From RH Jones, August 6, 2009
Subject: In God we trust, others we monitor
Re: accountability for cutting retired STRS members' benefits.
To the STRS board and the management employees:
In part of my July 2009 speech before the STRS board I said this: The Bill of Rights as interpreted by West's Encyclopedia of American Law, 2008, states: '"The term grand-father clause, in its current application, refers to a legislative provision that permits an exemption based upon a preexisting condition. For example, through the application of grand-father clauses, certain prerogatives are extended to those regularly engaged in a particular profession, occupation, or business that is regulated by statute or ordinance".(End Quote) Ladies and gentlemen, a reasonable person could conclude that this can apply to the STRS retired educator benefits.
I have not contacted an attorney on this. However, I did study school law while working toward my Masters Degree in Education. I expect that it should be the job of the ORTA, OEA-R or CORE. Will they do so? I think they should, if they truly want to represent retired educators.
The grand-father clause comes under the same part of the Bill of Rights that protects the African American's right to vote. They were found to be grand-fathered because after their voting rights were taken away by some of the southern states "good 'ole boys" --Immediately after the Civil War many blacks had been elected to seats of power and the "good 'ole boys were worried that they were losing political power. So they created the "Jim Crow" laws to put blacks "in their place". -- The amendment to the U.S. Constitution, I believe that effects professionals like us, is the Bill of Rights, Amendment 15, which was passed to protect their grand-fathered, and now our grand-fathered legislated codes of state law. Around 1915, I believe the Supreme Court passed the our federal amendment which I cited, in part, from the prestigious law book that I quoted just above.
Some agencies which may be interested if "take always"become Ohio law, as they are currently being considered by our STRS, could be: the Attorney General of the United States who performs the important function of challenges to the constitution from legislative or administrative functions. Or, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) could, also, probably be very interested.
I ,also, further believe that any Ohio official that would risk "cutting" STRS retired member benefits, in any way, is on shaky ground. The 127th General Assembly in (2007 - 2008) enacted S.B.3, effective May 2008 states: "If a public employee pleads guilty to, or is convicted of, certain felonies while serving in a position of 'honor, trust, or profit' the employee forfeits the right to a retirement allowance or disability benefits or any other right earned by being a member except for members accumulated contributions. This applies to the following felonies: bribery, pattern of corrupt activity, theft-in-office, or a conspiracy to commit, or complicity in committing any of these offenses."
It is serious business for public employees to consider cutting back any of retired educator STRS benefits. The risk is way too great. Heaping more hurt onto retired teachers is no solution to the STRS pension solvency issue. Educators on the Board, as well as certain STRS associates are public employees and need to back away from any consideration of reducing retired educator pensions and benefits. To do so is in the best interest of everyone.
Lastly, employed teacher officials of OEA/OFT, OEA-R, and ORTA, also need to think about backing away from supporting any idea of cutting STRS retired educators. A peaceful exit from all threats of "take aways" is probably the most lawful, the most honorable, and it is the right thing to do.
RHJones, a retired STRS teacher member's opinion