Saturday, March 01, 2008

Kipp to open charter school in Columbus

From John Curry, March 1, 2008
Subject: They just keep Kipping away, don't they? Can't say we didn't see this one coming!
Today the Dispatch discusses the Columbus Board of Education considering whether to lease several of their buildings to "outside programs!" Translated, that means "charter schools" two of which the "specifics aren't available yet." A spokesperson for some of these proposed privatized schools apparently feels that this is a "win-win situation," but is it?
Will the teachers in these charters be able to present teaching certificates that verify they are fully certified by the State of Ohio to teach in all of Ohio's public schools as charters can circumvent this requirement? Will the teachers' salaries and benefits be comparable to those who teach nearby in the other Columbus City Schools? Will the total amount of deductions for their retirement system (STRS) be equal to the total deductions of same number of educators in nearby Columbus City Schools? After all, these newly hired educators will be paid on a different salary schedule as that of the Columbus City Schools' educators and if you think it will be equal to or surpass the Columbus City Schools salary schedule I have a bridge I'd like to sell you! Of course, since they are private schools...they don't have to release their salary schedules to anyone, do they? Nor do they have to release to the public the dollar amount of the profits that the companies who run them will enjoy.....profits that should be applied to the education of the students in these very same schools.
Once again, privatization of public schools is on the march in Central City. Below is today's Dispatch article re. these newly proposed charters and following it is a Cleveland Plain Dealer article which appeared back on Dec. 31, 2007 concerning this adventure. After all, "corporate leaders- the CEO's of the city's 30 largest employers" seem to think this is the best idea to come along since the invention of sliced bread. I wonder what these leaders would say if educators should decide to step in and design changes to their operations? Can't say we didn't see this one coming, can we?
P.S. The Fordham Foundation just happens to be mentioned in the last article remember them, don't you? They were the ones who issued the report critical of the benefit structure of the STRS. If you don't, I will gladly forward that information to you.... WITHOUT PROFIT and as a public service!
School board may lease out four buildings
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Columbus Dispatch
Click image to enlarge
The Columbus school board is to consider leasing four buildings to outside programs, including two charter schools, at its meeting on Tuesday. Columbus schools have an incentive to do so besides finding uses for surplus buildings. Ohio lawmakers passed a bill last year that allows school districts that lease property to charter schools to claim the school's test scores as their own. "It's a win-win situation," said Carina Robinson, KIPP Journey Academy's school leader, because the charter school gets a building fit for students and the district benefits from the test scores of a high-achieving middle school. However, districts must decide at the beginning of the school year whether to accept a charter school's scores, before knowing whether they will be good or not. The four building leases to be considered: • Brentnell Elementary, 1270 Brentnell Ave., might be leased for $62,594 per year to the Charles School, a charter being created by Ohio Dominican University and the Graham School. • Kent Elementary, 1414 Gault St., might be leased to Lifetown, a program for special-needs students. Specifics aren't available yet. • Linden Park Elementary, 1400 Myrtle Ave., might be leased to the Knowledge is Power Program charter school, KIPP Journey Academy, for $55,345.50 a year. • Second Avenue Elementary, 68 E. 2nd Ave., might be leased to Junior Achievement. Specifics aren't available yet. Columbus already leases a building to a charter school, but it's one that the district oversees. The Academic Acceleration Academy, a school for students in grades eight through 12 who have fallen behind, rents a small building on the grounds of Linmoor Middle School for $1 a year.
-- Jennifer Smith Richards
KIPP to open charter school in Columbus
The Cleveland Plain Dealer - “KIPP to open charter school in Columbus; Charter-school chain called nation's best”
By Scott Stephens December 31, 2007

It's often called the nation's best charter-school chain, the Tiffany network of urban education.

Next year, it will hang a shingle in Ohio.

The Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, a network of 57 schools in 17 states and the District of Columbia, will open a middle school in Columbus in August.

A second middle school is in the works for the state's capital in 2009, and some education reformers are quietly exploring bringing KIPP to Cleveland.

But it will take the kind of broad-based community interest that Columbus demonstrated to make that happen. In Columbus, a coalition of business, philanthropic and social-service interests, as well as the city schools, served as a welcome mat for the charter chain.

Columbus corporate leaders - the CEOs of the city's 30 largest employers - actually visited KIPP schools in Houston and New York before committing to the project. Satisfied with what they saw, they committed $550,000 to KIPP's Columbus start-up plan.

"It was more than just a case of this sounding good on paper," said Mark Real, executive director of, one of the groups that lobbied hard to bring KIPP to Ohio. "They actually went out and kicked the tires, so to speak."

Even supporters of charter schools - schools that are independently operated but publicly funded - have acknowledged that too many of Ohio's charters have been junkers, all too often posting dismal test scores and having little accountability for taxpayer dollars. Last year, three national organizations identified as strong charter-school advocates called for the state to close low-performing charters and to insist on more oversight from charter-school sponsors.

Enter KIPP, which chose Columbus ahead of six other cities on its list of potential expansion sites. The Columbus city schools initially wanted to sponsor the new KIPP schools, but KIPP opted instead to work with the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that already oversees nine charter schools in southwest Ohio.

As a result, the Columbus Teachers Union, which first supported KIPP's move to Columbus, cooled to the idea.

Teachers in the new KIPP school will be hired directly by the school and will not be part of the district's contract with the union. However, because the district is leasing KIPP a building, the district will be able to count KIPP's test scores among its own data.

KIPP has tentative plans to augment its two Columbus middle schools with two elementary schools and a high school. The goal: provide a set of innovative alternative schools that will help raise achievement at all schools by sharing ideas that work.

"We selected Columbus because the community seriously embraces educational reform," said KIPP Chief Executive Richard Barth.

Adds Real: "There will be an open-door policy both ways. KIPP could learn some things from the Columbus schools, too."

But why has the chain, started in 1994 by two Houston teachers, developed such a sparkling reputation? For starters, the not-for-profit network educates children often written off as being "at risk." The youngsters are overwhelmingly black or Latino, and most are from low-income families. Students are accepted without regard to their academic record.

More significant, KIPP gets tangible results, replicating the successes of individual high-performing charter schools on a larger scale.

Students who have completed three years of KIPP have improved from the 34th percentile at the beginning of fifth grade to the 58th percentile at the end of seventh grade in reading scores and from the 44th percentile to the 88th percentile in math scores. The secret? First, KIPP trains its school leaders and board members, putting seasoned educators in place before the first child walks through the door. Carina Robinson, already an accomplished math teacher in the Euclid schools, has been training for the past year at Stanford University to prepare for her job as principal of the new KIPP school in Columbus.

In addition to offering a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum, KIPP schools pack in more instructional time, with a longer day and some extra weekend and summer classes. Teachers are required to be available by cell phone in the evenings to answer questions about homework, which is both daily and required.

Some people cite that rigor for the high attrition rate at a few KIPP schools - one of the rare criticisms of the chain. KIPP's own study this year found alarmingly high rates of children leaving its schools in the San Francisco Bay area. At one school in Oakland, for instance, only a quarter of the students from the fifth-grade class were still around by eighth grade.

Some observers have suggested the attrition rates boost average test scores artificially by driving out the lowest-performing students. A few experts, including Arizona State University's Alex Molnar, have openly questioned whether KIPP is really the savior it claims to be.

But KIPP supporters scoff at such criticism.

"There's attrition in Marine boot camp, too," said Fordham Foundation President Chester Finn Jr. "Any high-standards regimen has more attrition - it comes with the territory. But critics of KIPP are desperately eager to tarnish its reputation. The truth is, KIPP benefits a whole lot of kids."

ORTA dismissing candidate?

From Molly Janczyk, March 1, 2008
Subject: Ann Hanning
Ann Hanning has been visiting RTAs. I was told (did not hear myself) that she told membership OEA had a candidate for the Active STRS Board seat and that maybe there were one or two other candidates.
This was well after both Dan Vincent and Tim Myers were notified they qualified. Ann WELL KNEW VINCENT'S NAME AND THAT CORE ENDORSED HIM. ORTA came to the meeting where Dan Vincent addressed us to hear him. They have received information that Dan qualified and IS a candidate FROM ME MULTIPLE TIMES!!!
Shameful. ORTA membership overwhelmingly supports the legal stand that in an election for educators, the educators have the right to hear from all candidates to make informed decisions as stated by our legal opinions and that access to educators is permissible to provide that information. That does not constitute an endorsement; simply giving voters their constitutional rights to hear from candidates in order to decide for themselves.
When an organization makes the wrong decision, it is mandatory for membership to work for change and not allow anyone to dictate withholding information from educators. To do so is equally wrong. How can any organization promote such unequal rights for educators?
Molly J.






OEA, FCRTA, CEA, CEA-R, OEA, OEA-R, ORTA Central Office, OFT Central (Cols.): want to see us shut down?

From Molly Janczyk, February 29, 2008
Subject: Subject: My Opinion:
I have racked my brain as to WHY the organizations will assist OEA's candidate Tim Myers by doing nothing in the STRS ACTIVE BOARD ELECTION: One thing became clear in my mind:
OEA, FCRTA, CEA, CEA-R, OEA, OEA-R, ORTA Central Office, OFT Central (Cols.), apparently have decided it is better to return to the former quiet and 100% cohesion voting pattern than to go another term with independent thinkers who may raise an issue, promote change, make a wave, etc. It has been an uncomfortable time having to hear dissent on issues and they can no longer tolerate such debate. It matters not if it is productive; it is just plain uneasy for them to endure questions, opinions, research and standing for change until old ways are reviewed and freshened for current times.
CORE and its leaders have disturbed the status quo, forced the removal of the former OEA choice for Exec. Direc. and STRS Board members who formed a block approval for policies at STRS. ORTA Central, OEA and OEA-R did nothing about the misuse of membership funds by the OEA Board members and Exec Direc Dyer. We stepped up and rocked their world bringing media attention to their lack of action and this cannot be tolerated.
ALL the changes at STRS have been due to CORE and its leaders, Leone and Lazares. Policy changes regarding travel, annual checks for sick and vacation leave, bonuses and merit raises for anyone at STRS who simply did their job, severe reduction and elimination of subsidies paid for Staff cafeteria, fitness and childcare on site: all paid by membership. Ethics policy now in place and the passage of SB 133 to deny any Board member who overspends to be removed from the Board and never to allow those who overspent to return. ALL this should have been done by STRS, ORTA, OEA whose STRS Board members were found guilty of ethics violations while the organizations sat silently and watched. Silence often equals complicity.
There seems to be a meeting of the minds of all organizations to do all possible to shut us down. The decision ensures OEA's Tim Myers will get elected and build back to a majority of OEA STRS Board members and there is nothing we can do about it.
In my mind, this began with the 'coup' we were drawn into bringing CEA member Tai Hayden to the board. Tai sits on the OEA Exec. Comm. but we were strongly told Tai held no love for OEA and it was to keep Tim Myers of OEA from being elected. Now, it seems in hindsight all knew Tim would not be appointed and it was a coup to get Tai on the Board by appointment and then run OEA Myers because OEA has the power and money to put Myers' name out to those who do not know him giving him a better chance of being elected than appointed. Tim did not win an election within OEA a bit back with an OEA insider telling me 'Everyone knows how Tim is' (paraphrased) speaking a bit disparagingly of him. Now that same person feels Tim is best for the job. Of course! No matter OEA runs, the loyal guards promote. Tim has called us names and been disrespectful at meetings. No matter, he is the candidate and will be elected. It was a grand plan and by all appearances, we were duped -- plain and simple.
Now, we have an election for an Active representative to sit on the STRS Board. Every educator will know Tim's name with most receiving information straight to their mailboxes and to their homes with "Ohio Schools" Magazine displaying full page ads for Tim. OEA and their local building reps will talk up Tim and then gather their staff together for voting parties in one room, probably gather the ballots and hand deliver or mail by bunches. Many educators will not know Dr. Dan Vincent even is a candidate until they receive their ballot and seen their is another candidate. They will vote as they were told. Slam dunk.
In America, public elections for public seat representation is supposed to allow both candidates to be heard. We, of course, have ONLY ourselves to try to reach educators. NOW, ORTA comes out with a statement that it is inappropriate for their leadership to appear to endorse and distribute flyers for Vincent. They do 'allow' individuals to help circulate flyers. Shocking to me, is that some of that 'leadership' will allow ORTA to dictate their acts.
NO ONE has asked for endorsement. We only ask that persons help allow educators information flyers on the OTHER candidate so educators can make up their own minds rather than have this dictator style election occur. One 'leader' told me he would only do so if he had info on both candidates. What a laugh! OEA's candidate has every advantage getting into school mailboxes and homes along with building reps promoting him. CORE Candidate Dr. Dan Vincent enjoys no such privilege and the ONLY way he has of being heard is through membership: educators! And, yet there are educators refusing to help or doing so minimally.
To those wonderful and fair minded RTA officers and members, THANK YOU! We love you and your willingness to simply be fair! We appreciate your hard work and your thanks for change and better policies for your futures and for the futures of young actives. I have learned about you over the years and thoroughly enjoy meeting and adding new contacts each year. YOU are the backbone of ORTA and with you change will occur. You are independent in your thinking and believe in American elections where all parties have a right to be heard by their voters. We only disagree with some 'leadership' outdated policy and want to continually remind all the county membership how much we are ever welcomed and helped locally.
IT IS NEVER YOU, the locals, with whom we disagree! You are the heart and soul of STRS and ORTA. WE fight for you and some of you know this as you have directed questions and concerns to us which we have sent straight to the correct person and remained involved until an answer was given. Leone and Lazares are the only Board members who preface all decisions with :" How will this look to and affect retirees with small pensions who can not afford meds, etc."
We only want to be an alternative to membership to help when others do not. We attend monthly STRS Board meetings for you and give another perspective that you will not hear from OEA and ORTA Central. We let you know how Board members vote and think. We give you additional information to broaden your base to make your own decisions. THAT is WHY we formed and WHAT we continue to do for you.
THANK YOU, RTA MEMEMBERSHIP FOR DOING THE RIGHT THING AND ALLOWING ALL CANDIDATES TO BE HEARD IN THE 2008 STRS ACTIVE BOARD ELECTION ! NO ONE can dictate your acts and there are no consequences except your own conscience and doing the right thing!
All who refuse to allow info of BOTH candidates to be heard in an American school are complicit in the election of OEA's Tim Myers. I have been foolish to think that ORTA Central Cols. and its extreme loyalist, CEA, OFT Central would NEVER disallow voters to learn about both candidates. I am stunned and beyond dismayed. This is an OEA driven and dictated election and that is what all the organizations seemingly want. To keep one candidate from being heard is so beyond anything I can imagine that any citizen would do, that I cannot wrap my head around this kind of one sided thinking.
ORTA attends our meetings, offers nothing and only responds when we are helping them. Otherwise we get ignored and there is no reason to believe that ORTA Central will ever hear us because they have written their directive and would never retract. Not possible. Union and ORTA Mantra: NEVER EVER ADMIT ERROR! I encouraged open meetings and now reject them. THEY would never allow us to attend their meetings and I do not know why they come except to see what we are doing. They are not nor ever will be anything but their own organization with their own mentality. I hope CORE meetings will once again be closed to all who do not WORK FOR and EMBRACE CORE PRINCIPLES. That is ANYONE who fits this premise and all others have their own places to be. If one is not working for us, it seems they work against us. I hate to say that and detest that statement.
ORTA Central has determined this is ok and rights their conscience with printing a statement from both candidates as if that is in any way equal treatment: ORTA Quarterly goes to RETIREES which helps actives, NOT! ORTA Central and top leaders are determined followers and will obey. Those 'leaders' will not distribute flyers to actives and simply state this is a candidate in the 2008 Active STRS Board election for you to research and consider to make an informed decision on candidates for voting.
They rationalize and justify this and there will be no changing their minds. ORTA Central, CEA, OFT Central , CEA-R, OEA-R, FCRTA and ORTA top leadership will ensure this win for Tim Myers. That's it folks. We are problematic; don't fit the mold and need to be discarded. Give you congrats cause it is going to happen. OEA IS going to control the Board again.
Molly Janczyk
STRS Retiree

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Duane Tron promotes new program: No Congressman Left Behind

From Duane Tron, February 29, 2008
Subject: Re: Margaret in Dreamland...a new full-length feature or just an old rerun?
This is precisely why I am promoting a new NCLB program which will be called "No Congressman Left Behind." It is a remedial program that will ensure that ALL members of Congress can pass a basic test on the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution. It will also provide members with the ability to utilize basic reasoning skills on issues pertaining to ethics, honesty, principles, and integrity. It will ensure that by the year 2010 EVERY member of Congress will be proficient on Constitutional issues, will be honest, will not waste taxpayer money, will not lie, will work for the good of the American people and not the special interests, and will restore a viable US economy.
Any member who cannot pass the Constitution Test will be required to enroll in one of their charter schools for four years. If they cannot pass the basic reasoning skills section they will then have to spend four more years in a monastery located in a remote mountain region of Eastern Africa where they can't cause any further damage to Americans or our economy.
I remember the "Good Old Days," when education was so outstanding unlike today. I remember when the kids quit school at 16 and went and worked on an assembly line in an area factory. Why? Because I remember when over 50% of ALL students couldn't do the school work and dropped out of school and moved on. I remember when in those wonderful Mecca's of educational excellence we had huge numbers of classmates who never learned to read or write above a basic level. I remember starting the first grade with over 235 kids and we graduated 136. I remember the kids who could never read and were seated in the back of the room so they wouldn't bother anyone else and when they did they were kicked out of school. Oh! I remember when!
I remember reading that when WW II broke out how the military had to set up remedial reading and math classes as the overwhelming majority of servicemen who were recruited to pilot aircraft couldn't perform basic reading or math. They had to send them to special classes so they could learn how to navigate aircraft, ships, and perform technical jobs and all of these men held high school diplomas. Imagine that??! You know, back in the golden era of education when everyone was well educated and schools were at the top of their performance and mission in educating America's children!
I help run a program for at-risk learners from a city school system. Do you think any of these brilliant lawmakers have ever sat down with any of us and asked the practical question, "will we ever be able to achieve 100% proficiency with children in reading, writing, spelling and math? Nope! They've never asked any of us who have spent our lives in the trenches if something like this were possible. Why haven't they asked us? Ask a silly question! Because we aren't going to tell them what they WANT to hear. Do all children learn the same? Nope! Can all children learn at the same rate? Nope! Can ALL children pass a proficiency test? Nope! Why not? Because some children are taught in classes with numbers of 25 or more and the teachers can't devote adequate time to every child in the room. Makes sense to those us who possess common sense. Maybe this is why politicians can't understand.
These fools honestly believe if they MANDATE something everyone should and will do it. Then they FAIL to fund what become the unfunded mandates! They also don't understand the basic principle of Life 101 and that is not everyone is born with the same level of intelligence, the same arsenal of skills to work with, the same caring parents, the drug and alcohol free parents, the parents who make huge salaries, and on and on. If the playing field was level for ALL children from the start we would still have children who won't master all of these skills. But try explaining that to a STUPID CONGRESSMAN! Yes Sir! We need to institute a "No Congressman Left Behind" program to help these uninformed and ignorant souls.
In the meantime teachers will just have to keep wasting class time teaching to a bunch of worthless tests that no one will remember six weeks later! In fact most won't remember any of it a week later. I propose that I dig out a bunch of the tests I gave in my social studies classes in the 1970's and 1980's and have Congressman Jim Jordan come back and take them and see if he's actually smarter than an eighth grader.
After all we don't want any Congressmen left behind now do we??!!
Duane Tron
St. Paris, OH
From John Curry, February 29, 2008
Subject: Margaret in Dreamland...a new full-length feature or just an old rerun?
What does she demand? 100% proficiency! When does she demand it? Right now, today!
Wonder if anyone shared this graphic with the Secretary last week, as she was ostensibly in Jefferson City to pump NCLB. (With the Missouri Senate caving to the ABCTE lobby last evening, who knows what else?)
Based on the rate of proficiency gain in reading since NCLB began in 2002, Madame Secretary, Missouri children will never reach 100% proficiency in reading, much less in 2014. What are they smoking, indeed? From KOMU:
February 21, 2008
JEFFERSON CITY - U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings was in Jefferson City Thursday to drum up support for keeping the No Child Left Behind Act.
Spellings talked with Missouri education officials about the necessity for children to be able to count and read. She made it clear that she thinks the No Child Left Behind Act is working towards that goal.
"I don't know about you, but I want my child on grade level right now today. Right now today," said Spellings.
But while some Missourians agree with the goals of the legislation, they don't necessarily agree with how to achieve them.
"I don't think anybody would disagree that the goals are goals we need to set. We all need to be accountable, we don't argue with that at all," said Missouri National Education Association President Chris Guinther. "It's just how you get to those goals, and how schools are given the flexibility to be able to determine what their students need."
Since the introduction of No Child Left Behind in 2001, Missouri fourth graders haven't shown significant improvement in reading proficiency. In 2002 and 2007, 32 percent of tested students were reading at a proficient level. There has been an increase in math proficiency over the past few years. In 2000, only 23 percent of Missouri fourth graders were proficient in math and in 2007, that number was up to 38 percent. But Missouri educators say that No Child Left Behind goals are unrealistic.
"It basically implies that every child can learn at the same time, and that by 2014 every child is going to be proficient," said Guinther. "We know that can't happen."
Secretary Spellings says that in order to avoid being left behind, the legislation will need some improvements. Missouri will experience a 42 percent cut in federal funding for No Child Left Behind programs in 2009.
Reported by: Mallory Perryman
Edited by: Ted Arthur
Edited by: Cassandra Novy

Shirlee Zerkel: Interesting items from the Winter 2008 OEA-R Newsline

From Shirlee Zerkel, February 29, 2008
Subject: More info from the OEA-R NEWSLINE
"Speaker Husted to Take Divestment Issue Back to Caucus Speaker Jon Husted (R-Kettering) plans to discuss with the Republican House caucus the progress the five state retirement systems have made in divesting their investments in companies doing business in Iran and Sudan. The retirement systems were told to divest at least 50% of holdings in the targeted international companies by December, or the House would pass House Bill (H.B.) 151 (Mandel). OEA legislative policies assert that the state should not dictate the investment decisions of retirement systems. Rather, the retirement systems must have the authority to act in behalf of the interests of their members."
The following is from an article titled: "New Business Items Underscore Support for Retiree Healthcare Legislation Following reports to the Assembly by STRS Board member Connie Ramser and Health Care Advocate Co-Chair Bill Leibensperger, two New Business Items (NBI) were adopted by the Representative Assembly that reiterated the organization's strong report of HB 315. The first NBI stated support for HB 315 and the second directed OEA President Patricia Frost-Brooks to provide direct testimony to the STRS Board either in writing or in person, stating OEA's unequivocal support for HB 315 and asking the Board to avoid public controversy over issues of secondary importance that might give the impression to legislators that STRS lacks direction or is experiencing management difficulties. Both of these ideas are inaccurate inferences expressed by a few legislators looking for an excuse to oppose HB 315."

Friday, February 29, 2008

Medical Mutual denying hospital care?

From Shirlee Zerkel, February 29, 2008
Subject: Another upsetting story from a retiree spouse!

The spouse of a Lima area retiree was admitted to the hospital directly from ER because of an infection she had. The infectious disease doctor on the case diagnosed that she had MRSA in the skin on her face. She also was suffering from fever. After the hospital stay which included IV medications, she receives a letter from STRS Medical Mutual Insurance that the hospitalization was unneeded and could have been monitored at home. She later received a letter saying that the decision had been appealed (the doctor must have appealed it) and that Medical Mutual did approve the stay but there was no mention in the letter that the insurance company would pay. Since when does one of the companies that STRS uses have the right to play doctor and say whether a person should or should not be hospitalized.

Shirlee Zerkel

Who to call if you have a problem with Express Scripts

From Shirlee Zerkel, February 29, 2008
Subject: CORE members and all STRS retirees-Pharmacy information
Dear CORE members and all STRS retirees,
The following paragraph appeared in the NEWSLINE from OEA-R, winter 2008:
"Transition to New Pharmacy Benefits Manager Going Well
STRS Health Care Manager Greg Nickel reported that the transition from Caremark to Express Scripts Incorporated (ESI) has generally been excellent with 'a few hiccups' along the way. Admitting that some members have experienced delays in getting their prescription drug needs satisfied, Nickel rated the transition very smooth. January 1 was the initial date of ESI's assumption of the the management of STRS pharmacy benefits."
The above listed man, Greg Nickel, is probably the one to contact at STRS if you have any type of problem with Express Scripts (ESI).
Thank you,
Shirlee Zerkel

RH Jones: More reason to pass HB 315

From RH Jones, February 19, 2008
Subject: In defense of HB 315, the retired teacher HC bill
To all:
A front-page story today in the Beacon today, 02/29/08, mentions: 1 in 100 adults in U.S. are in jail or prison. Growing prison costs ‘blowing a hole in state budgets’ report says.
And they claim, too, that Ohio’s prison population is up 3.5% this year. My friends, the cause is quite obvious: The disrespect our nation and state has had toward education. If these individuals received a proper education according to their individual abilities, the vast majority would not be incarcerated. They could earn a living not by crime, but by having good jobs according to their learned course of achievement.
Fox TV, yesterday, mentioned on their noon news program that men in the classrooms are at a 40-yr. low. My friends, then is it no wonder men are in the majority in prison? “The number one reason that men are not going into education is economic.” -- I think maybe that the OSBA and the OASBO do not mind spending on prisons but are quick to deny teachers health care (HC) in retirement. Otherwise they would realize the importance of spending on education in their communities, and the consequences if they cheapen a noble profession – by not providing HC in retirement for educators is one way of doing just that: cheapening the profession.
Educated men teachers in particular need to provide health care for their wives. It is my experience, and others, that women evaluate men by their income. Women would rather marry a man that could give them a home in Malibu, rather than marry a teacher who drives a Malibu. When they retire, HC care will not buy teachers a home in Malibu, but it would help in having and keeping a wife. And while there are fewer and fewer men in teaching, there is more and more feminization of the profession. A good mix of men and women is most desirable in public school districts throughout Ohio. The public should honor that. Oftentimes, too, men shy away from the profession because they may think the public has a perception that male teachers are sexual predators. In the very rare case that there is one amongst teachers, all sorts of news media is certainly quick to broadcast it. And this is a time when there is more violence in the classroom. Could violence toward students by quelled better with more men in the school buildings and grounds?
The above are just a few of the host of reasons that all citizens need to give the teaching profession its due honor. Education is critical for the success of our civilization. . Give the teachers HC in their retirement. The HB 315 will do just that. Education is the best investment for a safe and thriving community. I do not think that our public wants a nation of uneducated fools. We have enough of them in Afghanistan and Iraq.
All of the above is reported to you by the wise opinion of a very old but educated man,
RHJones, a retired STRS member

We are not alone........

From The CEA Voice, 3/3/08 edition
Columbus Education Association
OEA asleep at the wheel
The American Federation of Teachers recently voted to organize educators in Ohio’s charter schools. That means that the state’s growing number of independent public schools now can form their own OFT bargaining units. OEA missed this opportunity. The OEA Representative Assembly voted down a motion last spring to organize charter schools. CEA President Rhonda Johnson and other CEA delegates spoke in favor of the motion, but it was soundly defeated. AFT now will pick up members while NEA loses members to charter schools. The union already represents 50 charter schools in nine states. We believe OEA has missed a valuable opportunity to increase its numbers.

[Way to go, Rhonda!!]

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Retirement fund adopts policy on social investing; AIPAC urges Texas governor to push divestment

From John Curry, February 28, 2008
Subject: So now...we see the term "social investing," or is it really "social divesting" followed by "social reinvesting" according to politicians' wishes?
The last sentence in this article finally puts the finger on a group who is a major player in the legislatively forced divestiture of public pension funds in the U.S. They have the attention of many U.S. politicians (on both sides of the aisle) as many individuals in this organization are "well-heeled" and donate quite liberally to our legislators.
Did they influence our Ohio politicians re. divestiture of Ohio's public pension funds (House Bill 151 and the related Husted brokered deal with Ohio's pension system's executive directors)? You might want to ask Ohio House Majority Speaker Jon Husted....then again....would he give you an honest answer?
Who do the public pension systems in this country have to please the next time 'round?
Retirement fund adopts policy on social investing
By Robert Elder
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Trustees of the Employees Retirement System of Texas approved a social-investing policy Tuesday designed to have a negligible financial impact on the pension fund, which serves 204,000 active and retired state workers.
The trustees acted in response to pressure for the fund to sell its holdings in companies that do business in Sudan and Iran.
The employee fund, with $24 billion in assets, holds about $234 million in shares in companies linked to the two nations.
Sudan and Iran are the targets of a divestment movement in the United States. Politicians and activist groups are pressuring public pensions to sell shares in companies that do business with regimes widely considered offensive — and in Sudan's case, where militias allied with the government are accused of a campaign of atrocities against ethnic African civilians in the Darfur region. Social-investing initiatives also have surfaced surrounding climate change and other environmental issues.
The new employee fund policy allows its board to take social-investing requests on a case-by-case basis. The board can reject a request, or it can ask its staff to determine the legal and financial impact of the request.
The employee fund's staff would then compile a list of companies whose shares could potentially be sold. Before the fund sells any shares, however, the new policy calls for the system to try to persuade an offending company to change its practices.
And the fund could sell the shares only if it could make another investment that would produce similar returns.
Trustees approved the new policy unanimously if reluctantly.
Trustee Owen Whitworth, a Texas Department of Transportation employee in Austin, said he feared an endless line of social-investing requests.
"The staff's time and talents are valuable, and I do not want to see that time and talent diverted to a long list of socially constrained requests," Whitworth said.
Trustee Craig Hester concurred but said the policy is important because "at least we have some road map on how to proceed." He is president of Hester Capital Management in Austin.
This year, Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation that requires the employees fund and the Teacher Retirement System to sell shares of companies that do business in Sudan.
He also has asked both pension funds to sell shares in Iran-linked companies, hoping to persuade them to get out of the country. Perry's theory is that the strategy could put economic pressure on Iran, which critics say supports terrorism.
The employee fund owns shares in just one company on the state comptroller's list of companies that do business in Sudan: $3.5 million in Alstom, a French power company.
Iran is a different matter.
The employee fund said it holds $229.9 million in shares of companies identified as doing business there by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful lobby group that has urged Perry to get state funds to divest from Iran.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Questions and answers re: contribution caps

From Molly Janczyk, February 26, 2008
Subject: Contribution Caps
I think we must remember NOT to put out figures unless and until we have researched and know why. These questions went to Damon and his answers follow: Any ques. re: this : contact Damon directly: I feel stating things out of context confuses and misleads and entirety is mandatory. The persons below merely asked the questions which is always welcome.
Membership has asked why OPERS can increase contributions from employers and STRS cannot. Is this because OPERS was not at the top of its cap of 14%? It was related to me that OPERS was at 14%. Please explain.
From Damon Asbury (date?):
Molly -- yes, OPERS has just now reached the 14% for employers of non-uniformed members. As noted, they still have a higher contribution level for uniformed members, as do Ohio Police and Fire and State Highway Patrol due to the ability of police and fire officers to retire at an earlier age.
Regarding contributions to Health Care from employer contributions: 401 (h) Account Limitations: 401 (h) of the IRS Code permits the system to fund for retiree HC benefits as long as funding of those benefits is subordinate to funding retirement benefits. In order for funding of retiree health benefits to be subordinate, the contribution rate allocated to HC must be limited to 1/3 of the contribution rate allocated to the pension cost. To the extent that historical HC contributions have been less than 1/3 of pension normal cost, a catch up contribution can be made.' STRS:
1/3 of pension normal cost rate: (divided by 3) 4.94%
4.94% is what STRS could contribute IF it were at 85% funding and 30 yrs or less unfunded liability as decided by all HCA and ORSC. Due to recent losses of market funds, (I believe it is the cause) unfunded liability is again over 30 yrs and we have not met funding ratio in these past 8 yrs either. Therefore, all discretionary benefits are tabled by Board, ORSC, HCA decision. STRS, therefore, continues to divert only 1% of the employer contribution to HC.
IF the market were to stabilize for a longer period of time and look long term stable, the unfunded liability stay below 30 yrs and 85% be met for funded ration, then STRS possible could again contribute more to HC depending on Board approval.
When you see OPERS contribute more to HC, remember, THEY DID NOT GO BELOW 30 yrs unfunded liability and have nearly double the contributing membership with workers active longer and closer to Medicare so they are not withdrawing pensions for as long as teachers, and contributing to OPERS longer. Educators can retire at 52, draw on pension and not contribute any further drawing on HC longer while costing money from HC until 65 yrs old.
These random numbers are never as easy as they sound and each system is different in membership and where they stand on unfunded liability, funding ration and long term planning. OPERS planned ahead better than STRS on incrementally increasing HC but has tiers of paying premiums and levels of coverage.
We have to look at ALL variables before saying a system does this but another system does not.
From Molly Janczyk, February 26, 2008
Subject: FW: 2 Questions from Dennis to Damon are responded to by Damon
Dennis Leone to Damon Asbury (date?)
Subject: Question About 14%
Damon – some retirees are asking me when the cap of 14% (for the employer contribution rate) was actually put in place. Could I possibly have the year and the precise language that speaks to this maximum. I assume it also says that a rate higher than 14% requires legislative approval. Was the 10% cap for active members put in place at the same time?
Dennis Leone
Here is Response #2.
Dennis Leone
Damon Asbury to Dennis Leone, February 25, 2008
Subject: RE: Question About 14%
Dennis – here is the language and the date of the change:
HB 268, effective 1976 increased those rates to 10% and 14% respectively:
“Section 3307.53…The rate per cent of contribution shall be fixed by the actuary on the basis of his evaluation of the liabilities of the state teachers retirement system, not to exceed FOURTEEN per cent, and shall be approved by the state teachers retirement board. The state teachers retirement board may raise the rate per cent of the contribution to fourteen per cent of the earnable compensation of all members.”
The OPERS employer contribution rates are capped in statute at 14% for state and local and 18.1% for law enforcement.

Obama, Senator Wexler, and Divestiture

From John Curry, February 27, 2008
Subject: This removes the doubt, doesn't it? Obama, Senator Wexler, and Divestiture
"Iran divestment: Senator Obama introduced priority legislation strongly supported by the pro-Israel community to make it easier for states to divest their pension funds from Iran, as a means of increasing economic pressure to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. The divestment idea grew out of a meeting between Senator Obama and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year."
Florida Senator Robert Wexler
The Jerusalem Post
Maybe candidate Obama and Senator Wexler can explain to the millions of stakeholders of all state pension systems why this desire to divest their monies isn't also the same desire for mandatory divestment by all U.S. banks, brokerage houses, and private investors holding stock ownership of those very same companies who do business with terrorist countries! The process of divestiture will cost my state retirement system (Ohio STRS) millions of dollars.
Using an old (but true) expression, if it's good for the goose....why isn't it also good for the gander? Why not spread the glory and/or cost of divestiture to all (not just state retirement systems) so that all can share equally in the accolades and/or the financial expenses related to divestment? Our U.S. Pledge of Allegiance ends in the words ......"with liberty and justice for all." Does this concept apply to all in this country except those who have invested their life's pension deductions in their respective state retirement systems?
I am not anti-Israel as I have the deepest respect for its people and share in the sorrow for all the atrocities that were imposed upon its people. The same respect goes out to them because they value a solid education for every one of their children. I know that "fairness" is a hallmark of their beliefs....where is the "fairness" in forced divestiture when it does not apply to all?
John Curry
A retired public school educator

Monday, February 25, 2008

RH Jones re: George Doyle's editorial in the Lima News

From RH Jones, February 25, 2008
Subject: Fw: Allen County RTA President has
editorial in 2/25/08 Lima News
To all:
George G. Doyle of Lima should run for ORTA President. He is as strong as the Abrams Battle Tanks that are built in Lima. In Lima, tanks are not the only things made of steel. George certainly is too!
From RH Jones, February 25, 2008
Subject: Re: Allen County RTA President has
editorial in 2/25/08 Lima News
To George, Pres. AllenCRTA
The news media mentioned this morning of "sticker shock" in regards to the high cost of food. Therefore, your comments concerning the 13th ck. were "right on target" today.
In my county, Summit, my RTA is still full of some Mr. Peers types who haven't helped much those members who pay their dues. Your county association seems to properly informed. Your Lima folks are lucky to have you. Keep up the "heat". I received the "cold shoulder" from my SummitCRTA and my Akron Education Association of which I paid dues into both for a long, long time. It's sad.

RH Jones: Why not a 13th check to help boost Ohio's economy?

From RH Jones, February 25, 2008
Subject: To help the economy a federal tax refund will arrive in May
To all:
In joyful hope, to boost the nation’s economy, we await the coming of our federal tax refund check, but what about a 13th check for Ohio’s retired teachers? That certainly would help boost Ohio’s economy. The conservative who sets in Washington’s Oval Office can see this; why can’t some of those conservatives in the Ohio Legislature see this? To accept the truth that changes our perspective requires humility. Are they up to it? Ohioans can only hope that they are.
HB 315’s passage would provide the steady stream of funding into the STRS health care fund and would also be spent in the health care facilities, pharmacies and medical doctor’s offices of Ohio’s local communities. These facilities, in part, then return these dollars to school districts through their property taxes. And they help local businesses through spending their profits, and earnings, in the surrounding commercial establishments. What is so hard for some businesses and some school boards to understand that? I learned this good business fact in the1½-yrs. that I studied business in college, starting way back in 1950. (Finding business accounting methods of that time too time consuming and boring for my personality, I switched to becoming a teacher instead.) Therefore, what is so wasteful of Ohio’s financial resources by putting some into the hands of those who taught you reading, writing and arithmetic? And may I add to that list those who taught you art, music, gymnasium, craftsmen shop classes, history, geography, social-studies and all the others skills needed to be a success in life? Putting a few “bucks” in the hands these retired educators is money well spent? Perhaps, then, some future college students will also be temped to change their majors to education. Business and education students learn that: The education of society will generate a prosperous society.
Perhaps, some conservatives would want to become like the economic elite free market fascists of the present times as in Red China or like the Nazis Germany of the past times - a few with everything, the rest with very little. Thank God we have a democratic free-market capitalist system whereby the public, and their retired teachers, can disagree and try to alter the unjust decisions of those holding powerful political positions. That’s my opinion.
RHJones, a retired Ohio STRS member

George Doyle to Lima News: Teachers earned their HC in exchange for low pay under difficult, sometimes hazardous conditions

Lima News
Letter to the Editor - Feb. 25th, 2008
I would like to comment on the Feb. 20 article in The Lima News, “Retiree bonus draining coffers.”
We have not had the 13th check for at least five years. The purpose of those checks was to help those who retired at a time when salaries were very low so they could have extra money to help with expenses that were not covered by insurance. This 13th check was based on a formula involving how long a teacher had been retired and how much the monthly retirement checks were.
Kenneth Clemens referred to trouble we had with a previous State Teachers Retirement System board wasting our money. Most of the retirees were not aware what was going on until we elected Dennis Leone, who exposed the corruption. Since then, those board members were prosecuted and revisions of policies at STRS have been made to ensure this cannot happen again.
As to the comment about taxpayers paying for our insurance, a retiree paid into the fund from his or her salary while teaching. During that time, the active teacher contribution kept rising, while administrative contributions stayed the same. Administration has not contributed one cent more than 14 percent for the past 20 years. However, the active teacher portion went from 5 percent to 8 percent to 10 percent. The additional 5 percent increase would come from 2.5 percent from active teachers and 2.5 percent from administrations over five years. That still brings administration’s contribution to only 16.5 percent.
I feel, as most teachers do, we have earned our health benefits for the years we have put in teaching for low wages under difficult conditions and sometimes even hazardous conditions without a bonus or perks.

George V. Doyle is president of the Allen County Retired Teachers Association.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Molly Janczyk: Letter to STRS Board

From Molly Janczyk, February 24, 2008
Subject: Dear STRS Board: STRS Policy
Dear STRS Board:
I am very pleased to receive some answers as it seems very shaky to me to have any one person deciding issues for an entire organization and then waiting till after the fact to admonish him should it not be appropriate. Also, as Lazares said, chances are much better for an individual to be heard with 11 people vs. one who may or may not have subjective feelings.
Ever since former STRS Exec. Direc. Herb Dyer abused his status and included staff as well as Board members in his indiscretions (NY plays, tickets, dinners, etc.) I have NOT heard ANYONE feel the Exec. Direc. should again be in a position of untamed power. All membership I hear from feels checks and balances such as Leone and Lazares propose are not only needed by imperative to ensure proper spending and budgets without hidden line items.
This seems such a no brainer to me especially for a public pension system solely operating for shareholders and not staff. Staff should be treated well and fairly and in my opinion, having ONE person decide a future is not fair, smart or good business practice. This goes back to days of old when one principal could hire and fire with no restrictions solely based on his/her subjective feelings. THAT IS WHY unions came into being. I was there when that occurred way back in the late 60's, early 70's.
IF one wants to prove a case, reasons can be trumped up and staff fearful for their positions will go along and support those reasons. Also, staff, fearful for their jobs will, WE LEARNED, go along with affluence, perks and pleasures granted them, right or wrong, and attend events, etc. not properly paid for on their behalf. Few among us would stand up and speak against such occupancies letting themselves believe that "They deserve it for jobs well done." I have heard that line used so many times regarding STRS and outside organizations skimming money from their shareholders. IF you have a broker who makes you tons of money, is it ever ok for them to simply take some for luxuries even if it doesn't seem to hurt you because they worked hard for you without your knowledge? Whether a dime or $800,000, it is theft. THAT is where Leone and Lazares come from: that thinking. Is it not supposed to be used for shareholder's benefit according to ORC:? Is there anywhere it says it is ever ok to enjoy special occasions on our money? Whether it would pay for HC (we know the lost amount wouldn't have paid for one day of HC for membership), does that make Billirakis, Norris, Scott, Sidaway, Endry, Jack Chapman, and Dyer right to tell us: "YOU DON'T GET IT! IT WOULDN'T HAVE PAID FOR HC!" They didn't get it, it was skimming for their perks and pleasures feeling they deserved it.
Thank some of you for responding. I would like to be able to debate and discuss points with you and only EVER hope you will make an independent decision based on conscience and hard work learning and researching issues so that your determinations can be considered for their strength of determination for membership and nothing more or less.
It is shocking to me that organization heads remain silent, unresponsive to this day because this is political demonstrating such weak leadership modeling. I came up under what I believed what integrity and hard work building unions for the sake of membership. When did it change to support Board members so lacking in that integrity and so dismissive of membership with arrogance and smirking?
It is a sad thing for me to experience unions turning their backs and defending behavior to this day of convicted former Board members while fighting so doggedly to revert back to Exec. Director control and one union dominating the Board. The unions refuse to ensure all candidate rights to be heard, to have access into buildings strongly trying to thwart this effort with "That will not happen" when we ask to access to teacher's mailboxes to allow educators to preview all candidates' positions for a fair and American election for a public position. Yet, the public is to be under 'dictatorship' given ONLY OEA's choice- a person who calls names and also smirks at membership evidenced in emails to us IN CONTEXT which can be produced and his own article: "A Day Behind the Glass at STRS" by Tim Myers (OEA candidate for the 2008 STRS Board election) directed at a member trying to hear the Board meeting over his antics merely asking him to please let her hear. This same OEA candidate was basically turned down by his own membership for a position within the organization it was told to me by an insider a few years back with implications that he was not well received. THIS IS THEIR BEST SHOT! OEA's BEST PERSON FOR THE STRS BOARD out of hundreds of thousands of members: unbelievable.
This OEA choice is the candidate who will win a seat, help rebuild OEA's majority on the STRS and make decisions for membership. This is who CEA , ORTA and OFT will help elect by omission-silence-no endorsing not allowing educators to hear another candidate of integrity, drive for membership and protection of STRS assets.
We will do our best as we always do because it is right. We know we have no chance over the power and money behind OEA's candidate who will be into every mailbox at home and at school with building reps guarding schools and other organizations sitting back letting it happen. Best interests, America, public right to allow all candidates to be heard: non existent for these organizations all of whom we have helped in past elections and issues. That is how it works in Ohio OEA Unionland.
LAW? No! No access to mailboxes IS NOT policy regarding candidates for educator systems. Legal opinions and former OFT Pres. Mooney all say district control of mailboxes was created due to old rivalry days between OFT and OEA : rivalry meaning: collective bargaining not pertinent for CORE who does not engage in bargaining for educators. Yet, they use this to issue letters into schools and engage their troops to attempt to keep us out. OFT will not keep us out but will not support any free election either by helping all candidates to be heard by their educators. CEA mailboxes are out of our reach we are told after Grossman said he would allow us access. Rhonda Johnson says Grossman is not Pres. and hasn't been for years and Grossman retreats on his word.
We want names of administrators and building not allowing access as it is not a union according to legal opinion and Mooney opinion that can disallow us and only the administrators can decide and it has become very clear in past elections, not many administrators go along with CEA's and OEA's attempts.
This is meant only to inform. Politics is nasty business and I hate it. But, it is reality and mostly I want to thank Board members who have tried to only consider issues for their hard work and independence.
Molly J.

RH Jones re: Absentee voting

From RH Jones, February 24, 2008
Subject: Political voting by absentee ballot
To all:
I voted in the primary already. It just cost me just 97 cents to USPS mail it back my Summit County Board of Elections. I anticipate a crowded voting booth this March 14 primary, and at next November’s presidential election. This made it easy.
You do not even have to leave your home to vote. And your vote has a better chance of being counted - if you vote absentee. There is no machine when you vote by absentee ballot; you mark a ballot and it is hand counted in the presence of an authorized member of both political parties.
I not only saved money on not having to driving to the booth; I saved time – of which I have little of each. I strongly urge you to do the same. You can order your ballot by phoning your local Bd. Of Elections, and they will mail it out to you. Furthermore, you can vote absentee especially if you will be out-of town or out of country Election Day March 4th. Or, you can personally pick-up a ballot while in the vicinity of the Bd. of Elections. Anyway, PLEASE VOTE and do so carefully!
My opinion,
RHJones, a retired teacher
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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