Saturday, October 22, 2005

Duane Tron: What's wrong with this picture?

"There is something really wrong with this picture!! They are still receiving their paychecks and health insurance, which is much better than ours, and we have been penalized and were forced to pay nearly 40% of our retirement checks for health insurance, et al, for a benefit we WERE promised when we retired. We were PROMISED! Nobody told us that they might take it away!"


What is the difference between the employees being promised a benefit verbal) and having it denied, abolished, and our situation??? Please help me understand how employees can be entitled to bonuses for doing their jobs? The promise wasn't in writing and wasn't a negotiated item. There was never any negotiated contract or written agreement! We were promised (verbal) a benefit, spousal subsidy, and that was taken away and we have been required to pay huge increases to have insurance. The non-investment employees haven't been financially penalized as they never received the money in the first place. This is quite unlike our circumstance where we were receiving a benefit and that benefit was then taken away, thus, causing thousands of us serious financial damage and harm. There isn't any law that guarantees any employee any bonus in any business that I'm aware of. Isn't this kind of like the spousal subsidy that was in place for forty years + and then taken away with very little advance warning, or notice. The actions of the STRS Board caused us much more financial harm than denying a bonus to non-investment staff has caused them.

There is something really wrong with this picture!! They are still receiving their paychecks and health insurance, which is much better than ours, and we have been penalized and were forced to pay nearly 40% of our retirement checks for health insurance, et al, for a benefit we WERE promised when we retired. We were PROMISED! Nobody told us that they might take it away!

Who is this judge? We need to file a class action lawsuit to recover the spousal subsidy!! If they can file a flim flam lawsuit and win I would think we have more justification, grounds, than they have! Oh! I get it?! A person can't really get justice in the courts in this country anymore. That became obvious when not a single Ohio Law firm was willing to represent us. Not the wonderful Mr. Clermont County, Democrat Emeritus, champion of the little people, champion of the working people, and definitely not any law firm headed by Republicans. This is because of their special interest causes to which they find their bread buttered. Justice??? The attorneys of this state don't give a rat's you know what about "right" or "justice." They only care about their bank accounts and profits, thus, the bottom line! One can only gain justice and relief if one can enhance and promote the careers of our illustrious and worthless lawyers, or pay them an obscene amount of money. These are the lawyers who are a bunch of hypocrites, windbags, and supposedly the champions of justice and right. RIIGHT??!!!

I used to tell my students, "get used to the fact that life isn't always fair." Little did I ever perceive that I would get to experience this first-hand. in my latter years. I have a great idea!!! We need to tie our issue to something religious and then the ACLU lawyers and all of the rest would jump in line to take our case. We've just been going about all of this the wrong way!!

Duane Tron

Friday, October 21, 2005

STRS employees: hope you feel good about your huge bonuses while old, sick retirees suffer huge HC bills on incomes a fraction of your bonus alone

Judge says teachers pension system owes bonuses

Copley Columbus Bureau
October 21, 2005

COLUMBUS - The State Teachers Retirement System broke its contract with 268 of its employees and now owes them $1.75 million, a judge ruled this week. And the bill could go much higher.

In two rulings this week, Franklin County Judge Guy L. Reece II said noninvestment employees in a class-action suit against the pension system should receive bonuses withheld for the 2002-03 fiscal year. They ranged from $416 to $46,573.

Reece also left open the door for employees to recover attorney fees and punitive damages, which could cost the pension system millions of dollars more. A jury trial date on those issues is set for Nov. 8. Early in the case, retirement system attorneys turned away efforts to reach a settlement.

A 2003 investigation by Copley Ohio Newspapers found that bonuses were awarded for tasks, called “stretch goals,” that many considered part of employees’ regular jobs.

The retirement system board responded by suspending and then later abolishing the bonus program. It also voted not to award the bonuses to noninvestment staff, overriding decisions to do so by former Executive Director Herbert Dyer and his successor, Damon Asbury. The board also ignored the advice of John E. Patterson, an assistant attorney general.

In a letter to the board, Patterson predicted the retirement system would lose a suit for failure to pay the incentives even though Attorney General Jim Petro, his boss, instructed his representative on the board to vote against the bonuses.

Among the 268 employees to receive bonuses are two deputy executive directors, Robert A. Slater, who will receive $46,573, Sandra L. Knoesel, $43,324, and the system’s former in-house attorney, Cynthia Hvizdos, $29,052.

Michael R. Szolosi Sr., a Columbus attorney representing the employees, said the delay in paying the bonuses opens the retirement system to a fine under state law.

Joseph I. Endry, whose term on the pension board ended this summer, voted to award the bonuses in May 2004.

“It’s going to cost STRS a lot more money than it would have if we would have passed this originally,” he said Thursday. “I feel I did the right thing. The employees were working in good faith.”

Endry said he was surprised by the timing of the judge’s decision. “I just got a call from Damon Asbury last week asking if I was willing to talk to attorneys representing STRS. I guess they thought they had time.”

Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for Petro, said attorneys are “reading the judgment and taking a look as to where to go next. The attorney general still feels the bonuses should not have been paid.”

Laura Ecklar, a spokeswoman for the retirement system, did not return telephone calls seeking comment. The rulings were expected to be discussed by the board at its monthly meeting Thursday and today.

Reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:

This page was created October 21, 2005 ©2005 The Repository

May 28, 2004:

STRS employees should sue
Copley Columbus Bureau chief

"But the culture enveloped more than employees. The so-called 13th benefit check was sent to retirees for years while investments were good. They depended on the extra monthly payment, which they felt they deserved and had been promised. That entitlement ended when investments soured in the early 2000s. Nobody sued the system.

"Health care is another STRS entitlement. The system is not obligated by law to provide health care coverage, but it does. Asbury has said there is no retirement without affordable health care. Sounds like a promise. But the care is no longer affordable for many retirees and their spouses. Nobody sued the system."

COLUMBUS -- The noninvestment employees of the State Teachers Retirement System should sue the pension fund. Doing so would tell us something about them.

Last week, the pension board rejected paying bonuses to 268 employees despite the recommendations of Executive Director Damon Asbury and Assistant Attorney General John E. Patterson. Both said the pension fund risked a lawsuit that it would likely lose. The employees should sue.

Asbury said the board had a legal obligation to pay the employees for completing their “stretch goals” in the 2002-2003 fiscal year. It wasn’t a stretch to see that those goals were really little more than what many considered the employees’ regular duties.

Paying the bonuses would perpetuate an STRS culture of entitlement, which flourished under former Executive Director Herbert L. Dyer. His undoing came from publicly proclaiming that the money flowing into STRS from members and investments was the board’s money to spend as it wished.

But the culture enveloped more than employees. The so-called 13th benefit check was sent to retirees for years while investments were good. They depended on the extra monthly payment, which they felt they deserved and had been promised. That entitlement ended when investments soured in the early 2000s. Nobody sued the system.

Health care is another STRS entitlement. The system is not obligated by law to provide health care coverage, but it does. Asbury has said there is no retirement without affordable health care. Sounds like a promise. But the care is no longer affordable for many retirees and their spouses. Nobody sued the system.

The bonus plan for noninvestment employees was abolished last week in the wake of questionable spending at STRS for travel, artwork, expenses and salaries. Surely employees are entitled to just one more bonus. They should sue.

STRS culture fits with an American culture based on greed. That’s the only way to explain why employees would sue. All those eligible for a bonus are the most highly paid STRS employees. We’re not talking about the janitors, secretaries, security guards or any of the hundreds of other dedicated STRS workers.

We’re talking about their bosses, those who rake in high five- and six-figure salaries annually. We’re talking about many bonuses in the neighborhood of $30,000 and $40,000. The irony shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the person eligible for the lowest bonus — less than $200 — is a teacher.
The staff members receive regular compliments from the board about how wonderful they are, how hard they work, how dedicated they are to retirees, actives and the system.

The employees should sue. Let’s see how dedicated they really are. Do they work for a more-than-decent paycheck and the satisfaction of being STRS employees, or are they in it for every dollar they can grab in bonuses, even if they haven't done much to earn them?

Let’s not be too surprised if greed is the answer. We’re living in an era of corporate greed — Enron, Martha Stewart, Tyco and others. It’s a long list.

There was a time when people were satisfied with having a job. There was a time when people took pride in their work. There was a time when “nice job” was a sufficient bonus. Not anymore.

The employees should sue.

They need to do so soon, before tort reform kicks in and limits the amount they can recover. It’s hard to see how employees could collect punitive damages. There was no purposeful intent to harm them. They’ll ask for damages any way — attorney fees, too. They’re entitled.

Here’s what employees ought to do. If they really are dedicated to STRS and not driven by greed, prove it. Do they want the system to escape the scandalous morass of the last year and move forward? Stipulate in their lawsuit that if they win or settle, all the money received — the bonuses, attorney fees and punitive damages — goes into the STRS Health Stabilization Fund for retirees. If employees want to show they deserve the bonuses, then the money shouldn’t matter. Why punish the employer they supposedly love just to prove a point? Or is it really about greed?

Employees should sue so we can find out.

I got a big bonus at the board’s meeting last week for doing my job. Several retirees, whom I’d never met before but who had been reading my stories about STRS, shook my hand.

“Thank you,” they said.

You can reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu
at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:
This page was created May 28, 2004

CORRECTION: The 10 percent in the story was a reference to the general increase in health-care costs, not what retirees have to pay

I have seen some of the emails sent and noticed that one of the writers referred to an AP story that was taken from the Dispatch story Wednesday. The AP story stated that Laura Ecklar said the increase to retirees was 10 percent. She never said that. The 10 percent in the story was a reference to the general increase in health-care costs, also know as health-care inflation, not to the increased amount that retirees have to pay. If the AP wrote the latter, it was wrong. You may want to pass that along to the person who wrote the letter complaining about Ms. Ecklar's calculations.

From a writer who wishes to remain anonymous

Tom Curtis' speech to STRS Board 10/20/05

The following 3 minute presentation was written to be delivered to the STRS board on September 15th. It appeared on various email chains on the 14th & 15th. Due to time contraints I passed until this month.

Tom Curtis


Good afternoon board members, executive staff and guests. My name is Thomas Curtis. I am speaking today on my own behalf. I am an STRS disability retiree with 27 years of service. I am a life member of CORE, ORTA, Stark Co. RTA and the AARP.

Today is a day that others and I have envisioned for two years! Dr. Dennis Leone and John Lazares are now both members of the STRS board, along with others, that few would have envisioned a little over two years ago. This is truly a historic day for our STRS. This day marks the beginning of what I hope will be the beginning of a cohesive board, dedicated to the reform of the STRS, which in my opinion is long past due.

The reform I speak of concerns the "corporate culture" that overwhelmingly clouded the view of our fiduciaries for over a decade now. Those fiduciaries clearly lost touch with their membership while lavishing themselves with large salaries and benefits far better then most corporations. The STRS is not a Corporation and should not be considered as such. Many of the extraordinary benefits have been eliminated over the past two years, but this reform process is far from complete. I am confident that this board and others that will follow on this board, will never again loose sight of who they are here to represent, as stated in the Ohio Revised Code, section 3307.15. This section, as Dennis Leone desires, should be printed in large print and posted in every department of this building, visible to all that are employed here.

The STRS management and Board did not publicize a 2002 compensation study completed by Buck Consultants for the STRS. I will assume this was due to the nature of many of the findings in that report. Various CORE members just recently received a copy of those findings. The report indicates the employees of the STRS are compensated as well, or better, then outside profit or not-for-profit organizations of equal status. The report indicates bonuses were given to some investment and non-investment staff for little more then doing their job. That is unacceptable! These are just two issues the STRS executive staff has attempted to minimize to the membership for the past two years. The STRS employees need to realize that they work for us, the membership and not a corporation. We have supplied the dedicated flow of income staff derive their livelihood from. The staff should not abuse our faith and trust, as some have done in the past. We simply want value for every dollar spent in the operation of this retirement system. That certainly is not out of line to ask.

I will end with a quote from the September "Science of Mind" - Daily Guides for Richer Living. "False ideas heaped upon false ideas make bad matters worse. The whole confusion of the world arises from fundamental error of thought."

Thank you for permitting me to address the board today. I look forward to communicating with each of you as you serve your term on the STRS board.

Thomas Curtis - A Proud Malcontent

Public speeches at 10/20/05 STRS Board meeting; summarized by Molly

STRS BOARD MEETING: 10/20/05: Speeches/HC Committee Meeting

There was no problem today with 8 speakers pretty well divided between OEA and CORE. No issues at all ensued.

1. Tom Curtis: online speech will follow.

2. Glenna Barr: Highland Co. Welcome new board members.

* Meeting for annual retreat in Feb and making plans for 2007 HC. STRS staff should be able to use expertise before the Feb retreat to negotiate steepest discounts available with PBM, HC co.s, and Dr. groups to present options for different HC and PBM companies. Need to review Aetna program. If not giving good service, why keep? I am thinking seriously of changing to Med Mut.
*We need affordable rates and have good reliable HC programs as the retiree is required to pay larger part of HC bill, deductibles, esp. the non medicare group. The premiums should be more = or we will have a higher rate of reverse selection which hurts STRS HC program.

*The retirees need compounded COLAS to give more revenue as Medicare is increasing on average of 12% each yr. as well as increase in HC premiums.

*I hope efforts of HCA will help us in this problem but they have not given much info as to what is happening.

*I comment CORE and Dr. Leone for being here the last 3 yrs. and being strong advocates for the retirees. Quoting one of our retirees: STRS retirees in Ohio are beyond hurting but desparately need relief. 2006 HC has been decided but 2007 could be better with lower RX copays, deduc., premiums.

3.John _______ (active):

2 issues: STRS and HC.
Market south and HC costs up.
1 source of $$$ is contributions.
My Idea: LEGISLATION UP TO 15% for actives and employer. More for active and less for employer-school districts.

Penalize those who leave STRS HC and are covered elsewhere and come back to STRS when ill for coverage which is a liability.

I am happy with direction and plan of HCA for increasing contributions.

4. Gary Howland (?)

Recognize HC problem. Read news. STRS: retire w/o HC is not retirement.
Preventative Care cheaper:
Prescriber Advisor
Renal Programs
Low Income Assis.
Maintain affordable HC #1 priority.
Adverse selection difficult to prevent when costs soar.

5. Mary Ellen Angeletti:

Read our legal position from CORE attorney stating STRS would not win in court enforcing no naming rule. *Damon commented earlier he agreed with this and the measure was really to contain namecalling, profanity, etc. He agreed basically with the statement re: naming public persons was not the problem. Mary Ellen also addressed speaking slots being equitable.

6. Bob Buerkle (klee)

'80-82: unfunded liability 59 and 57 yrs.
'76-95 : always over 30 yrs. '73: 35 yr. benefit reduced to 32 yrs.
'74 STRS Annual Report: coverages important with RX and no deduc. Medical Ins. in place at retirement but now........ If cost sharing had been done long ago, we might have survived. By 2003, benefits which were promised and paid were shot.

7. Lloyd Knudsen:

"Smoothing" to take long term approach : things go up and things go down and over time = out or smooth out.
This is still indicated by smoothing mentality: Mike B. not corp., not district, 50 yrs. liability doesn't scare me; don't have to account like corp. does.
STRS lost so if don't change smoothing attitude, if always take long term approach, don't deal with what is happening to retirees in short term, like what is happening to them now, when something occurs. Need to deal with short term also. Ask what is happening to our 'stockholders' retirees) now as result during this time?

8. Chris Williams: Active: Pres of 905 members of _______

I heard about a comment last month: "WHERE HAVE THEY BEEN?" Meaning actives.
Well, I've been in my classroom as I expected my assoc. OEA to be my advocate as evidence suggested they would focus on benefits.
THANKS to board and staff for the proposal to increase contributions.

Leone then asked to speak and address Chris. Bob Brown said it was not the rule but he would entertain a motion to do so. Lazares moved and Buser seconded.

LAZARES moved that elected board members should be able to answer concerns, ques. and that at times speakers say things which may contain an error leaving that misunderstood. People need to be able to address the STRS board also. I am elected and people need to be able to address me.

FISHER: I was told don't chose to ans. as we may err w/o reflection.

LEONE: SOME are appointed and some elected and as an elected member, we need respond to and ans concerns. I know when I stood on the other side I was frustrated to speak at you with no repsonse.

RAMSER: I don't think I need to respond with no time to think; that this is a time to listen and then thinnk over pts to be able to respond.

LEONE AND LAZARES: Agreed. IF one does not wish to respond as with other boards, you do not have to do so.

Vote: all yes that Leone could respond except :

No: Puckett, Fisher, Brown

Leone responds to active Chris Williams:

I don't feel Chris Williams should have to be here either as your organization should have but OEA has not been vocal to this board on your behalf.

I said WHERE HAVE THEY BEEN? I am glad you are here to speak now but where were you prior to SB 133 and when your presence was needed and the going was tough? (applause)

BUSER: MOVE for Leone to sketch out plan for public participation; if board member wish to respond , able to if not, don't have to do so. Leone agrees. NO ONE HAS TO but the ability to do so will be in place.

Brown: Tradition has it that policies have been changed; reviewed at the Feb retreat which is what I personally prefer.

Puckett: Feb is good as I can discuss and reflect without acrimony.

LAZARES: This isn't the godfather here: not the mafia; it is a democracy and esp. if elected; not to be confrontational and as I said before we can correct any errors or misunderstandings as well. It will help the board in an organized opportunity to address and answer.

****IT WAS EXCELLENT AND NEW DIRECTIONS HAVE BEGUN FOR THE GOOD! Damon seemed happy and relaxed about the changes and did not wish for there to be any problem over speakers and slots. I felt he was prepared to deal with any issue by his demeanor and attitude. He was direct and specific in his remarks after the meetings and seemed genuinely ready to greet a new day. (my take at the time).

From Molly Janczyk

Show us your plan: Tom Cooper to John Brandt

Mr. Brandt;

You are correct. Planning is a very important part of our own welfare. I would like to know exactly when it was that you announced the osbs plan to fund your re-hiring on the backs of the retirees whom you now insult, so that they would have time to plan for their own welfare? I would like to examine in the published document, just how much time current retirees had after osba made their policy to fund their scheme, that Ohio teachers and retirees had to plan for? There is absolutely no way that the osba did not know in advance that their scheme to make life difficult for those who spent their lives serving the taxpayers, which you claim to represent, without knowing that STRS would and retirees would have to bear the cost of your scheme, with NO time to plan or prepare.

The fact is, Mr. Brandt, the real problem is arrogant people like you who scheme to make others pay for their programs to promote their own political and fnancial power. One has to wonder what benefits and laughter was exchanged behind closed doors when your "plans" to rip off the system for your own political and financial promotion, and cut people whoserved YOU and taxpayers off at the knees.

Since you are an expert on planning, how about explaining that plan, and when it was presented in a way to suit ALL of society?

Tom Cooper

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cathy Burner sheds a little light on Mr. Brandt

From Cathy Burner

I would like to remind the educators of Ohio I attended a meeting of the Health Care Advocates in 2003. At this meeting Mr. Brandt, OSBA Director, responded at the mention of an increase in employer contribution he would throw the entire STRS system into Social Security. He also added he had the legislative influence to do so.

Lies and "spin" on the numbers: Jim Kimmel

From Jim Kimmel

Even if they just were comparing health premiums for the retiree and not the spouse ten percent raise would have taken the 61.00 premium each month and raised it to about 67.00 It is now 170.00 meaning that it is 2.8 times what it was for retiree in 2000. That alone is 278% just for the retiree. Where in blazes did they get 10%?. Maybe one of the catastrophic plans or the cheapest ones that few sign up for and which are not very good. Such lies and "spin"! Too bad we can't get a list of all the active teachers in the state and send them a newsletter once and a while.

Duane Tron: Mr. Brandt, get a life!


Dear Mr. Brandt and OSBA,

Mr. Brandt and the Ohio School Board's Association don't know what they're talking about. My daughter pays 18% of her income into her government pension fund and the government pays 18% into the fund. This factors out to 36% a year and we're paying 24% in. That's because my daughter's pension fund is solvent and will probably remain solvent when she retires in 19 years. My daughter's fund receives 12% more than we're paying and STRS is only seeking an increase of 2.5% over the next several years?? What is the issue?? We have to pay for OUR system because no one else is going to pay for our retirement. Mr. Brandt doesn't fully understand our circumstances and the dire forecasts down the road. Like everyone else he along with a lot of other people just can't seem to understand that people need to plan for the future and not just live in the present. It's just like OEA being in denial for all of these years and look at the problems retirees are having to face as a result of the "everything is all right now so not to worry or plan ahead mentality" that got us into the mess we find ourselves. What was that commercial that used to say, "you can pay us now or pay us later?!" Actives and OSBA need to understand that later has arrived and due to pitiful planning by them and OEA we find ourselves in a retirement mess! Mr. Brandt doesn't have a clue what's going on or what he's talking about!

Please convey to Mr. Brandt that OUR wonderful STRS retirement cost my wife and I a meager 39.43% of my gross retirement check last year. Ask him, and actives, if they would like to have to pay 39.43% of their annual checks for health insurance, co-pays, deductibles and prescription costs?!? And he wants to squeal about a possible 2.5 % increase for school boards and actives??!! Mr. Brandt, GET A LIFE! Those of us who gave 30+ years to educating the children of Ohio are being asked to make major sacrifices and suck it up now that we're retired. This was dumped on us AFTER we retired and we had NO support from OSBA, OEA or anyone else when we were slammed! Pay it now or it isn't going to be there for actives later! The bottom line!

Duane Tron

We didn't fire the first shot

From Duane E Tron

Please note! We didn't fire the first shot heard around the state in all of this. We are fighting for our survival in our "Golden Years." We did plan for our retirement! We did plan wisely and prudently! We were promised affordable and quality health insurance and that turned out to be a lie. One of a long stream of half truths and outright lies that we have been compelled to deal with. They did take the spousal subsidy and slammed us with outrageous costs that are eroding our ability to pay our bills and which have compelled many of us to return to work. Thus, the statewide controversy over rehires, etc. has become a distraction.

None of us condone the funding fiasco facing Ohio schools. We have all fought most of our active careers, and in retirement, to compel the Ohio General Assembly to fix the way schools are funded in Ohio. Most of us retirees are among the many who supported the Ohio Coalition of Schools in the battle against the way Ohio funds education. Then we get slammed by OSBA who think we are all well off and just cruising in retirement. Where was OSBA when STRS was destroying our HC component? AWOL! Now they want to argue that a 2.5% increase over the next several years is outrageous and unnecessary!

Next OSBA will argue that affordable and quality health insurance for ALL retirees, present and future, is unnecessary and an extravagant perk!

OSBA has basically indicated that they don't give a you know what about Ohio's ((CURRENT AND FUTURE)) retired educators. They've jumped in line with the Governor, AG, Auditor, OEA and others who feel that once they have used us, they can now abuse us, ignore us, and lose us! Wrong! Very wrong!

Duane Tron

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Molly enlightens John Brandt

Mr. Brandt, You call this move unnecessary. My health care costs have gone from 0 to $148 and my spouse from $33 to $486 from 1999 to 2005 with increases coming in 2006. I receive a COL increase of 3% each year based on my first year of teaching. I am far behind with increasing losses of my pension each year. We range up to 800% increases in the last few years when you consider these premiums increases as well as 100% coverages taken down to 80% and deductibles increased from $100 up to $500 each. Then there are RX's which go from $30-$100 each which will go down to $20 each for generic instead of the $30. The average retiree home has 20 RX's x those figures. Where does anyone get 10% increases from these numbers?????????

NOW let us consider that: 1. Ohio is ranked among the bottom states for contributions of only 14% and Ohio is always ranked among the bottom regarding anything education funding wise. 2. 14% has been locked in for at least 20 if not 30 yrs. with NO increase for inflation.

COMPARE the other states and their employer contributions who have been better at staying with inflation. Increasing contributions IS THE ONLY RECOURSE OHIO EDUCATORS HAVE to secure a retirement with health care and again, THERE IS NO RETIREMENT WITHOUT HC!

.5% a year for 5 years in incremental and needs to help make up for long years of stagnant figures IF YOU WANT TO ATTRACT EDUCATORS TO OHIO AND TO STAY IN OHIO! Educators receive lower pay but count on retirement being secure with health care. THERE IS NO RETIREMENT WITHOUT HEALTHCARE! Nearly every able bodied retiree has to work in some capacity to pay for health premiums and costs. Some have sold homes and lost financial security. Others refuse medical treatment and meds because they cannot afford them. THIS IS ALL VERIFIABLE. BUT YOU WISH TO DECLARE WAR!

What is your suggestion, Sir to attract and keep educators in OHIO? Who will want to work in Ohio as an educator facing no benefits with retirement? No one can save enough to pay for their healthcare! NO ONE!

Yes, STRS is a mutibillion system with a 42 year unfunded liability. Without increases, current and future retirees will be put on catastrophic only coverage until that becomes unaffordable and then no HC at all. ONLY someone who does not have to worry about HC would wage war against the educators that we need to teach our children and begin to bring OHIO out of this dismal educational abyss.

You have made a most unreasonable, uncompromising, unfeeling and and uniformed statement. Just NO! Who cares about educators and their current and future retirements.

Molly Janczyk

STRS Retiree Actively working on this problem since 2002.

And more......

We need to generate money from a dedicated stream of revenue and this is THE only way to do so-increased contributions like other states have done. I would LOVE to have been told years ago that a few dollars a month now would preserve and secure retirement with health care. That .5% of my 3.5% raise would be taken to practically guarantee health care in my retirement instead of being told all was fine and retiring and then being being unfairly punished with 800% increases over several years I could not afford after my irrevocable decision to retire. Current retirees have had up to 800% increases over several years with 3% simple COLAS based on our first year of retirement. Therefore if you receive $70 clear one year that is the most you will ever hope to receive. Actives get raises every year and step increases so they will get COL increases and school districts need increase the 14% which has stayed stagnant for 20-30 years not allowing for inflation of health care at all. HOW ARE WE TO PAY FOR IT? HOW CAN FUTURE RETIREES EXPECT ANY HEALTH BENEFITS? Actives will not have health care at all unless funding is found. WHO CAN AFFORD TO SAVE FOR THEIR HC AND THEIR SPOUSE'S HC AT TODAY'S COSTS AND ESCALATING? WHAT IDEAS DOES BRANDT PROPOSE? NONE! JUST GIVES A TOTAL FOR STSR FUNDS. Pensions have to come from those funds, Mr. Brandt, and we are 42 years to the deficit: 12 years beyond what the state asks which is 30 yrs. STRS states it cannot contribute to HC unless STRS is at 30 yrs. unfunded liability according to what the State of Ohio asks which is why we need a constant source of revenue for HC.

(Written in response to another retiree):
Our prescription alone has risen 800% and out healthcare is much more than 10% You have to consider spouses and children. Who is Brandt kidding? Where did the OSBA get their figures. O.K. if they don't want an increase, they should demand a forensic audit so we can see where the money did and does go.

John Curry to John Brandt: Explain yourself; 115,000 retirees want to know

Today's news release re: proposed increases in contribution rates to STRS


John Curry's message to John Brandt, Executive Director, OSBA:

I am a retired educator under the STRS retirement system. Today, in the Akron Beacon Journal, I see a quote attributed to you as you about the proposed increase in contribution rates by both active teachers and school boards to the Ohio STRS. The quote I am focusing on is, "Brandt said the increases are unnecessary." This quote is in response to the topic of said increased contribution rates.

John, you may be "well heeled" when it comes to your personal finances, but there are tens of thousands of retirees who have dedicated their lives to teaching Ohio's youth who are "in a financial pickle" right now due to the ungodly high cost of STRS health care insurance.

I retired (with 30 years service) as a teacher in the year 2000. My health care insurance premium (through STRS) for my spouse and myself was $155 per month from Ohio STRS in the year 2000. Currently (6 years later) that same premium is $676 per month. That translates into an increase of 336%! Would you please explain to me and tens of thousands of retirees why "the increases are unnecessary?" The article that I am referring to can be viewed below. If you wish documentation, I will be glad to provide it to you. Thank you.


John Curry
An STRS retiree and Proud Member of CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators)

Posted on Wed, Oct. 19, 2005
School boards girding for fight from teachers over benefits

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - School boards are promising to defeat a coalition of teachers' unions and pension funds that wants to increase contributions from teachers and their employers toward health care benefits for retirees.

The teachers' group, led by the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, has scheduled meetings in 14 cities starting next week to discuss legislation that would raise such contributions 2.5 percent over five years.

"We will go public and start a war no one wants to fight," said John Brandt, executive director of the Ohio School Boards Association.

Teachers now contribute 10 percent of their salaries into the state's second-largest public retirement system. Employers such as school boards and colleges contribute 14 percent.

Brandt said increases are unnecessary. But officials from the retirement system say its 115,000 retirees have had to shoulder more of their health care costs, which have increased by about 10 percent a year since 2000. The system's 213,000 active members aren't prepared for the costs they'll face upon retirement, either, spokeswoman Laura Ecklar said.

Most of the state's retirement systems are contributing the maximum amount to retirees.

The coalition will meet with teachers through Nov. 17. It will go forward with a legislative proposal only if it has strong support, Ecklar said.

Nancy Hamant's take:
Radical words from Mr. Brandt about the Health Care Advocates proposal. This reflects the sad state of Ohio funding for schools. It is too bad that Mr. Brandt thinks it is appropriate to attack elderly and retired educators on fixed incomes, when the real enemy is the Legislature who has reduced Ohio's schools to dogs fighting over the last scrap of food and bone.

Nancy B. Hamant

Fuzzy math at STRS? Where's the REST of the picture??

Well, looks like the WAR has begun -- OSBA vs. retirees

From John Curry
To Laura Ecklar, STRS

Laura, it's nice to see that you finally admit that active teachers "aren't prepared for the costs they'll face upon retirement." (see the article below)

Why has STRS waited so long to tell the troops the truth? While we're talking about the truth, let's check out another statement attributed to STRS in the same press release: " But officials from the retirement system say its 115,000 retirees have had to shoulder more of their health care costs, which have increased by about 10 percent a year since 2000."

Let's do a little math here, Laura. I retired in June of 2000. Right now, I'm looking at my first STRS retirement check stub. It says $61 for retiree (monthly) and $94 for spouse(monthly) for this retiree's total health care premium of $155

Now, 2005, the same monthly premiums are (for the same Aetna 80/20 plan with higher deductables than in the year 2000) $170 for retiree and $506 for retiree's spouse for a monthly total of $676!

Lets's see: $155 for the year 2000 to $676 for the year 2005. My calculator says that the increase since I've been retired amounts to 336% in six years. This news release says, and I quote, "..retirees have had to shoulder more of their health care costs, which have increased by about 10 percent a year since 2000." !!!

Is someone at STRS using "fuzzy math?"

I know that you are just the spokesperson for STRS, but please don't forget about the thousands of retirees who are and will be insuring their spouses. The public deserves to know the total picture.

John Curry, a Proud CORE member

Posted on Wed, Oct. 19, 2005

Akron Beacon Journal
School boards girding for fight from teachers over benefits
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - School boards are promising to defeat a coalition of teachers' unions and pension funds that wants to increase contributions from teachers and their employers toward health care benefits for retirees.

The teachers' group, led by the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, has scheduled meetings in 14 cities starting next week to discuss legislation that would raise such contributions 2.5 percent over five years.

"We will go public and start a war no one wants to fight," said John Brandt, executive director of the Ohio School Boards Association.

Teachers now contribute 10 percent of their salaries into the state's second-largest public retirement system. Employers such as school boards and colleges contribute 14 percent.

Brandt said increases are unnecessary. But officials from the retirement system say its 115,000 retirees have had to shoulder more of their health care costs, which have increased by about 10 percent a year since 2000. The system's 213,000 active members aren't prepared for the costs they'll face upon retirement, either, spokeswoman Laura Ecklar said.

Most of the state's retirement systems are contributing the maximum amount to retirees.

The coalition will meet with teachers through Nov. 17. It will go forward with a legislative proposal only if it has strong support, Ecklar said.

From a minister friend/activist for retirees

Thanks for informing area teachers........They are the least vocal of PERS, SERS, and are in many ways the STRS seems out of the main loop...That is why I am glad to see your blog....It is a big step in the right direction........

Ron Hooker

From one who has been fighting the battle since long before CORE evolved

Thanks very much for your compliment. Thanks to intelligent people like you who have backed CORE! It's awful that we STRS OH annuitants have to spend so much of our retirement on doing the work that we paid OEA & ORTA to do. Our dues have been wasted on the union officials' high salaries, travel, hotel and meal perks rather than them doing their jobs of monitoring our STRS & seeking fair legislative changes for both actives & retirees. In the electronic age these union leaders cannot hide behind false rhetoric to appease their members. They need to start producing results or their members will seek real leadership elsewhere.

Survival tactics in tough economic times: Toledo Blade

Toledo Blade
October 18, 2005

by Homer Brickey

We're forced to adopt proven survival tactics

Millions of Americans are going through tough economic times right now. Because of setbacks, they are forced to retreat to survival tactics that worked for a long time in the past.

Because of shrinking pensions, rising costs of medical care and insurance, and the fear of outliving their money, many wage-earners are choosing to work longer.

Now, there's a time-tested idea from the past: Until recent decades, "early" retirement was generally not possible. And today it's nearly unthinkable. Are there any folks left who believe they can, or should, retire at 50?

Because of waves of corporate bankruptcies and the onslaught of globalization and outsourcing, there's downward pressure on wages.

The possibilities of recession and further cost-cutting make many jobs even shakier. Many workers are already tightening their belts for a rough ride. Others whose jobs are secure now realize it will be harder to pay down their massive debts - especially in an environment of rising interest rates and tighter money.

All of this means that millions of Americans will be spending less and conserving more. Living within our means was another time-tested idea from the past. It worked for generations. Surely, it will work now.

In fact, some would argue we never should have lost sight of the need to conserve.

Many of us grew up in regions going through hard times - areas that were scarred by the Great Depression. Many recall the sacrifices, the material shortages, and rationing in World War II. Others may remember painfully the economic devastation of strikes, layoffs, corporate takeovers, and downsizing in recent decades.

Many of us who lived in less frenzied, less prosperous, and less wasteful eras also recall the mantra: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." Those would be harsh words today, but a bit of frugality won't hurt us.

On top of all this, inflation is rearing its ugly head again. High energy prices are beginning to drive up the cost of just about everything, including transportation, utilities, and a growing list of goods and services.

All the more reason to save more, conserve more, especially if high energy costs become a permanent part of the equation.

Self-reliance was another great American idea from generations ago. But will we ever be able to fashion a national energy policy that will get us back to self-sufficiency in that costly sector? Can we save our home-grown automotive industry? Can our markets survive without massive foreign investment?

The future is clouded, perhaps even dark. But the path there seems clear enough: Work longer. Save more. Consume less. Vote.

Homer Brickey is The Blade's senior business writer.
» E-mail him at
» Read more Homer Brickey columns at

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The barn door is open and the cows are gone: John Curry sounds off

We at CORE have been saying that increases in both employer and employee contributions have been needed for years. Finally, the HCA (Health Care Advocates, chaired by the OEA) is going to break the news to the active teachers!! We at CORE broke the "news" about outrageous monthly HC premiums (especially compared to the other 4 state pension systems) to STRS retirees and active teachers years ago!

Many active teachers were too busy teaching or chose to ignore the warning documents that CORE distributed about the ungodly high rates charged by STRS and the dropping of all subsidies for the retirees' spouses (spousal trashing). Now, these actives will get the "bad news" from the very same organization (OEA) who allowed the mismanagement, misspending, and entitlement mentality to exist at STRS when the OEA dominated (5 out of 9 members) the "old" STRS board.

Of course, OEA won't tell their dues payers about that part of the ugly STRS history -- will they? Wonder if they'll tell their members about the ethics violations that Dyer copped a plea to or about the former OEA endorsed STRS board member (Hazel Sidaway) who is currently fighting ethics charges against her? Will the OEA tell their actives about the additional ethics violations that will be coming into the headlines during the weeks and months to come against current and former STRS board members and associates?

It has been said that the newest tactic that is being used by the OEA is to impart the idea to the active teachers that the "new board" is planning to trash the 35 year benefits procedure that was initiated six years ago. This is not and has not been presented to OR discussed by the STRS Board (either the "new" one or the "old" one).

Additionally, the host of OEA coached speakers at the September Board meeting were telling the current board that they wished the current board to *maintain* the current excellent health care program BUT THEY FAILED TO MENTION ANYTHING ABOUT THE CURRENT HIGHWAY ROBBERY RATES CHARGED FOR THE SPOUSE OF A RETIREE DUE TO DROPPING THE SPOUSAL SUBSIDY!

Were those same OEA endorsed speakers really aware of the current STRS HC monthly premium rates and the STRS rates as compared to the other systems? Either they were and chose to ignore this aspect or they didn't have the slightest idea of what has been going on with their retirement system.

Soon, however, the majority of active teachers will find out the real truth behind the multiple reasons for the failure of STRS to offer a competitive HC rate schedule as compared to the other Ohio public retirement systems. It wasn't just the stock market dive during the early 2000's -- OPERS and the other state retirement systems suffered major losses in that VERY SAME MARKET. It was the lack of planning by an OEA majority STRS Board and a lack of political courage by the OEA to apply political pressure on legislators to initiate a bill for significant contribution rate hikes by both teachers and school boards all across the Buckeye STATE when economic times were good.

Well, the times now aren't so good, the barn door has been left open, the cows have left, and we all will be hard pressed to find a state legislator who will have the political courage to introduce a bill calling for a significant rate hike of contributions by BOTH the employer and the employee -- especially since Coingate and the STRS ethics charges that have come to bear and will in the future.

To be realistic, the public isn't in any too good of a mood right now for a "hard sell" concerning additional monies that will be needed to assist a retirement system that hasn't been able to successfully run their own ship. Do I wish to see this happen? NO! Am I being politically realistic? YES!

John, a Proud CORE member

ORC 3307.15 - not just a wish,


If a member signs up for Medicare D, does that person have to terminate his/her STRS health care coverage according to STRS? Gary Russell responds

From Shirlee Zerkel
Monday, October 17, 2005

Dear Damon or Gary:

If a member signs up for Medicare D, does that person have to terminate his/her STRS health care coverage according to STRS? Can a member be a part of the STRS health care coverage even if they decide to sign up for a Medicare D program? Your information in the health care package (green sheet) could be a little confusing to some members. You speak of the member terminating the health care coverage to take the Medicare D and what will happen. He/she will not be covered for hospital, etc. Can you please clarify this for me and some other members. Thank you
Shirlee Zerkel

From Gary Russell
Dear All;

From the various e-mails that have been sent there appears to be some confusion about reentering the STRS Ohio health care plan if you drop our plan. First, the creation of Medicare Part D has not in any way modified the rules for enrolling in the STRS Ohio health care program. A member can enroll with no waiting period if the member is replacing major medical and prescription coverage or during the STRS Ohio open enrollment period. If the member is not replacing coverage or is adding STRS Ohio coverage to existing coverage then there is a six-month wait before the STRS Ohio health care coverage becomes effective.

A person enrolled in an Aetna, Medical Mutual or Aultcare plan who signs up for Medicare Part D does not have to terminate STRS Ohio coverage; however, that person would be paying for duplicate Rx coverage and most likely this wouldn't be a good financial decision unless the person qualifies for extra help due to low income. What we would expect is that if a member finds that a Medicare Part D plan is better then he/she would drop the STRS Ohio coverage and enroll in the Medicare Part D plan and also enroll in a Medicare hospital and medical supplement.

If a person is enrolled in Kaiser Permanente Medicare Plus or Paramount Elite and decides to enroll in a Medicare Part D drug plan, the Kaiser or Paramount hospital/medical and prescription drug benefits will be terminated by Medicare.

If a member drops the STRS Ohio plan to enroll in a Medicare Part D plan and a Medicare hospital and medical supplement and then later decides to come back to the STRS Ohio plan, then the member would have to be dropping the Medicare Part D plan and the supplemental plan in order to enroll in the STRS Ohio plan with no waiting period.

I hope this helps,
Gary Russell
Director, Member Services

Robert Hudson Jones: Time for a Compounded Cost of Living Adjustment (CCOLA)

The time has come for a Compounded Cost of Living Adjustment (CCOLA). The Sunday Wall Street Journal reports: "Inflation Surges: U.S. consumer prices rose last month at the fastest pace in more than 25 years, buoyed by surging energy prices. But, it's good news for retirees: They'll get 4.1% in their monthly Social Security checks next year, the largest rise in more than a decade. For the average retiree, it will mean an extra $39 a month." (End Quote)

While this retired teacher does not wish to be in Social Security (SS), what is good for the SS, Congressmen, Senators and federal employees, ought to be good for STRS OH annuitants. It is noted that Nancy Hamant of CORE states that: "42 States provide compounded COLA's for retirees. Ohio is not one of them..."

Funding for the OH retired teacher's HC/Rx and a CCOLA must be found in an increase in the 14% employee contribution. This is the very least that should be expected from those who, by law, expect their teachers to meet stringent OH State certification, 5-yr. college degrees and beyond.

Retired STRS OH teacher, SummitCRTA Leg. CMTE. Mem, CORE Legal CMTE Mem.. Life Mem. of OEA, OEA-R


Are you new to Medicare? Important reminder from STRS

New Medicare Enrollees Should Notify STRS Ohio

From STRS Ohio News, October 2005

If you’re a new Medicare enrollee, it’s important that you notify STRS Ohio by sending a copy of your Medicare card. Once Medicare coverage is verified, STRS Ohio adjusts your health care premiums accordingly. If you fail to send a copy of your or your dependent’s Medicare card to STRS Ohio, your premiums will be substantially higher.

The month you become eligible for Medicare Parts A & B, your STRS Ohio health plan will not be responsible for paying charges normally paid by Medicare. If you are eligible for Medicare Part B, you must enroll in Medicare Part B or benefits will be reduced by the amount Medicare would have paid.

For information about health care benefits covered by Medicare, call STRS Ohio toll-free at 1-888-227-7877.

Medicare Part D: STRS answers some questions

Questions Frequently Asked by STRS Ohio Members

From STRS Ohio News, October 2005

Q: I’ve seen television ads about the new Medicare prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D). Should I sign up for it?

A: Beginning Jan. 1, 2006, prescription drug coverage will be available to all Medicare enrollees for a monthly premium through Medicare Part D prescription drug plans offered by private companies. All plans will provide at least a standard level of coverage set by Medicare. Some plans may offer more coverage for higher monthly premiums.

If you’re enrolled in an STRS Ohio-sponsored health care plan, you do not need to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. STRS Ohio has determined that the prescription benefits included in the STRS Ohio-sponsored health care plans are as good as or better than the standard Medicare prescription benefits. However, deciding if you should enroll in Medicare Part D is ultimately a personal decision. If you are considering enrolling in a Medicare prescription drug plan, carefully review the prescription drugs you are currently taking. Compare your current prescription drug plan coverage, including which drugs are covered, with the coverage and costs of the Medicare Part D prescription drug plans offered in your area.

The monthly premium for participating in the Medicare Part D Program may be relatively low. Some figures currently being quoted range from $20 to $35. However, remember that this premium covers prescription drugs only and enrollees are responsible for paying any applicable out-of-pocket costs. Also, keep in mind that your current STRS Ohio-sponsored health care plan pays for hospital/medical expenses, in addition to prescription drugs. If you terminate health care coverage under STRS Ohio, you will only have the coverage you qualify for under Medicare Part A and/or Part B unless you purchase a separate supplemental plan.

Q: What if I don’t enroll in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage right away but later decide that I want to — is there a penalty?

A: If you are enrolled in Medicare Part A and/or Part B, you can enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan from Nov. 15, 2005, through May 15, 2006. If you participate in an STRS Ohio-sponsored health care plan and you do not enroll in Medicare Part D during this initial enrollment period, you can enroll later without penalty. You will not be penalized because you have existing prescription coverage through your STRS Ohio-sponsored health care plan that is comparable to the standard Medicare prescription coverage. STRS Ohio will provide Medicare enrollees with a Certificate of Creditable Coverage in their open-enrollment materials that will enable them to enroll in Medicare Part D without penalty in the future. After the initial enrollment period, you will have an opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan each year from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31.

More Medicare Part D information will be included in the health care open-enrollment packets mailed to STRS Ohio Health Care Program participants this October.

Monday, October 17, 2005

More debate on public participation at STRS Board meetings: 10/17/05 e-mails

[E-mail style: you may want to read from bottom up]

From Kathie Bracy:

STRS Board Policies manual, page 35, paragraph 3:

"The period of public participation may be extended by the Board chair."

If something better isn't worked out by Oct. 20, maybe we need to put the pressure on to put THIS policy into effect at ALL Board meetings, if more that 15 speakers sign up. Dr. Brown did it once; he can do it again; and again; and again; and again; and again. That should carry us up to February.

From Molly Janczyk:

Several board members HAVE given their opinion and do feel all grps. need equal opportunity. Read Curry's concern below! We need to know some measure will be instated for Oct. thru Feb. for public speak.

SUGGESTION: FALL RETREAT: speaking: Public: 1 and 1/2 hrs.

1. 30-45 min; speeches with 3-4 slots for each grp. OEA, OFT, ORTA, CORE, INDEP.-concern has no grp. message or flavor but totally indep. such as a personal (affecting only themselves issue)

2. 30-45 min PANEL DISC. Time; LIMITS on ques.; limits on ans. Direct ques. with respect and ans. with direct specifics.

For ex., Dr. Leone, how do you feel as a board member on such and such issue? Leone responds. This would alleviate rumors by all grps. and be part of the public record. It would be more time efficient and productive at meetings as it would address concerns on the spot and more time efficient for next meetings and on indiv. as concerns would actually be addressed and no need for asking over and over and for months and years to come. Ans. would be heard by all grps and not allow for misrepresentation by any grp.

ANYthing not able to be ans. due to actual research needed to be ans. in 30 days.

From John Curry:

My comment -- yes, but when will Dr. Brown discuss this with the Board -- in February?? If so, that's too late. John

From Molly Janczyk:

Thank you, Damon. That is as my attorney tells me as well. THEREFORE: What CAN WE EXPECT ON THURS. 10/20 RE:SLOTS FOR CORE SPEAKERS and for all grps. attending? I appreciate your timely and specific response. Molly J.

From: Damon Asbury:


The board itself establishes the duties and responsibilities for its members by way of the board policies adopted annually. You can find the board policy manual on the STRS website at

The section detailing the duties of the board chair are found on pages 21-23 of the document.

Dr. Brown does not make decisions for all board members. I am confident that he expects the full board to discuss the issue of public participation and to address the concerns raised by you and others.


From Molly Janczyk:

Damon, Again I ask you and your legal attorney for the definition of the board 'chair' position. So far anything legal interpretation I have received is: To chair means to preside over or direct a meeting. No one interprets this position as making decisions for all without asking their opinions and majority rule or vote taken on issues. No one tells me this means one individual can take liberty of speaking for all other members of a board or committee. It is obvious from repsonses given that Brown DID NOT consult ANYONE or any number of board members on this and decided himself how it would be.

THAT is not acceptable and not democratic nor in accordance with ORC:3307.15. Acting on behalf of membership would mean discussing this and making a majority rule decision. Again, so far , the majority of responses have not been to proceed with the current policy but that new policy should be discussed in Feb. However, some alteration between then and now seems to be the mentality among the emails read.

I wish to see a LEGAL OPINION ON THE DUTIES OF THE CHAIRMAN of the board and WHERE IT IS LEGALLY WRITTEN THAT THE CHAIR NEED NOT CONSULT WITH ANYONE BUT ARBITRARILY DECIDE AN ISSUE ALONE. Yes, a policy is in place but NEW conditions warrant amendments until formally addressed anew. BOB BROWN DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ALL AND SHOULD NOT TAKE THAT LIBERTY! IT IS ARROGANT AND PRESUMPTUOUS AND DOES NOT DEAL WITH THE SITUATION. WE ARE MEMBERS AND HAVE A RIGHT TO A LEGAL OPINION FROM STRS! As I said, so far no attorney I have spoken with feels Bob Brown has that latitude nor that he should have responded as though he did have it. Is the law different for STRS?

Damon, this is not a matter of not liking the answer. I expected Bob to talk with board members and come up with a satisfactory response for all based on all their input. I cannot believe any of them feel not allowing proper representation for all grps is not appropriate. In light of OEA's aknowledged all call last month and published statement calling for members to come and speak and get help for their speeches from OEA CENTRAL due to NEW board members, we may have a new development and plans need be in place should it arise. Slots for each group should be assigned. OEA, ORTA, OFT, CORE, INDEPENDENT with a few slots for all. Independent needs be truly independent concerns not aligned with any organizational active or retiree rhetoric. Should many slots be unfilled, dole them out equally to each group.



FAIR OR FORCE OTHER ACTION! IT IS YOUR DECISION! I feel certain no attorney will agree that Bob Brown had the power to speak for all other board members-esp. those who do not agree with him.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Who may attend CORE meetings? You, you and YOU!

ALL Educators (contributors and beneficiaries of STRS Ohio), Active and Retired, are welcome members of CORE unless you decide you wish not to be, and regardless of whether you have made a financial contribution (such as the initial $5.00 "dues" many people contribute).

Some members have contributed to the CORE Legal Fund, which helps to pay for attorney consultations, mailings, copies, election flyers, etc., that individual members pay out of their personal expenses.

Many CORE members are also members of OEA, ORTA, OFT, OEA-R, etc.

CORE: Concerned Ohio Retired (current AND future) Educators who are concerned with their future or current retirement benefits with STRS

WE WELCOME ALL! Some parts of meetings are closed to those who actively oppose CORE, such as some ORTA and OEA Central individuals who may not wish to work collectively.

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Look before you leap! (The new Medicare drug benefit)

The Plain Dealer

Compare employer's coverage with Medicare offerings

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles on Medicare's new drug benefit that will appear Sundays in this space. The first two articles, and others on Medicare, are available at

When Congress was debating whether to add a drug benefit to Medicare two years ago, some members worried that it could backfire on seniors who have employer-sponsored health coverage.
Cash-strapped employers could decide to save money by canceling drug coverage and telling retirees to join a less generous Medicare drug plan.

To prevent that from happening, Congress added a special enticement to the new benefit just for employers: for each retiree they continue to cover, the government would pay for 28 percent of the cost, up to $1,330 a year.

About $87 billion is available for employers who offer drug coverage that is at least as good as the Medicare benefit. To be eligible for the subsidy, employers must also spend at least as much as Medicare pays for its benefit. Even those conditions don't stop employers from reducing their benefit to match Medicare's.

Now the roughly 11 million retirees over 65 who depend on employer-sponsored drug coverage are finding out if their old bosses will go for the deal.

And even if your employer-sponsored coverage doesn't change, you may want some thing different. After looking over the new Medicare plans, you may find one better suits your needs.

But this is Medicare, so how, whether and when to switch is not exactly crystal clear.

Will my former employer continue to offer drug coverage?

More than 9,000 employers and unions that offer retiree drug coverage nationwide have applied for the subsidy, says David Repko, a consultant at the Cleveland office of Towers, Perrin, an employer benefits consulting firm. The deadline is Oct. 31.

The Medicare law requires employers to tell retirees if their coverage is on average as good as the basic Medicare drug coverage. That's called "creditable coverage" and you must be told whether you have it or not by Nov. 15, which also happens to be when enrollment begins for the Medicare drug plans.

Save that letter with your most precious keepsakes. It's not just bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo.

I'll keep my employer coverage for now, but can I join a Medicare plan later if my situation changes?

Yes, but you may have to pay a late penalty - forever. If you don't have "creditable coverage" and decide to switch from your employer-sponsored drug coverage to a better Medicare drug plan after the enrollment ends May 15, you will pay an extra 1 percent more in monthly premiums for each month you delayed signing up.

Since the next opportunity for enrollment is not until Nov. 15, 2006 - another six months - your monthly premium will be an extra 6 percent. If you wait a year beyond that, you will pay an extra 18 percent.

But if your employer dumps you, there's no penalty if you choose a Medicare plan within 63 days. There also is no penalty if you switch from one plan to another of at least equal value, that is, if your plan is deemed "creditable."

What if a Medicare drug plan is clearly better than my employer coverage?

If you pay a significant share of your retiree coverage, you may get a better deal with Medicare if you qualify for the financial assistance that's available for beneficiaries with limited income and assets.

But if you leave your employer's plan, most do not allow you to return.

"It's a one-way street," says Repko.

To reach this Plain Dealer columnist:, 216-999-4822

Something needs to change: rehirees' insurance still paid by STRS

"Superintendents agree that financial reasons are the motivation for hiring retired teachers. In fact, Narcisi said that action can save about $45,000 per year. Of that amount, $15,000 in savings comes from the health insurance being provided by the teacher's retirement plan."

Retired teachers head back to classroom

By APRIL HENRY, For The Times Leader

Although it is common for Ohio teachers to retire and then return to the classroom at a full-time status, West Virginia educators do not have the same option.

Shadyside Local School District Superintendent Jerry Narcisi said Ohio's laws allow for teachers to retire and return to full-time work after 60 days with no loss of benefits. Ohio Department of Education spokesman J.C. Benton confirmed that hiring retirees is legal.

Each Ohio school district, through its contract with the teachers' union, must set its own requirements when dealing with the specifics of retiring and returning to full-time work, Narcisi added.

For example, St. Clairsville-Richland City School District Treasurer Trevor Gummere said teachers can retire and receive a payment of $10,000 during the January after the last day of teaching. They then can return for one year at their previous full-time salary if the district decides to rehire, he explained.

"Any year after that, they come back as master's 10 (status)," Gummere added. "That's the pay scale position they stay at. They don't accrue seniority. They stay there until the district or the teacher makes a decision to discontinue employment."

Superintendents agree that financial reasons are the motivation for hiring retired teachers. In fact, Narcisi said that action can save about $45,000 per year. Of that amount, $15,000 in savings comes from the health insurance being provided by the teacher's retirement plan.

"It has the potential to save money because when you're hiring a person back who's retired, you normally hire them on a lower level of the pay scale," Narcisi explained. "There's a good chance you won't pay their insurance benefits. That would be huge savings."

Bridgeport Exempted Village School District Superintendent Mark Matz added that teachers in his district can reapply and teach for an unlimited amount of years as long as both parties still agree to the employment.

"Myself and the board (of education) have the final say on who, if any, gets hired back," he noted. "The problem is you don't want to lose good teachers. If you can entice them to come back and stay, they can draw full retirement, and there's a set number of years of experience that we pay for."
Despite this so-called "double dipping," Gummere said hiring retired teachers actually saves taxpayers money.

"Even if they were to retire and not come back, we still have to hire a teacher," he explained. "We don't know what status that teacher will have. Anyone who works in a school and is getting retirement, that comes off our state foundation. Essentially, the taxpayer's getting a cost savings."

Gummere also pointed out that new teachers often require training, which costs the district money as well.

"People are assets," he added. "You have to work with new teachers more than a retiree who knows what to do. We will hire a retired teacher because it requires less time. It is kind of a catch-22. You save money on salary (when hiring a new teacher), but how much do you really save because you have many other expenses?"

Ultimately, Narcisi and Matz concurred that they hire teachers on a case-by-case basis.

"The obvious is that if a teacher who retired was an absolutely top-notch, excellent teacher, I don't think a school district would mind one bit to hire that teacher back," Narcisi said. "You've got a known quantity in terms of that excellent teacher. On the other hand, if the teacher who retired was marginal, I think a school district should look elsewhere.

"When it comes to upper level math and science teachers, you can't find them walking around," he added. "Those are shortage areas. Therefore, you would probably hire a retired teacher in that area to come back and work."

Some young teachers who are qualified and are looking for full-time work, none of whom wished to provide a name, become frustrated when districts hire retired teachers.

"From my standpoint, there's nothing I can say to a young teacher out of college that will make them feel good about it," Matz noted. "If I can keep our top teachers, I'm going to do that and still cut my costs. We have to be financially sound. Normally, a school district will hire young people who have little or no experience. Hiring retirees gets two birds with one stone."

Meanwhile, West Virginia educators do not have the option of retiring and returning to the classroom on a full-time basis, according to Kathy Finsley, human resources director and general counsel for Ohio County Schools.

The West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board Web site states, "Any retiree, other than as a college teacher, who accepts employment for a relatively short period (no more than 120 days during the school year) is considered to be temporary and shall continue to receive his or her normal monthly benefits."

"They are allowed to substitute for a certain number of days, 120 days," Finsley said. "If they're in a critical shortage area, there is a policy that they are allowed to go as many as 140 days. They do not get hired back in full-time jobs. There are more limitations in West Virginia than in Ohio.

"Our retirees are not subbing more than 75-80 days," Finsley added. "Nobody is coming back here as a full-time person. West Virginia law doesn't allow it. We may have a situation where someone is retiring on a semester break, and we will hire a retiree for the rest of the year."

Currently, Ohio County Schools has two teachers who are employed as long-term substitutes until another certified teacher can be hired. This is the case with retired mathematics teacher Larry Koehrsen, who is employed as a long-term substitute at Wheeling Middle School.

"I taught in Ohio County for 35 years at Wheeling Junior High and Wheeling Middle," Koehrsen shared. "Now, I've been teaching kids in South Wheeling, Bethlehem and Mozart for 37 years. After I was here for a couple weeks (at the beginning of the school year), the administration extended it until January. They're hoping to find someone who graduates in December.

"I'm in my old classroom at the same school," he continued. "I still like the kids. Being around the kids keeps you feeling young. A teacher never really stops teaching."

CORE annual rally/meeting Oct. 20, 2005, 11:45 a.m. at STRS

From Molly Janczyk, 10/16/05:

The CORE ANNUAL MEETING was postponed in Sept. due to a very full agenda with the swearing in ceremonies and many more speakers than usual. There was a special HC meeting following the speakers and Tom Curtis who was running the agenda for the CORE Annual Meeting felt it more important to attend a Special HC Meeting presentation for a steady stream of revenue for the HC Stabilization Fund.


1. MIKE BILLIRAKIS will address HC issues and ans. ques.


▪ Legislative


▪ Investment

▪ Election 2006

▪ 3 Min. Presentation

3. Ques. and ans.

CORE will hold its annual rally/meeting on Oct. 20, 2005 on the second floor of STRS (275 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215) in the Sublett Rm. This meeting is a yearly opportunity for all reprsentatives from around the state to meet for determining the future of CORE. All decisions for CORE are made at these meetings by vote following majority rule. The Advisory Committee then carries out the decisions as no leaders are in place and all voices are heard in CORE. The Sublett Rm. is adjacent to the cafeteria. If you wish lunch, please go tho the cafeteria approx. 11:30 so we can begin promptly as we have a full agenda.

Also, we are ever growing and wish to register new members so you can receive info and forward it to others if you wish. We are always trying to enlarge our base to include all counties so every educator is aware of all sides of issues.

PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND AND JOIN YOUR FRIENDS AND FELLOW EDUCATORS ON 10/20/05! If you cannot personally attend, please pass this on to others who can.

In 2 years:

● The former Exec. Direc. has been replaced

● 5 STRS board members, all of whom have been or most likely will be charged with ethics vioations have been replaced.

● SB133 which brought pension reform is in place and those board members who overspent can never return to the STRS board or be appointed to it. Language is in place to remove any board member who overspends in the future.

● 3 investment appointees have been added to the board for their expertise

●Many reductions and eliminations of overspending have been put into effect.The Ohio Ethics Commission (OEC) is investigating all areas of STRS for possible violations.

We are volunteers. We always need more help!

Please join us.

Thank you.

Think before you switch health care plans: advice from a sage, Paul Boyer

To all CORE members and other STRS retirees:

I would like to give you my personal opinion on selecting your H C plan for 2006.

I want to caution you very sincerely to be very sure you are doing the right thing in changing to a different plan from that which you have been in. One of our Allen county members sent me an email that he was going to leave the Aetna plan for another and I replied to him to be sure he knew what he was doing. He replied that after studying it more thoroughly, he and his wife decided that they were better off in their current Aetna plan that what they were looking at to change.

My wife and I have been retired for 20 years and we have been in the Aetna Plus Plan all those years. We have been very satisfied with it and have never changed. It is our personal opinion that it is the best for us.

Again, these are my personal opinions, based upon our experience and the years that I have spent working with CORE and attending the various committee and board meetings of STRS. I am not trying to force my opinion on anyone.

I simply say to you as I did our local member, Before you change your plan, make very sure that you know what you are doing. If you have been satisfied with your current plan, stick with it. In that case you do not need to anything. As long as you do not contact STRS, you will remain in the same plan you are now in.

I am so happy for what STRS has done for next year with our prescription costs - lowering the generic co-pay and keeping the other tier prices the same as this year. Thank you, STRS Board.

End of communication.

Paul Boyer,
"CORE" of the CORE

Accessing the online presentation for the STRS Health Care Discussion meetings

It has been called to my attention that the link for accessing the online presentation for the STRS Health Care Discussion meetings has not been working. I checked it out on the STRS website, and a pop-up gave the following message (with a working link):

Health Care Discussion Meetings Online Presentation
The online presentation for the Health Care Discussion meetings is still being developed. To be notified when the presentation is available, click the link below to send an e-mail to the Webmaster.

Notify me when the online presentation is available.

Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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