Saturday, December 16, 2006
$60 would buy 15 prescriptions for retirees at Wally World
You bet it would. I went to Target this afternoon and asked about one of my brand prescriptions. I could hardly believe they are only $7 higher ($107) than our prescription plan. If they don't increase their price they'll be cheaper than the $125. Maybe we all need to check with other pharmacies for price. My Dr and now a pharmacist has said Caremark was one of the worst to deal with that they've experienced. Hmmmmmm. The board needs to know that too - should it mean anything to them.
Hummm..... $60 would buy 15 prescriptions for retirees at Wally World, wouldn't it?
Conversation on Board travel expenses: Kimmel, Janczyk, Hughes, Leone, Peaspanen
I have worked for the University of Cincinnati where I had to travel (admissions work),The USAF (lots of travel), the Census Bureau, and two major school districts. They had definite standards concerning lodging and expenses. The only time I ever "used" the situation was when I was in the USAF. They gave me an airline ticket at discharge for a trip from Lowrey AFB in Denver to Cincinnati. I cashed in the ticket and took a Greyhound Bus to Cincy. I had enough money left to buy a 1952 Dodge with Fluid Drive which had been a taxi and was yellow on top and green on the bottom. But it never cost the USAF any more than they had allocated. The Dodge cost me $75.00 in 1964 ! I used it to go around looking for a teaching job!
From Molly Janczyk, December 16, 2006
You know, Board Members, THIS is what membership feels about you and every time you ask for more or spend needlessly, you are adding painful reminders of our state of affairs. People are suffering and severely strapped unable to pay for meds and treatments while you sit at Lindy's eating enough to pay for 2 RX's they may not be able to. Some of you have just been in the entitled arena far too long to remember less fortunate times or needy ones among us who wonder why you don't remember them at such times. BUT THAT is the stuff LEONE AND LAZARES ARE SO APPRECIATED AND BELOVED FOR AND WHAT YOU ARE UWILLING TO ACKOWLEDGE!
From Dennis Leone, December 16, 2006
(if a late afternoon flight is not available) but I simply cannot accept Saturday night for any reason.
Dayton Daily News Editorial: The statehouse is awash with slime as Republican lawmakers and their special-interest patrons grab for what they can get.
Our View: Republicans exit, still out of control
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Seasoned observers might call what's occurring in Columbus during the "lame duck" legislative session business as usual. The less cynical should see it for what it is: a corruption of the law-making process.
The statehouse is awash with slime as Republican lawmakers and their special-interest patrons grab for what they can get.
GOP lawmakers are acting quickly before a Democratic governor takes office — and while the public is preoccupied with holiday preparations.
Preposterous legislative proposals have been planted in seemingly innocuous bills, and then put on the fast track to becoming law. Decisions are happening so quickly that amended legislation is not made widely available until everything is over. Doing otherwise would defeat the goal — which is deception.
This week legislative amendments were introduced during evening hours and voted on immediately. That means the Legislative Service Commission — the Legislature's nonpartisan technical staff —didn't have time to prepare reports that offer lawmakers the straight dope on a bill's contents.
Many lawmakers might take more care — and be less brazen — if they thought the public really knew how cavalier and Machiavellian they were behaving. But part of the hustle is to keep voters in the dark.
Consumers lose: Senate Bill 117 was introduced to deal with a narrow, technical question of evidence in criminal cases. It passed the Senate in October 2005, and there it sat until Wednesday evening, when Rep. Bill Coley, R-West Chester Twp., and Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, introduced an amendment that would keep injured consumers out of court, or limit the damages they can recover, in cases involving defective products and consumer fraud.
The amendment, among other things, would undermine the celebrated anti-predatory mortgage lending bill that passed this spring. It would place a $5,000 cap on "non-economic" damages consumers could recover — for such things as the personal trauma and inconvenience they suffer — even if a lender's or mortgage broker's misconduct results in the consumer losing his or her home.
The amended bill was put before the House committee Wednesday, hustled to the floor for a vote Thursday and then immediately brought to the Senate for concurrence — passing each time along party lines.
Behind closed doors: The capital budget bill (House Bill 699) is 696 pages long and doles out nearly $1.8 billion for hundreds of projects. It wasn't introduced until Dec. 5. Buried amid all the pork, there's a provision that would exempt partisan caucuses of House committees from Ohio's open-meetings law. That means the majority political caucus at the committee level could cut deals and conduct public business behind closed doors — turning the committee hearings into choreographed shams.
Fewer workers eligible: On Nov. 7, Ohio voters overwhelmingly passed Issue 2, a constitutional amendment that boosts the state's minimum wage. Shortly thereafter, Rep. Seitz introduced House Bill 690 that attempts to limit the definition of workers who are eligible for a wage increase and minimizes employers' duty to keep records — all of which quickly passed in committee on a party-line vote.
On Dec. 5, Sen. Steve Stivers, R-Columbus, advanced these restrictions and more in Senate Bill 401. He also would hamstring employees trying to enforce their rights to the minimum wage by limiting the ability of labor organizations to pursue lawsuits on behalf of members — instead requiring every abused employee to bring a separate case.
Thing don't end there.
GOP lawmakers are using the lame-duck session to try and strip Gov.-elect Ted Strickland of his ability to set law enforcement rules. There also are last-minute amendments to the public-records law that would allow journalists to review records of the suspension or revocation of a concealed weapon permit — but forbid them from copying the name or address of the permit holder who's been punished.
Gov. Bob Taft needs to stand up on his way out of office, and keep these and as yet undetected deceptions from becoming Ohio law.
Meanwhile, lawmakers shouldn't assume their misdeeds will be forgotten. What they're doing now is a part of their public record, and voters will be reminded — even if that's down the road.
Shirlee Zerkel and Greg Nickell: More discussion
This is the answer I received from Mr. Nickell last night. Our suggestions are always nice in the discussion stage but apparently to staff not workable. I do not buy the excuse of the doctor's billing methods being the reason that our suggestion would not work. Doctors are ordered by the insurance companies as to how to bill or code items -- the example is right in Mr. Nickell's email where he speaks of the doctor having to use the correct code for it to be paid as preventive.
Dear Ms. Zerkel:
Comments from Molly on dinner at Lindey's and laptops
Notes from Mary Ellen Angeletti: Connie's $60.00 bill at Lindey's; notes on December Board meeting
1. Lloyd Knudsen - Made a formal request (motion) for STRS to provide telecasting of the STRS Board meetings so that teachers (retired & active) could see firsthand what transpires at these monthly meetings.
Friday, December 15, 2006
RH Jones, Dennis Leone: Sub. HB 71 and some disturbing financial projections at STRS
From RH Jones, December 13, 2006
Subject: Sub HB 71 (J. Stewart) may hurt STRS military veterans members
Life Mem. of the American Legion, VFW, Korean War Veterans, 31st Inf, Reg, Assoc., NEA, OEA, AEA, NEOEA, ORTA & proud to be a CORE
Thursday, December 14, 2006
News from STRS: House Bill 700 Could Impact STRS Ohio's Existing Defined Benefit Plan and Place Additional Burdens on Employers
Legislative Alert from ORTA
Jim N. Reed’s speech to the STRS Board, December 14, 2006
Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Jim N. Reed and I am an STRS contributor and beneficiary. I have taught in the Liberty Union-Thurston Schools in
When I have appeared before this Board in the past I have described my relationship with my retirement system as contentious, one too often associated with disappointment, disillusionment, disgust. I am a member of the class of ’98, one of those retirees who got caught in the cracks during the transition that cost our retirement system its “Cadillac” reputation and that has proven so costly, figuratively and literally, to so many retirees.
Today, I would like to soften the rhetoric in a humble attempt to honor the memory of Mr. Tom Mooney. Though I did not know Mr. Mooney personally as many of you did, I was in attendance at the September Concerned Ohio Retired Educators meeting and had the opportunity to see and sense him in action. One could not help but be impressed with his genuineness, his affection for the cause of a better education process. Pertinent questions were posed to Mr. Mooney during the meeting…”How can we (educators) get the STRS Board members to act realistically. How can we encourage them to stop being rubber stamps and to analyze each matter before them for the benefit of all teachers?”
Included among his recommendations were that educators must be encouraged to have more dialogue with STRS Board members, that educators must improve their attendance at STRS Board meetings, and that educators must give constructive speeches. I must admit this latter admonition got my attention.How
Reading numerous commendations to his life’s dedication to education, I was struck by the number of times I read the same two words used by loved ones, friends and colleagues to describe this extraordinary man’s life…passion and professionalism.
In that spirit, I would challenge all of us in this audience this afternoon to make the extra effort, in Mr. Mooney’s memory, to add to his legacy of loyalty to the education profession with the same passion that became his trademark.
Let us memorialize his untimely passing by grasping this opportunity to reduce the adversarial positions in which we have too often found ourselves. Let us step back and take a deep breath, a fresh breath of hope that this evolving Board and its constituents can find more common ground on which to regain mutual respect and trust.
Mr. Mooney’s life may have been brief but it sparkled with his adamant insistence that education must continue to be bettered for its producers and its consumers. He was a true crusader with a cause to which he gave himself selflessly. His sacrifices have made him an education martyr.
Let us find a path that will compliment his passion and his sacrifices in a bipartisan search for ideas to improve the lives of all in his and in our profession.
Lloyd Knudsen’s speech to the STRS Board, December 14, 2006
Anyway, after my Bee Hive speech last month a board member said in an e-mail, “As a benefit recipient you certainly are within your rights to poke fun at us. But I can assure you that every member of this board is here for the right reasons.” But you know what? I would be willing to bet that every board member who served during the years STRS spent outrageously on this building, its artwork, on generous staff perks and even on perks for the board members themselves, thought they too, were here for the right reasons.
But that’s history. Let’s talk about the present. We’ve recently seated some new members on this board. There is some evidence of a growing sense of cooperation among board members. So let’s go back to that concept that “every board member is here for the right reasons.” By “right reasons” I think we can all agree that should mean following ORC 3307.15. Board decisions should benefit the STRS benefit recipients and their beneficiaries.
It is my belief that benefit recipients have limited informational access to these important STRS monthly board meetings. How many teachers can make it here monthly to see and hear this board do its job? Active teachers are working and maybe 30 out of a potential 100,000 retirees are here. That is not access. Putting out a brief board summary on the STRS Website, or recording an audio CD for members to request, or putting out an occasional STRS newsletter summarizing WHAT HAS BEEN ALREADY DECIDED is not access. Benefit recipients need real time, unfiltered information on decisions regarding THEIR retirement system.
My proposal to this board is to ask for a board/staff study to research the feasibility of Webcasting all future monthly STRS meetings. I would further suggest because Webcasting would be of greater immediate interest to retirees than actives, that our two retired board member representatives: Jeff Chapman and Dennis Leone be on this committee.
HS Dent: Death of Pensions
Special Report Explains How Underfunded Pension Plans Will Affect Retirees, Investors, and the Economy
TAMPA, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The largest generation in U.S. history is about to retire, wreaking havoc with our economy from two different directions. In a special report, “Death of Pensions,” Harry S. Dent, Jr., founder and president of the HS Dent Foundation warns that the level of payments promised to future retirees cannot possibly be paid, affecting not only private sector workers but also civil servants.
According to Dent, the effects of this situation will not only cause private and public pensions to lower benefits, but will also drive states and local governments to raise taxes in an effort to pay what they have promised. At the same time, Dent estimates that slower spending by aging Baby Boomers will cause an economic slump after 2010, compounding an already difficult situation.
Retirement benefit systems of all types are in crisis mode. “It is a fact that U.S. companies absolutely cannot pay all of the pension and healthcare benefits that they have promised to their workers,” Dent states. “The statistics barely skim the surface. While the number of underfunded plans is startling, the degree to which some are underfunded is staggering.”
To understand the scope of the problem, examine General Motors (GM), for example, suggests Dent. Today, GM has almost $100 billion in their pension fund, but GM is underfunded by more than $7 billion – which doesn’t include retiree health benefits. Health benefits are totally unfunded, which adds another $60 billion to the GM deficit. With a market capitalization of roughly $17 billion, GM could give itself away to its current and future retirees, and the company would still owe them over $50 billion. “A similar scenario, although not as dramatic, applies to the pension funds of many companies and government entities throughout the U.S. The economic implications of pension and healthcare benefit shortfalls are serious,” Dent cautions.
Many people believe that the federal government will rescue pensioners and provide needed healthcare benefits. This is unlikely as consumer spending cools after 2010 and tax revenue from corporations fall. Wage growth will slow as well, which reduces tax revenues from individuals, warns Dent. “In the resulting stock market decline, there will be little revenue from capital gains or dividend taxes. Revenues will fall, but regular discretionary spending and entitlement spending for Social Security and Medicare will soar,” Dent said. “Bottom line: Congress won’t have the funds to bail out the state and corporate pension plans.”
There is no doubt that significant hurdles lie ahead. “If Baby Boomers want to maintain a reasonable standard of living during their golden years, they should start preparing NOW,” Dent stresses. “You absolutely must increase savings, preferably in a tax-favored plan. Income taxes are likely to be significantly higher in coming years; therefore, expect a higher tax bracket in retirement. Look to Roth IRA or the new Roth 401(k) as vehicles to save retirement money while reducing the income tax burden in later years. Health Savings Accounts (HSA) can also save on medical expenses over time. Another strong consideration should be a variable annuity, with guaranteed benefits.”
Rather than focus on problems, responsible members of the U.S. economic community must take immediate action. “Elected officials should be urged to resolve the fiscal issues that are looming for Social Security and Medicare,” Dent advocates. “In addition, government programs for saving and managing retirement income and medical needs should be fully utilized. And most importantly, plan for the financial future today by increasing savings, seeking informed financial advice, and selecting investments designed to protect retirement assets during the volatile years ahead.”
To obtain a copy of “Death of Pensions,” purchase it on the online store at www.hsdent.com, or call Nicole Nonnemaker at 888-307-3368.
About HS Dent Publishing:
HS Dent Publishing (www.hsdent.com) of Tampa, Fla. helps people understand change and prepare for its arrival through a variety of Dent publications, including the monthly HS Dent Forecast. The Dent methodology, which is based on the study of demographics, or the study of whole populations and their spending habits, takes financial forecasting out of the world of theory and into the realm of real-world consumer behavior, allowing investors to make intelligent and informed economic decisions about their future.
URGENT: WRITE YOUR STATE REPRESENTATATIVE BEFORE THURSDAY TO STOP HB 700
HB 700 MUST BE STOPPED NOW OR WE WILL ALL SUFFER!!!!!
CORE meeting December 14, 11:45 a.m.
STRS Board meeting December 13 - 14, 2006
........11:00 a.m. Disability Review Panel
........1:00 p.m. Final Average Salary Committee Meeting
Thursday, December 14, 2006
........9:00 a.m. Retirement Board Meeting
Mark Meuser voices his opposition to HB 700
Schuring and Fedor fight last minute giveaways to charter schools; OFT vigilant
Legislators fight late amending of H.B. 79
State Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, and Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, urged lawmakers not to use House Bill 79 as a charter school bill. That came after they heard rumors Wednesday that amendments are being considered. House Bill 79, which passed the House and Senate, requires criminal background checks for educators. A conference committee is to meet at 9 a.m. today to negotiate differences between Senate and House versions. It's the first time the committee will have met, even though it received the bill in February. Fedor said adding amendments "will only be creating further problems for the charter school system in relation to Ohio's overall education system." "We need to ... fully debate in the full light of day the current status of our charter schools and how to reform them," she said. Schuring and state Rep. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, have pending bills (Senate Bill 129 and House Bill 213) that tackle accountability of charter schools. Both bills have languished in committee since their introduction in April 2005. Last week, they introduced updated versions. Schuring said those bills should be the vehicle to change how charter schools operate. "We need serious deliberation on comprehensive reform before we make changes ... that may create further loopholes for bad actors without providing real reform and oversight for community schools," Schuring said. Lisa Zellner, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Federation of Teachers, also said she heard about possible amendments. The teachers union and other members of the Coalition for Public Education back Schuring's and Oelslager's bills. The two bills "would create more accountability, academic and fiscal, that would make sure charter schools are held accountable," she said. Schuring said the rumors about amendments were enough to cause him concern. "This lame duck session is not like any other I've seen," he said. "There's a lot of last-minute stuff swirling around the Statehouse dealing with substantial policy issues without the appropriate due process." Reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail: email@example.com
State Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, and Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, urged lawmakers not to use House Bill 79 as a charter school bill. That came after they heard rumors Wednesday that amendments are being considered.
House Bill 79, which passed the House and Senate, requires criminal background checks for educators. A conference committee is to meet at 9 a.m. today to negotiate differences between Senate and House versions. It's the first time the committee will have met, even though it received the bill in February.
Fedor said adding amendments "will only be creating further problems for the charter school system in relation to Ohio's overall education system."
"We need to ... fully debate in the full light of day the current status of our charter schools and how to reform them," she said.
Schuring and state Rep. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, have pending bills (Senate Bill 129 and House Bill 213) that tackle accountability of charter schools. Both bills have languished in committee since their introduction in April 2005. Last week, they introduced updated versions.
Schuring said those bills should be the vehicle to change how charter schools operate.
"We need serious deliberation on comprehensive reform before we make changes ... that may create further loopholes for bad actors without providing real reform and oversight for community schools," Schuring said.
Lisa Zellner, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Federation of Teachers, also said she heard about possible amendments. The teachers union and other members of the Coalition for Public Education back Schuring's and Oelslager's bills.
The two bills "would create more accountability, academic and fiscal, that would make sure charter schools are held accountable," she said.
Schuring said the rumors about amendments were enough to cause him concern.
"This lame duck session is not like any other I've seen," he said. "There's a lot of last-minute stuff swirling around the Statehouse dealing with substantial policy issues without the appropriate due process."
Reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Jim N. Reed to Rep. Schaffer: Caution: Lame Duck Legislation Beyond Lame And A Cheap Shot at Teacher-Vets
Subject: Caution: Lame Duck Legislation Beyond Lame And A Cheap Shot at Teacher-Vets
Representative Schaffer, as a Fairfield County constituent I urge you to exercise immediate caution on a couple pieces of pending legislation that need to be stopped dead in their bloody tracks (educators' blood).
HB 700 is an outright disgrace and my guess is that you have already lent your voice to its opposition as I know your track record supporting education in Fairfield County and your objection to any legislative maneuvering that smacks of a conflict of interest. This one seems to have quite an odor.
Blasdel's attempts to promote a piece of legislation that would draw off retirement contributions from young educators toward private investment (that adds up to a deduction from retired educators) are an embarrassment and potential disaster to all educators, retired, active, and prospective.
I trust you have already voiced your objections and have encouraged the placement of this shameful legislation in the file in which it belongs, DOA, before it ever sees the light of day.
Secure retirement for educators has become such a major disappointment, uncertainty and disillusionment, we certainly do not need another slap in the face. The General Assembly is currently making an effort to help us find a dedicated stream of funding to salvage our retirement healthcare system and we are certainly appreciative. Please awaken Blasdel to the errors of his ways.
Also, Mr. Schaffer, I have recently seen some information on another piece of legislation (HB 71) that is much further along in its legislative path. I would ask that you carefully examine its content to ascertain whether or not it is possible that STRS teacher-veterans may be squeezed out of some of their benefits as scapegoats for the shortfall of others. Certainly, veterans should never be put in a position to be sacrificed after the sacrifices they have already made.
Charter schools take their toll on 4 Columbus Public Schools buildings
By Bill Bush
The Columbus Dispatch
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Four more Columbus Public Schools should close this spring, according to a community task force helping the district respond to falling enrollment.
- Douglas Alternative Elementary, which has 271 students this school year, down 34 from two years ago. The school is at 90 percent of its capacity.
- Linden Park I.G.E. Alternative Elementary, which has 171 this school year, down 88 from two years ago. The school is at 49 percent capacity.
- Medary Elementary, which has 140 students this school year, down 73 from two years ago. The school is at 37 percent.
- Linmoor Middle, which has 234 students, down 90 students from two years ago. Linmoor is at 31 percent capacity.
Douglas and Linden Park were among four schools that the district put on a “watch list” last school year because of dropping enrollment.
The task force considered schools that met these criteria, among others:
- Size: High schools with fewer than 800 students, middle schools with fewer than 600 and elementaries with fewer than 400
- Declining enrollment: Schools that have lost students compared with two years ago
- No new upgrades: School that have been revamped as part of the district's ongoing plan were excempt
- Nearby space available: Seats must be available at nearby schools to accommodate the students if a building is closed.
The district will hold forums in January to hear feedback from the community. Any closings ultimately would have to be approved by the school board.
Columbus Public Schools, like other urban districts, has been losing students to charter schools for several years. A new state voucher program that pays for private-school tuition has added to the struggle this year.
The district was down 3,081 students as of the 12th day of the school year compared with the same day in 2005.
Some parents at Douglas Elementary School said today they were upset the school was closing and couldn't understand why Columbus Public Schools would shut down a building in good repair with good academics.
“As a parent, I'm not happy,” said Karen Rector, whose daughter Sydney is in the first grade . “This is the greatest place you could have your child in school.”
If the board approves, this would be the third wave of closings in three years.
The school board voted to close 10 elementary schools and two middle schools Last January. All closed at the end of last school year.
The elementaries were Beck Urban Academy, Brentnell Alternative Traditional, Gladstone, Second Avenue, Koebel, Main, McGuffey, Reeb, Scioto Trail and Stockbridge. The middle schools were Barrett Urban Academy and Crestview.
Another elementary school, Kent, was shuttered at the end of the 2004-05 school year.
Columbus currently operates 128 schools: 76 elementaries, 23 middle schools, 17 high schools, and other schools that combine various upper- and lower-classes, are for developmentally disabled students, and career centers that teach vocational trades.
Since 1999 the district has lost about 10,000 students, or 15 percent of its enrollment. Most of the loss has been attributed to parents choosing to send their children to charter schools -- tuition-free schools that are financed by the state of Ohio but typically are privately run.
Task-force members include business and union leaders as well as Robyn Taylor, president of the Columbus Council of PTAs. The committee's co-chairmen are Alan J. Davidson, a former National City Bank executive, and Floyd V. Jones, a senior vice president of The Dispatch Printing Company, which publishes The Dispatch
Tom Mooney's final exposé of Ohio charter schools -- the gifting goes on......
Subject: Tom's final expose' of Ohio charter schools -- the gifting goes on..............
Note from John: I'm sorry I missed this timely article that came out in the Beacon Journal on Dec. 4, 2006. Boy, will we miss Tom Mooney even more than we realized!
Gregory Nickell: Some answers for Shirlee Zerkel
Since a colonoscopy is an unusual test in that during the preventative test, work to remove polyps can actually be done. Why don't you, Medical Mutual and Aetna work on a solution as to how this test is to be paid. Why can't STRS/MM or Aetna require that the physician bill the test and the actual removal of polyps as separate parts on the same bill. The additional amount that it would cost for the removal of the polyps could then have the medical code for treatment and the test could have the preventive code.
Also when you mention 100% preventive tests, do you mean just the administering of the test, such as the surgeon in a colonoscopy or is the facility, anesthetist, etc. also covered?
From Gregory R. Nickell, December 13, 2006