Saturday, October 27, 2007

This wouldn't happen at STRS, would it?








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Legislators' e-mails public, suit says

Lawmakers' private accounts at issue
Friday, October 26, 2007 3:38 AM
James Nash
While state Rep. Josh Mandel battles insurgents in Iraq, he's facing another determined adversary at home.

Jeffrey L. Glasgow, a retired Franklin County assistant prosecutor, is testing the limits of Ohio's public-records law by demanding that Mandel, R-Lyndhurst, turn over e-mail messages from his private account that pertain to state business.

Glasgow's case, now before the Ohio Supreme Court, is thought to be the first courtroom test of an emerging area of open-records laws: whether e-mail and text messages from a government employee's private accounts are public records if the messages have to do with official business.

Glasgow contends that Mandel and fellow Rep. Shannon Jones, R-Springboro, have been less than forthcoming in their responses to his demand for records about the two representatives' quest to get Ohio pensions to withdraw their investments from companies that do business with Iran and Sudan.

"I just want to know who's talking to whom in making the law," Glasgow said. "That's the motivation. I just think secrecy in government is a bad idea."

Mandel, a Marine reservist, spearheaded the drive to force Ohio's five public pensions to divest more than $1 billion in holdings in companies with investments in Iran and Sudan. He and Jones argued that retired public employees shouldn't be subsidizing terrorism, even indirectly, by profiting from investments in countries with known ties to Islamic extremists.

Glasgow and other retired government employees protested that their retirement savings were being used as a bargaining chip in a foreign-policy debate.

Pension leaders initially resisted Mandel and Jones' move but ultimately capitulated. In June, they agreed to voluntarily divest at least half of their holdings in Iran- and Sudan-connected companies by the end of the year, with the ultimate goal of full divestment.

Three months later, Mandel shipped off to Iraq for his second tour of duty.

For Glasgow, however, the battle continued -- it just changed venues.

Although Mandel and Jones turned over boxes of documents, Glasgow contends that they also withheld public records. Glasgow, who once handled public-records requests for various government agencies in Franklin County, asked the two representatives for e-mail and text messages from their private accounts that dealt with the divestment measure and other government business.

Mandel used his private account at least three times to discuss the measure with a Dispatch reporter in May and June. His office, however, provided none of those messages to Glasgow. The former prosecutor also said he has evidence that Mandel sent text messages during committee hearings on the bill; the representative's office furnished no text messages in response to Glasgow's request.

Attorney General Marc Dann has said that e-mail and text messages are public documents if they deal with government business, even if they come from private accounts. Dann has urged public officials not to use private e-mail and text accounts to conduct their official business.

However, Dann's office is representing Mandel and Jones in their responses to Glasgow's lawsuit. The attorney general's spokesman, Leo Jennings III, said he couldn't comment on whether the two state representatives have complied with Dann's directives.

"We have to represent them," Jennings said. "The legislature is our client."

Jones declined to comment. Mandel, who is expected to be in Iraq through late spring, can't receive phone calls or e-mail messages, said his legislative aide, Michael Lord. Mandel has asked the Supreme Court to delay hearing Glasgow's case until the lawmaker returns from Iraq.

"I don't have his computer," Lord said. "We don't have any access to his e-mails."

RH Jones: Teachers unimportant in the lives of children?

From RH Jones, October 26, 2007
Subject: Unimportant in the lives of children?
To all:
Concerning the majority vote of the OSBA, they must feel that teachers are unimportant in the lives of their children. Otherwise, they would have supported HB 315. Outside of God, and the parents themselves, teachers are the most important positive influence in a child’s life. Therefore, a reasonable person would conclude that they provide a decent health care (HC) package for teachers in their retirement.
The OSBA acted without regard to inflation that the STRS of Ohio contends with in trying to offer retiree HC. And there is declining enrollment in Ohio’s education colleges. It is time that the OSBA woke up and rewarded their professional staffs with the modest 2.5% employer contribution offered in HB 315. It has been long overdue.
RHJones, A retired STRS member & a very proud CORE member

Friday, October 26, 2007

Conrad Ott: An editorial in the Akron Beacon Journal supporting HB 315

From RH Jones, October 24, 2007
Subject: Editorial of Ex Akron Super Surperintendent Ott
To all:
The Akron Beacon Journal, today, 10-24-07, pg. A8, has the text of this fine Kentucky gentleman’s Voice of the People letter. I have quoted it below.
Super Conrad Ott, successfully led the Akron Public School District for over 25 yrs. which is a record for big city superintendents. The Akron school boards of that time wisely continued his contract during those most difficult financial times. The Akron voters, children, and the school system’s staff, were rewarded by a well run school system. The levies always passed.
In retirement, Mr. Ott could have moved back to his beloved Kentucky but he and his lovely wife, Jeanne, (a retired Akron administrator) chose to live, spend their STRS benefit checks, pay their taxes, and vote here in his adopted City of Akron -- now that is loyalty! And, since his retirement, he has continued to serve Akron by his having won, just a few years back, a seat on the school board. Last but not least, he now volunteers at an Akron school close by his home, clearly demonstrating that he still has Akron’s children firmly in his heart. I must say that I am proud to have been one of his teachers during his active years.
Here is his letter:
Retired teachers need health-care increase
Akron school board President Linda Kersker has spelled out her board’s reaction to the State Teachers Retirement System’s support of House Bill 315 in the Ohio General Assembly (‘Districts’ can’t carry retirees, ‘ Voice of the People, Oct. 4): The Akron board rejects HB 315 in its entirety.
Teacher retirees should remember this rejection of their modest request for health-care benefits, particularly when the next school levy comes around.
Levy requests usually follow a three-to-five-year cycle, and the voters are asked to underwrite them. Retirees are most important in these campaigns of endorsement.
HB 315 would phase in an employer contribution of 2.5 per cent, for a total of 5 percent over a five-year period. For teachers, the school board contributes 10 per cent of their payroll for retirement purposes. These percentages have not changed in 23 years.
Retired teachers are living longer and need more attention as health becomes a problem.
After 23 years, an increase in their health care is necessary if they are not to go on Medicaid.
HB 315 is an honorable and justifiable request for the legislature consideration, remembering that there can be no retirement without health care.
Conrad C. Ott
Submitted by RHJones, Akron Education Association Member Emeritus and a proud CORE member

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

H.B. 315 Assigned to FIRES Committee; Open-Enrollment Assistance Available to Retirees

From STRS, October 23, 2007
[News] H.B. 315 Assigned to FIRES Committee; Open-Enrollment Assistance Available to Retirees

House Bill 315, which contains the proposal for creating an ongoing, dedicated revenue stream for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program, has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Institutions, Real Estate and Securities (also known as the FIRES Committee). No hearings have been scheduled as yet.

The members of the FIRES Committee are: Representatives Chris Widener (chair), Kevin Bacon, William Batchelder, Todd Book, Armond Budish, David Daniels, Dan Dodd, Clyde Evans, Bob Gibbs, Jay Goyal, William Healy, Cliff Hite, Joseph Koziura, Eugene Miller, Allan Sayre, Dan
Stewart, Jimmy Stewart, Tom Patton, Carol-Ann Schindel, Matt Szollosi, Mark Wagoner, Sandra Williams and James Zehringer.

This bill carries with it the support of the Health Care Advocates for STRS (HCA) -- a coalition of major management, professional and retiree organizations representing Ohio's public K-12 and higher education teachers. This member-driven initiative calls for increasing public teachers' contributions to STRS Ohio by 2.5% and their employers' contributions by 2.5% of teacher payroll to create an ongoing, dedicated revenue stream for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program for current and future retired educators. These increases would be phased in over a five-year period, in .5% increments. The bill was introduced by Rep. Scott Oelslager, along with 14 co-sponsors, on Sept. 18, 2007.

Members who would like to share their position on H.B. 315 with the members of the FIRES Committee can do so via mail using this address:
Ohio House of Representatives, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215-6111.
Additional contact information (phone numbers and e-mail addresses) can be obtained by calling toll-free 1-800-282-0253 or by using this Web site:

To help guide retired members through the health care open-enrollment decision-making process, STRS Ohio is offering "Health Care Program Highlights for 2008" on multiple dates throughout Ohio this fall.

During these meetings, STRS Ohio representatives will review 2008 health care premiums, plan design changes and cost-saving measures, as well as discuss the transition to STRS Ohio's new pharmacy benefits manager, Express Scripts. All health care plans will be discussed at all of the meetings. Plan administrators and Express Scripts will have representatives at every meeting. This includes Aetna, Medical Mutual, Paramount (in its areas), Aultcare (in the Canton area), Kaiser (in the Cleveland area) and Express Scripts.

Attendees will be given the opportunity to ask questions at the meeting's conclusion. Registration is required. Register by calling STRS Ohio toll-free at 1-888-227-7877 or register online. Space is limited and there will be a limit of one guest per member. Attendees will receive a confirmation letter after registering.

Meetings will be offered at 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on each date, with the exception of Tuesday, Nov. 13, when meetings will be offered at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Meetings will last no more than two hours; dates and locations are as follows:

Nov. 6, 2007 Holiday Inn Select - Strongsville

Nov. 7, 2007 Holiday Inn - Boardman/Youngstown

Nov. 8, 2007 Courtyard by Marriott/Hall of Fame Inn - Canton

Nov. 13, 2007 Kings Island Resort & Conference Center - Mason

Nov. 14, 2007 Ohio University Inn - Athens

Nov. 15, 2007 Holiday Inn - Dayton North

Nov. 20, 2007 Holiday Inn French Quarter - Perrysburg

Nov. 27, 2007 Holiday Inn - Mayfield/Cleveland

Nov. 28, 2007 STRS Ohio - Columbus

For more information, or to register online, click the link below:

Monday, October 22, 2007

OFT makes it EASY for us to write our reps re: HB 315 -- thanks, OFT!!

From John Curry, October 22, 2007
Subject: The OFT makes it easy to write your Representative re. HB 315! Click on the link below!

Thank you, OFT! John
Shortcut to:

A sample message from RH Jones: HB 315 committee member reps. post cards

To all:

HB 315 committee member reps. post cards

The following is a hand-written $0.26 post card message that I have mailed today to each of the 23-house committee members regarding the HB 315 retired teacher health care package. Since it fits perfectly on the postcard, you may want to use it as a guide. You certainly have my permission to do so. Please mail your cards or letters as quickly as possible. This must get out of committee and back on the house floor.

To the Honorable Rep. John Q. Public: 10-22-07

Please support HB 315. With a good retired educator health care package, the best educators will be attracted to Ohio. Thus, it is a win-win situation for all Ohio citizens: the children get better teachers; and, with the resulting better-educated citizens, the public business climate is improved.


Mr. Robert H. Jones, a retired STRS member

(Also have your spouse sign it! Two signatures are better than one.)

This HB 315 is EXTREMELY important for Ohio for all the reasons mentioned in the message. It is a modest step forward but will greatly benefit Ohio. The modest 2.5% employer increase has shown to be, due to inflation creeping in the dollar, cost neutral. Everyone wins on this wonderfully crafted HB 315 sponsored by a farsighted and Honorable Rep. Scott Oelslager.

This is my learned opinion,

RHJones, a retired Master of Education, Kent State Univ. 1960

John Curry: Letter to Wapakoneta City Schools Educators

From John Curry, October 22, 2007
Subject: Wapak Educators...THIS is for YOUR future! Ohio House Bill 315

Dear Wapakoneta City Schools Educators,
It has been over a year since I last contacted many of you in regards to the OHIO STRS healthcare situation. Since then, the STRS monthly healthcare premiums have once again risen to even higher
levels. An example of this is to examine the set rates for 2008 coverage for a 30 year (or more) teacher retiree (before reaching Medicare age). What are these rates? Well, for 2008 an educator retiree and retiree's spouse will see monthly Medical Mutual premiums climb to $850 per month total! The STRS rates for 2007 are over $700 per month for the same coverage (80/20 PPO through Medical Mutual)! Can you imagine WCS deducting $850 per month from your paycheck for your healthcare insurance come next payday?
To give you a comparison with another Ohio public retirement system I will relate to a close friend of mine who retired in the same year that I did - the year 2000. I'm sure that many of you are familiar with the former Auglaize County Sheriff Larry Longsworth. Larry also retired from OPERS (the same system our legislators will retire in) 2000 and is currently paying OPERS a total of $80 per month to medically insure himself and his spouse for a similar Medical Mutual 80/20 PPO plan. Next year (2008) his premiums will climb to a monthly premium (for himself and his spouse) of less than $90 per month! So, comparatively speaking, STRS's monthly premiums beginning Jan. 1, 2008 will be almost 10 times as much as Ohio PERS healthcare premiums for retiree and spouse!
What can YOU do about this. Well, one thing you can do to help ALL educators in Ohio (both active and retired) is to write your respective state Representative and ask him to support House Bill 315....a bill that was introduced into the Ohio House of Representatives this fall by the Honorable Representative Scott Ohelslager of the 51st House District. This bill was also bipartisanly co-sponsored by fourteen other State Representatives. Please ask your Rep. to support HB 315 to ensure that healthcare will be affordable for all Ohio public educators. When you write a post card or letter I ask that you also have your spouse (if you are married) to sign the letter as it will be even more effective when it reaches its destination. The backing of this bill includes all Ohio pro-educator groups including the OEA, OFT, Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA), and Concerned Ohio Retired Educators(CORE). Below I have included a link to the Ohio House so that you can enter your home zip code and you will be presented with both the snail mailing address and the email address of your respective House member. Here is that link:
Here is a link to House Bill 315 (I know many of you don't have the time to read it but I have included it for you should someone ask about it) You can also view the list of HB 315 co-sponsors and see if your House member has co-sponsored it:
In closing I wish to add that this bill is very important to your financial future. I do want to add that this bill is strongly being fought by one organization that I'm sure is very familiar to you....the OSBA (Ohio School Boards Association)! They have already passed out "kits" to their members to aid in stopping the passage of HB 315! Please show your representatives that you also have a strong voice in your future and are concerned about it. Remember....if you don't help fight for your future...nobody else will! Please write this letter as soon as possible and thank you for your attention in this matter. This IS a very serious matter.
John Curry
A WCS educator retiree
A member of CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators)

Molly Janczyk: Sample letter to legislators and school boards

From Molly Janczyk, October 22, 2007
Subject: HB 315: Compiled points

My letter to legislators and school boards compiled from different sources. If you like, revise, edit, condense, etc. to print and use for yourself and others. Please forward to educators in any version you feel appropriate.

Dear ______________________,

I am a 30 year retired educator with STRS. I support HB 315 as an equitable proposition allowing educators the ability to prepay for their own health care by creating a stream of revenue for STRS health care. Please consider and research the following points:

1. Employer contributions have not increased in over 20 years to offset the soaring health care crisis and inflationary costs for retirees.

2. If this legislative initiative is not passed with increments of .5% per year for 5 years, most educators will not be able to retire.

*Districts and Local School Boards will be faced with an aging staff in their 60's, 70's etc. at the top of their salary schedules and costly age related medical expenses paid for by the districts.

*Educators will not be able to accept buyouts due to long term health care costs if a district can afford to offer them with the increased costs they will be paying.

*Accrued sick leave used by those educators together with subsitute pay will cost the districts

*Young educators will know they will not have health care in retirement and leave the State or profession. If they stay, they will demand high salaries towards their future health care as there is no retirement without health care.

3. STRS has been conserving for years now but this translates to cuts for retirees while increasing retiree health care costs untendably forcing all able bodied back into the workplace to pay for health care. STRS and retirees have done all they can do for their health care. Many who cannot return to work have stopped or cut medicines, treatments, Dr. visits and some have sold their homes using up their finances.

STRS continues to work hard to meet all the ORSC criteria exercising prudence and responsible oversight to reduce unfunded liability and increase the 85% ration before consideration of any expenditure from pension funds.

Ohio is not nor ever has been ranked high in priority to education. The court has ordered 4 times to properly fund education dismissed by legislators. This is a sad scenario for education in Ohio and the cause for loss of residents while not attracting new residents. Educators are dropping out of the profession and or leaving Ohio. A well educated workforce by highly qualified and motivated educators is what grows an economy and brings business to Ohio creating jobs.

Ohio is proving education and educators are not its priority by refusing to properly fund education fairly vs. simply raising taxes for homeowners. This would allow more latitude and freedom with funding by School Boards as well. This initiative and properly funding education are seperate but connected issues affecting Ohio.

The health care initiative is supported by the majority of educators wishing to help solve the problem of health care in retirement. This is evidenced by keeping track of phone calls, online responses, phone calls, meetings, etc. on this proposal.

There are many needs with Ohio's population. STRS and the Health Care Advocates consisting of many organizations is attempting to solve its own problems. The cost to School Boards is minimal and .5% is about their expected yearly increase. The average cost is $8 per check for an educator earning $40,000 in the first year. After 5 years, this will mean $40 per check from a $40,000 salary. Of course, that educator will be earning more to offset the increase.

Please let educators solve their own problem prepaying for health care in retirement.
Ohio needs to attract and retain the highest caliber of educators. Educators are 400,000+ strong with families and friends who suppor this bill. We remember well our 'friends to education.'

Molly Janczyk
STRS Retiree
OEA, NEA Lifetime
ORTA Lifetime
CEA Lifetime

(Address, phone number, e-mail address)

Glenna Barr: Minutes of October 18, 2007 CORE meeting

CORE held its Oct.l8, 2007 meeting in the cafeteria room behind the Sublett Room at the STRS Building. Officers present: Dave Parshall, president; Mary Ellen Angeletti, vice president; C.J. Myers, treasurer; Glenna Barr, secretary. Trustees present were: Chuck Angeletti, Nancy Boomhower, and Nancy Hamant.
Dave Parshall opened the meeting, calling for approval of the September minutes. Mary Ellen Angeletti made a motion to accept the minutes; Marie Fetters seconded the motion and all approved. C.J. Myers gave the treasurer's report.
A. Website has been updated.
B. Contacts and Regional Reps report given by Molly Janczyk. She stated if there are any changes to contact her.
A. CORE promotion: A presentation was made by Jill Fetters on a T-shirt and sweatshirt with the CORE logo. Dave Parshall discussed other ideas to promote CORE. Donna Thorpe presented an example of a shirt with the CORE logo. The members could have ordered the T-shirt or sweatshirt at the meeting from Donna for: T-shirt $9.00 and the sweatshirt for $l5.00. Dave thanked both of the ladies for their presentations.
A. Dave will meet with CEA (Columbus Education Association) on retiree issues.
B. Dave is to read a CORE resolution, written by John Curry, to the STRS board that states: The Concerned Ohio Retired Educators resolves to support STRS pension fund investment decisions made by the STRS Board of Trustees as long as they do not involve divestiture. Oppose any divestment mandate STRS relative to companies doing business in Iran, Sudan or any other foreign country. The complete speech will be on the e mail pipeline. Paul Boyer made a motion to accept this resolution and Nancy Hamant second the motion and all approved. We were reminded that most legislators are against HB l5l.
C. HB 315 -- Dave and Mary Ellen are contacting the Franklin County legislators and were told postcards count. When you email legislators, be sure to talk about facts. A fact is that there are approximately 36,000 STRS retirees earn less than $30,000. A fact: no teacher, no matter much salary they draw, can put aside enough for health care. We need this bill, Health Care Funding Increased Contribution, to pass. Have your active teachers send postcards. They are to put their phone # and what organizations they belong to. School boards have pushed opposition on HB 315. It is still in committee. A motion was made to pay for post cards to be sent to legislators for reimbursement of postcards' cost . Send your bill to CORE, PO Box l4358, Columbus, Ohio, 43214. Ann Hanning, ORTA Executive Director, thanked everyone for their work on this bill. STRS Health Care Champions Training will have 3 more meetings: Wednesday, Nov. 7 at the STRS Building: Thursday Nov. 8 at the Toledo Federation of Teachers, 111 S. Byme Road, Toledo, Ohio: and Tuesday, Nov. l3 at the Warren County Service Center, 320 E. Silver St., Lebanon, Ohio. If you were not able to attend the first meeting in September, this is a good opportunity to attend the above meetings. They will be from 5:30-8:00 PM. A light supper will be provided. You are to RSVP by Nov. 2 to Laura Ecklar at STRS via or call the toll free number l-888-227-7877.
C. CORE received a card of thanks for flowers from CORE and everyone's thoughts during the recent death of his wife from Ryan Holderman.
D. From John Curry regarding the Ross county newsletter encouraging HB 315: they thanked CORE for all of the members' work and our support of Dennis Leone.
E. The OEA Lobby Day will be in Dec., contact Tim Meyers at OEA if you want any further info on this.
F. Nancy Hamant gave a report on Medicare Advantage. It is not a good plan and everyone needs to be well informed on this plan.
We had a good turnout of members at our meeting. Ann Hanning, ORTA Executive Director, Don Bright, ORTA Prresident, and Lou DiOrio of OCHER were present. The next meeting will be November l5,2007.
Submitted by Glenna Barr, Sec.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Colorado retiree organization takes bold stand against divestment

From John Curry, October 21, 2007
Subject: Re: Another retirement organization..
How about it, Ohio county RTA's? Why not take a bold stance against forced divestment like this one Colorado county organization of retired educators have done! Politicians tend to listen much better when local RTA's take a vocal stance! If, and I say "if"... Husted pulls HB 151 out of committee and schedules it for a vote then we need to put political pressure on our local Representatives and follow what this bold Colorado county organization did. John
Cheryl Flagg (Colorado contact) to John Curry, October 21, 2007
Subject: Re: Another retirement organization..
This Jefferson County stance is major. This is the largest retirement organization in Colorado!

Legislative News
October, 2007
Dick Lansford, a former PERA Trustee and a JCRSEA legislative committee member, reported that PERA's financial position is very good, 40 plus billion in net assets. He also spoke to the PERA-Iran divestment issue — whether PERA will be forced to divest its investments in companies that do business with Iran. He reflected on the South African and Sudan divestment issues and stated that PERA should not divest its monies from Iran and further reminded us. Dick decried the fact that two Democratic Senators (Joan Fitz-Gerald and Ken Gordon) and two Republican Senators (Josh Penry and Andy McElhany ) wrote an article that appeared in the Post and News that advocated divesting from Iran. Dick will have additional information to report at the October luncheon.
At CRSEA's Legislative Forum on Thursday October 11, Greg Smith, PERA's Legal Counsel will be one of the featured speakers; we are certain that he will speak to the PERA-IRAN issue. Health care proposals will also be presented and discussed by various panelists, And, State Representative Ann McGihon from Denver will talk about Governor Ritter's "208 Blue Ribbon Panel" on healthcare.
Six or seven JCRSEA board members will attend the Forum. They will report on what they heard at the luncheon in October. See you there.

Click here to view John Curry's resolution opposing mandated divestment, adopted October 18, 2007 by CORE.

RH Jones: Retiree HC cost neutral for taxpayers!

From RH Jones, October 21, 2007
To all:
Retiree HC cost neutral for taxpayers!
In talking to an ex-public school district board member, regarding HB 315, I was told that indeed: “Due to inflation of the dollar, over the 5-yr, “smoothing” period provided in the HB315, the modest 2.5% employer increase would be cost neutral for the 700 school districts.”
I thought: why should this be? Then I realized that inflation is usually at least 3-4% per year. So, therefore at the modest 2.5% spread over those years, everyone wins. And a win makes everyone happy!
RHJones, a proud member of CORE
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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