of 60 to retire jeopardizes our retirement system even farther. However, there is hope if we don't react hastily and get back on track. I for one am willing to help. 

Please find attached the S&P 500 document referenced during my presentation. It breaks down annual investments in 5 year increments up to 25 years. 


Dean Dennis, 
Retired CFT Field Representative

Dennis Leone’s speech to the STRS Board February 16, 2017

Is the COLA a gift? 
There may be some current board members who consider the COLA a gift, like the 13th check was. For all those who retired prior to 2013, the COLA was a legal, statutory, guaranteed part of their pension. Ohio law did not say that the Board “may” provide retirees with an annual COLA of 3%, it said the Board “shall” provide retirees with an annual COLA of 3%. By securing Legislative permission to eliminate it for one year, and reduce it to 2%, in subsequent years, the Board broke a promise to thousands of retirees. My COLA was promised to me. While the change in the Ohio Revised Code certainly permits the board to do as it wishes with new retirees, there could very well be a future legal question pertaining to whether such a new law also can take away what had been guaranteed and promised to retirees. The one year the COLA was eliminated completely, my 88-year-old mother-in-law had to borrow money to pay for her increased car insurance and her increased home insurance, and I doubt that any STRS Board member or STRS staff member had to borrow money for that purpose. Now there is Board discussion pertaining to the possibility of reducing the COLA again. Where is the Board commitment to protect my 88-year-old mother-in-law – and the oldest retirees who have the least?

Payroll Growth 
As an STRS Board member for nearly 4 years between 2006 and 2009, I repeatedly objected to the Board’s acceptance, and the staff’s acceptance, of projected payroll growth data offered by hired outsiders. I said repeatedly that the Board’s consultants were not correctly interpreting the realities facing Ohio school districts, and my publicly stated concerns were confirmed. Year after year, STRS has significantly over-estimated payroll growth. It was a miserable 1.33% aggregate average between 2005 and 2013, when the Board was using an assumption of 3.50%. Had the Board and staff been responsive to the advice that was contrary to the advice offered by non-school consultants, and had the Board implemented its 2012-13 action plan in 2006, or 2007, or 2008, STRS would be in far, far better shape financially than it is today. 

Recipients of 88% Benefit and COLA Related to Same 
Between 2000 and 2015, retirees with 35 years of service received the famous 88% benefit. It was a profound insult to pre-2000 retirees with 35 years of service to be held to a 77% benefit. The reality of this is that for the past 17 years, those who got the 88% benefit also have been receiving a COLA based on 88% of their final average salary, while the pre-2000 retirees with 35 years have been receiving a COLA based on 77% of their final average salary. Given the truth of this, it would be another stab in the back of the pre-2000 retirees with 35 years to get hit with another COLA reduction. The Board should eliminate that COLA for the 88% benefit recipients completely, or – at the very least – have future COLAs for this group recalculated and based on 77% of their original final average salary. Given the conditions summarized above, the STRS Board and staff owe it to retirees to consider options other than reducing the COLA that was statutorily promised to them when they retired. It is simply unacceptable for you to conclude that our COLA has to be solution. I need to add one more thing: Just before lunch this morning, I listened to a Board consultant who shared data about how many retirees are currently working, as if that might be important information to for the Board to consider. I certainly hope the Board is not going to demonize retirees who are working part-time to improve their standard of living…….a part-time job is NOT a justification to reduce a retiree’s COLA.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

RH Jones: Tell retired teachers to attend the April 20 STRS Board meeting

From RH Jones
March 19, 2017
By phone, by email, or by US Mail please tell every retired teacher you know to attend the April 20th STRS Board meeting.  In their newsletter, they said that they would probably vote on the loss of our COLA. Numbers of retired educators packing the STRS grounds, building, and meeting room should help to let them know we cannot have any cuts to our COLA. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Handout to STRS Board members at their Education and Planning meeting 1/26/17

The Speech I Would Have Made If This Had Been a Regular STRS Board Meeting
Good afternoon. My name is Kathie Bracy; I am a member of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association and a Trustee to that board from Franklin County. Some of you will remember me, as I have attended many STRS Board meetings over the years. 
I am here to defend the COLA for all STRS beneficiaries who retired before the year 2000. You may recall that was the year the STRS Board enacted the 35-year/88% pension formula, ensuring a very comfortable retirement for those who qualified. Some of those very people were sitting on the STRS Board at that time and voted for this! I'll leave it to you to guess why.
Although the formula was discontinued in 2015, the 88 percenters are still living quite comfortably, financially, and always will. If the STRS Board is considering making COLA cuts, the COLA for this group should be the first to go. Some of those people are receiving $3,000-$4,000 COLAs every year, something the pre-2000 retirees will never see! There is absolutely no justification for continuing to pay out hefty COLAs to those who are already getting extremely generous pensions for the rest of their lives. 
Then there are those whose annual pensions exceed $120,000. How badly do these people need a COLA? Maybe, if they want to plan a trip around the world instead of a weekend at one of Ohio’s state parks. Time to cut their COLA, too. Out the door!
The future retirees are the next group that should receive no COLA at all. Members of this group are getting salaries far higher than pre-2000 retirees ever dreamed of! They too will be in much better financial shape to handle their living expenses than the pre-2000 retirees. That should be pretty obvious.
Those who retired before 2000 are facing steadily increasing costs for home insurance, auto insurance, utilities, healthcare and more, just like everyone else. But the budgets for these people are being strained far beyond what many of them can handle; you know that! The COLA should NOT be cut for this group, period! Think of the lady who retired 30 years ago on a meager pension, who is already struggling to put food on the table and pay her bills. How is she supposed to keep up? The COLA is the ONLY raise the pre-2000 retirees get!
And while we’re on the subject, it would not hurt the STRS Board to consider restoring the 3% COLA to the oldest and poorest (and probably the sickest) retirees among us. I would venture to guess even Scrooge would do that much if he were on this Board.
Lastly, I ask you not to even consider making equal cuts across-the-board. This would hurt thousands of retirees who are already hard-pressed to make ends meet while it would barely make a dent for those receiving the generous pensions that the pre-2000 retirees will never see. I see absolutely no justification for this, morally or otherwise.
Thank you.
Kathie Bracy
Columbus, OH
January 26, 2017

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

RH Jones: ORSC to try to take back 13th check?

From RH Jones, January 13, 2015

On page 2 of the Winter 2015 ORTA Quarterly, Ann Hanning reports last in her list of the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC): “removing the authority of the STRS board to issue a 13th check.” This is not the first time that the ORSC has considered backing the 13th check take away legislation. In 2004, the ORSC tried to “take back” this lawful benefit; and, if you readers would remember, on 10/19/2001, ORTA’s Executive Director of that time, David P. Travis, spoke before the STRS board in support of the 13th check (the Year-end [Christmas] Supplemental Clean-up check).

Time and space do not permit me to expound on all the benefits to this wonderful financial supplement; but, in short, I can write that: this is the only single benefit available to all STRS retirees fairly based the issuance, by a retiree friendly STRS board, of from 1 to 11-units, then multiplied on their professional years of service and years into retirement. Obviously, the older retirees who are retired with a considerably less final average salary (FAS) are the ones who need this Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.) “on the books” the most; many of whom are experiencing large increases in nursing home or home care costs, HC/Rx costs, and increased taxes.
We retired teachers expect the ORSC, our ORTA, OEA-R, and our locals to support the keeping of our 13th check in the O.R.C. And we retired teachers understand that there is a need to improve funding for our HC/Rx and our simple calculated COLA. However, it is common knowledge that the 13th check can be issued yearly, determined by the STRS board as future funding becomes available. There should be, therefore, no reason to cut this benefit from the O.R.C. 
Respectfully submitted,
Bob Jones, retired OH teacher

Saturday, January 10, 2015

RH Jones: Retired teachers owe Attorney General DeWine our thanks

From RH Jones, January 10, 2015 
To retired and active educators:

Please read Attorney General Mike DeWine’s press release below.  We retired and active educators owe him our thanks for going after the American Capital Properties (ARCP) for their alleged “cover-up”  of accounting fraud causing our OHSTRS to lose millions of dollars.

Attorney General DeWine to Seek Lead Plaintiff Status for Ohio Pension Funds in Securities Lawsuit

Following a recent review of securities and accounting fraud allegations, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that he has filed a motion for two of Ohio’s pension funds to lead a class of investors in a lawsuit against American Realty Capital Properties (ARCP), Inc. The news comes after the company, a real estate investment trust based in New York City, disclosed that ARCP officials intentionally misstated company financials, and subsequently covered up the accounting irregularities, resulting in approximately $3 billion in losses for the company’s shareholders, including State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) and the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS).  
“The information American Realty Capital Properties provided pension fund managers was false, misleading, and purposefully hid accounting fraud,” said Attorney General DeWine. “This fraud inflated the true value of the company, causing Ohio teachers and public employees to lose millions of hard-earned retirement dollars.” 
The motion alleges that ARCP issued materially false and misleading financial statements by, among other things, overstating reported adjusted funds from operations, and then intentionally covering up their impropriety. In addition, it alleges that ARCP improperly accounted for various accruals and expenses that materially affected the company’s reported earnings per share. As a result of ARCP’s improper accounting and cover-up, key performance metrics were overstated and reported net losses for the reporting periods ending June 30, 2014 were understated. Revelation of this alleged accounting fraud by ARCP on October 28, 2014 resulted in losses in the company’s stock value of approximately $3 billion. STRS and OPERS lost in excess of $7.5 million as a result of the alleged fraud. 
The motion asks the court to consolidate several lawsuits against ARCP and to name the Ohio pension funds STRS and OPERS lead plaintiffs. 
"STRS Ohio looks forward to working once again with Attorney General DeWine and OPERS to protect the integrity of the financial markets," said Michael Nehf, Executive Director for STRS Ohio. 
“The OPERS Board of Trustees has been an active participant in securities litigation cases on behalf of our members and retirees,” said Karen Carraher, OPERS’ executive director. “This is a fiduciary responsibility that we take very seriously, and it is consistent with past actions we have taken to encourage corporate governance reform and to seek compensation for unlawful behavior. We intend to continue an aggressive posture to protect the integrity of the marketplace for all investors and citizens of Ohio.” 
The motion was made in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ohio's Spineless State School Board


Ohio’s State Board of Education voted today to remove the requirement that districts employ education specialists in order to “give local districts flexibility” from “unfunded mandates”.
Instead of taking a stand for the value of nurses, counselors, social workers and the arts in education and pushing back against the Kasich administration’s funding cuts and increased testing mandates, the School Board voted to eliminate the “5 of 8″ rule from Ohio Administrative Code, setting the stage for the further decimation of these services in our schools.
It is appalling that the majority of the current members of Ohio’s School Board don’t recognize the value of the positions in our schools.  Every single one of these highly-qualified and specially-trained professional positions are not only vital to the education of the whole child, but in many instances are crucial to the survival of children.  The notion that these positions should only be available to those children in communities that can afford them is akin to educational malpractice on the state level.
Instead of Ohio’s Board members shrugging their shoulders and throwing up their hands and blaming school funding, this was an opportunity for the State Board to say, “Enough is enough!”  At some point, the Board needs to stop taking direction from the General Assembly and act like the independent body they are supposed to be.
Today, the State School Board opted to lower the bar in order to accommodate Governor Kasich and the GOP majority in Ohio’s General Assembly who continue to under-fund schools while passing a seemingly endless stream of unfunded mandates like OTES, OPES, the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, the Resident Educator Program, diagnostic testing in the primary grades, the new Kindergarten Assessment, and the latest and greatest version of standardized testing via PARCC that will soon require schools to have all the latest technology simply to administer more tests. Instead, Ohio’s School Board members could have taken this opportunity to draw a line in the sand and raise the bar on what a meaningful educational environment truly looks like for all of Ohio’s children.
They could have listened.  They plugged their ears.
They could have stood strong.  They cowered.
They could have held the line.  They retreated.
They could have fought for children.  They surrendered to politics.

At this point I need to admit something.  I (Greg) was wrong.  To be blunt, I royally [screwed] up.  In an article I wrote leading up to the elections, I recommended that you vote for School Board Candidate Ron Rudduck based on his extensive knowledge of Ohio’s messed up history of school funding.  I erroneously thought that such knowledge would ave benefited us all in circumstances exactly like this that are a direct result of that screwed up funding process.  I now wholeheartedly regret that recommendation and apologize to you, our readers.  Instead of using his knowledge and experience to push back against a legislature that isn’t meeting the needs of our students, Rudduck has been at the forefront of pushing the elimination of the “5 of 8″ rule with statements defending his action that simply make no sense.
Here’s one of Rudduck’s statements: “I’ll tell you the truth, a lot of the superintendents I talk to, especially the young ones, didn’t even know there was a rule called the 5 of 8.  So it leads you to believe it wasn’t involved in their decision making to begin with.”
Paraphrasing: “Some people in positions of highest authority are completely ignorant of the laws for which they are to be held accountable, so we can go ahead and get rid of them.”
The true story:  You can be damn sure that the teachers and the unions that represent them in negotiating contracts are aware of the requirements.
Here’s another Rudduck zinger: “It happens a lot when districts fail levies, unfortunately, the first positions that are cut are these education service personnel positions.”
Paraphrasing: “Since schools are overly reliant on local tax dollars due to the absence of an equitable public school funding model at the state level, I do expect that many of these specialist positions will end up getting cut.”
The true story: Since schools are overly reliant on local tax dollars due to the absence of an equitable public school funding model at the state level, I do expect that many of these specialist positions will end up getting cut.

Finally, if you sense that I’m a bit ticked off, it’s because the elimination of this requirement is personal.  My youngest son is:
  • Type-1 diabetic and insulin-dependent since 4th grade (a school nurse has never been optional)
  • Has played either strings or percussion since 4th grade, and is now in marching band & orchestra
  • Had an outstanding, licensed, professional art teacher in elementary school that fostered his love of the visual arts
  • Has had guidance counselors throughout his years of schooling who have been integral in coordinating intervention/enrichment services and will benefit from having guidance counselors at the high school level to assist him in looking at post-secondary education
And finally….
  • Despite being identified as gifted in every core subject area over the years (based on test scores, of course), he is tired of wasting school time on standardized tests, has told me he “hates Common Core” because it messed up his math classes, quickly adjusted to high school because of his previous musical experience and welcome acceptance into the marching band community, and has become increasingly independent at managing his diabetes with the daily encouragement of nurturing school nurses in elementary, middle, and now high school.
  • And personally, my senior year of high school consisted of six music courses (men’s glee, marching/concert band, senior choir, handbell choir, jazz band, and ensemble) and only three core subject courses.  And damn if I don’t use that ability to work collaboratively in a group while managing my independent responsibilities on a daily basis…
Don’t tell me these specialists should be optional.
Don’t tell me these specialists will only exist when a community can afford them.
Don’t tell me about living in the “right” Zip Code.
Don’t…just don’t.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

RH Jones: Time for that 13th check

RH Jones to Bob Stein
October 30, 2014 
Subj: Time for a STRS OH 13th Check for Retired Members
Dear Bob Stein, President of the STRS OH Board:

Congratulations on being elected as our STRS OH Board President. I wish you good luck in your new leadership role.

All of us retired teachers have received the happy news that our OH STRS has now reached the 29.5 year funding level that will enable the board members to once again vote to authorize the very fairly calculated “Supplemental 13th Check”. It is my understanding that this vital supplemental check is still on the law books; and, since retired teachers have been especially hit at an alarming level with high medical and costly prescription medications this coming 2015, it is essential for those of us which have been retired over 20-years.  Some did not even get their non-compounding COLA this year and its been 1/4-century since the state has issued an Ad-Hoc increase to keep us even with inflation.

As the “Holiday Season” fast approaches, it is incumbent that this be introduced to the board, voted upon, and passed by the STRS OH Board in the mid-November meeting.  As our Retired Representative and our new board president it will be delightfully appreciated by many of us who have felt that there has been a lack of caring by our STRS OH over the past few years.

Most humbly requested,

Bob Jones, a retired STRS OH teacher

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cleveland teachers, YOU are getting screwed BIG TIME!

From John Curry, May 29, 2014

Remember when Michelle (with a motive) Rhee was wined and dined by Kasich a while ago? I do! Now...look what has happened to your jobs! They are being taken by those Rhee "five week wonders!" An even sadder note is that some of you will still run right out and vote Republican the next time you enter the voting booth. There's really no cure for stupidity, is there? Some times (actually, many times) teachers are their own worst enemies! John
Cleveland Schools To Fire Quality Teachers; Union President Speaks Out
By On May 29, 2014
The Cleveland School District is in the news this week as they are working to remove teachers who have received good evaluations while simultaneously expanding their contract with Teach For America. This contract expansion will replace these experienced and qualified teachers with untested, under-trained TFA corps members (who each come with a “finders fee” paid out to Teach For America which will total $400,000 in additional spending).
At the Cleveland School District Board of Education meeting this past Tuesday, hundreds of teachers gathered to protest these changes that caught these successful teachers off-guard.  One of the key speakers to offer public comments to the Board that night was Cleveland Teachers Union President, David Quolke.  At our request, President Quolke shared his remarks with us so that we could share an accurate story of what is taking place in Cleveland:
I am David Quolke and I am the President of the Cleveland Teachers Union. There are many issues that I could talk to you about today. Many issues that I – and my members – think should be brought to your attention. However, today, I need to talk about Non-Reappointments.
The first week in May, 70 of my members received notice that they were being recommended for non-reappointment. Now that number could be off because these were the numbers that I was given by the media after they spoke with CEO Gordon or someone from the District. When talking to the media – I explained that many of my members were blindsided when they received this news and that the CTU was blindsided also. You see, I have many cases of members who had good evaluations – developing and skilled all year long, who were taking on leadership roles in their schools, who have increased student achievement, who have a composite evaluation with developing and skilled ratings. So, yes, when these teachers were suddenly told in May that they were going to be recommended for non-reappointment they were indeed blindsided.
Before you say to me – David, you know that state law does not require poor evaluations in order to non-reappoint a limited contract teacher. I know. I know. However, when the media came to the CEO regarding the teachers that were being recommended for non-reappointment – here are some of the quotes directly from CEO Gordon:
“We have a few people that either can’t or won’t. These are the people that our principals say are not meeting the expectations for our kids.”
“At some point if you are not getting the job done, we shouldn’t continue to pay you to do it.”
“It’s new for us to evaluate this thoroughly. It’s part of the Cleveland Plan to make sure that we have the right people in front of kids.”
So I ask you –
Is it a part of the Cleveland Plan to non-reappoint teachers with Skilled evaluations?
Is it a part of the Cleveland Plan to non-reappoint teachers with Skilled evaluations who have made a year’s worth of growth with their students in just 5 months?
Is it a part of the Cleveland Plan to non-reappoint teachers that were hired in October, November, December and are Developing (where a new teacher should be) or a combination of Developing and Skilled?
Is it a part of the Cleveland Plan to non-reappoint teachers that are Developing or a combination of Developing and Skilled who are taking on leadership roles, such as AR Champion or in servicing staff on SLOs (at the request of the principal) or who are accepting students from the local universities to observe their classes?
Is it a part of the Cleveland Plan to non-reappoint teachers that start in September, score Developing and Skilled on evaluations, and take over 100 hours in voluntary professional development?
Is it a part of the Cleveland Plan to non-reappoint teachers that are described like this by an administrator “His relationship with scholars and teachers resulted in one of the most successful classrooms in the district. I placed some scholars in his classroom knowing that it would be their last chance for success within CMSD.
I hope that none of this is a part of the Cleveland Plan. If it is – this should serve as a dangerous warning to all people enrolled in local teacher preparation programs – Come work in Cleveland where we ignore teacher Development and get rid of you simply because we can.
I know what you are thinking and what some people are already saying. The teachers union protects bad teachers. David Quolke wants bad teachers teaching kids no matter what the cost. I know that these words are already echoing in city hall, at 1111, and throughout the community. Let me be very clear – THAT IS NOT TRUE. It is a lie. I am furious about these non-reappointments. The officers of the CTU have worked around the clock in hearings for members over the last two weeks. There are good teachers that are doing the things that I want my daughter’s teachers to do. There are good teachers doing the things and the good work that our development and evaluation system ask for. There are good teachers doing what is needed to increase student learning and student achievement. They do not deserve to be recommended to this Board for non-reappointment.
So obviously a logical question would be – why are these people being recommended for non-reappointment? I have no answer for you. I can only speculate, but it is certainly a question that must be asked and answered by the people who engineered this massive non-reappointment of good and qualified teachers.
I think some people will look at tonight’s Board agenda and see that one of the items is a resolution to approve $400,000 to hire Teach For America teachers. Are these non-reappointments to make room for Teach for America? I will not bash Teach for America. They are our colleagues and once hired work shoulder to shoulder with us trying their very best to educate our students. But the irony of non-reappointing new teachers in order to replace them with Teach for America is that TFA does what the district should be doing – provide mentors and support. That is the actual Developing of a teacher that CMSD has completely abandoned.
Great way to recruit and develop a talented work force.
Sounds more to me like the beatings will continue until the morale improves. Not a good strategy for real reform.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

If your hospital tells you they want 'cash up front', tell 'em to 'take a hike!'

From John Curry, May 20, 2014 
Please pay first, more hospitals say
Columbus Dispatch, May 18, 2014
An OhioHealth registrar called Kelley Finan to pre-register her for her scheduled outpatient arthroscopic knee surgery and verify her insurance policy.
Then the woman told Finan that she owed $1,365.16 out of pocket for the procedure.
“How would you like to pay for that today?” Finan recalled the woman asking. “We take credit cards or debit cards.”
Finan, 54, of Grandview Heights, said she refused to pay upfront, and the OhioHealth representative backed off.
“She never indicated her demand for payment was a ‘suggestion’ until I called her out on it,” Finan said.
Increasingly, local hospitals are requesting not only co-pays upfront but also deductibles and co-insurance, which is the patient’s share of the cost of a covered health-care service beyond the deductible.
Officials with all local hospitals that request payment of deductibles and co-insurance before a scheduled surgery or other health care said they don’t deny patients care if they refuse to pay upfront.
“We’re not holding patients hostage,” said Keith Coleman, Mount Carmel Health System’s chief financial officer.
On July 1, Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center will begin requesting — but not requiring — that deductibles be paid upfront at all of its locations where health-care services are scheduled in advance. The practice has been used sporadically for two years by Wexner Medical Center, which has not yet begun requesting co-insurance payments upfront.
Some other service providers, such as the travel industry, expect payment upfront, so it’s not unprecedented for the health-care industry to do the same, said Debra Lowe, the hospital’s administrative director of revenue cycle.
“If your car needs replaced and you owe your $500 deductible (in an insurance claim), it’s very clear that you need to pay that for services to be rendered,” Lowe said.
Hospitals are taking such steps to head off the possibility of bad debt as consumers see their deductibles balloon for employer-sponsored and individually purchased health coverage. Among workers who are enrolled in health benefits through their jobs, 15 percent had a deductible of at least $2,000 last year, up from 3 percent in 2007, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, Wexner Medical Center collected $3.6 million from patients upfront, primarily in co-pays and deductibles. That total is expected to hit $4 million in the current fiscal year, which ends next month.
Local hospital systems recorded a combined $357 million in bad debt in their most recent fiscal years, up 14 percent from a year earlier.
Larger deductibles appear to be more common with the advent of policies available through the federal government’s new health-insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, Lowe said. She said Ohio State already has seen at least three patients whose policies purchased through Ohio’s federal exchange have deductibles of at least $10,000.
More hospitals are testing and adopting the approach, said Elisabeth Russell, the founder and president of the patient-advocacy consultancy Patient Navigator. “It’s harder to collect money from someone after they’ve walked out the door.”
With far more of patients’ own money at stake, it’s important that they understand how much is owed, Russell said. But she said patients also can lose leverage in their dealings with hospitals and other health-care providers if they pay deductibles and co-pays upfront.
“I think they should, if possible, avoid paying upfront (in case) things get messed up — as they usually do — in hospital bills,” Russell said.
At Wexner Medical Center, patients’ deductible payments are underestimated to reduce the chance that a patient will be overcharged.
“The last thing we want to do is overcollect and then have to refund your money,” Lowe said.
OhioHealth began collecting co-pays upfront from patients in 2008, and deductibles and co-insurance in the past two years, said Jane Berkebile, system vice president of revenue-cycle management.
In its most recent fiscal year, which ended in June, OhioHealth collected $19 million from patients at the point of service, including co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance, Berkebile said. The amount is increasing “as that portion that’s due from the patient has grown.” 
Mount Carmel, meanwhile, collects about $500,000 to $1 million upfront each month from patients, said Karen Geisler, patient-financial-services consultant. She said Mount Carmel has requested upfront payment from patients, including deductibles and co-insurance, for about eight years. 
Nationwide Children’s Hospital said it does not ask families of patients to pay their deductibles before services are provided.
“If we did move to collecting deductibles prior to service, we have financial counselors that would work with the family on other options,” the hospital said in a prepared statement.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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