Saturday, April 03, 2010

Lima Area CORE Members' Letter to the Editor in the Lima News

From John Curry, April 3, 2010
Letter: Ask the right questions about your retirement
Lima News, April 1, 2010
Elizabeth Ebbing and Shirlee Zerkel
Lima Retirement was meant to be a three-legged stool: Social Security, an employer-provided pension and personal savings. People’s 401(k)s never were intended to be the foundation of retirement, yet they have become that. It is simply corporate and Wall Street greed that has taken pensions.
There are truths about public pensions, the State Teachers Retirement System in particular, that the press never will tell you. By law, teachers fund their own pensions. Their pensions are deferred compensation acquired through negotiations. The school board’s contribution to STRS is part of that contract. The school board’s 14 percent contribution to STRS has not changed since 1984. Over the same time period, an individual teachers’ contribution rate has increased 42.9 percent to the current 10 percent of salary. Teachers fund their own retirement.
Until recently active teachers did not have the option of paying into Medicare. Consequently, about 10,000 retired teachers do not get Medicare Part A. STRS retirees have no spousal subsidy for health care. A retiree couple pays well over $1,000 a month for health care. STRS retirees fund 95% of their health care and yet the fund is running dry. It will be a crisis for Ohio’s taxpayers if nearly 170,000 retirees are added to the state’s Medicaid and welfare roles.
The real revolt will come when 30- to 40-year-old workers finally realize that with a 401(k) foundation, they never will be able to retire. It is time to ask the right questions so we all will be on the same side. Corporations and Wall Street will be on the other side, where they have always been.

Friday, April 02, 2010

RH Jones: Cut education funding at your peril

From RH Jones, April 2, 2010
To Dave Speas and all:
Dave wrote to me and I thank him for agreeing with me in my message: The time for an employer increase contribution has arrived. But, he did offer some conservative viewpoints. He predicts: “However, the selling of this component to the public is going to have to be strong as many of Ohio’s school districts begin to tighten our belts and move toward Ohio’s minimum standards in course offerings.” Yes, Dave, my selling point is strong. It is this: If American and Ohio families do not get serious and cut back on their over consumption of goods, food, entertainment and energy resources, and sacrifice a much greater chunk of their wealth for education we shall be overcome by a competing foreign power.
We have no choice. Our survival depends on a highly educated population capable of defending itself in a very dangerous world. It is common knowledge that a growing number of citizens, and illegal immigrants, are more interested in short term consumption than desiring to prepare for self-improvement through sacrificing for an education. A “dumbed down” nation will be defeated in battle by a foreign country that has achieved superiority in production and wealth attained by families of citizens who know that sacrificing to provide for education is survival itself.
The huge, undisciplined underclass that America, and Ohio, has allowed to grow unimpeded cannot continue. This class is draining funds of our gross national product in support of addictions that take on several different forms, whether it is drugs, alcohol, sex, excessive foods, or any other “comforts” they value most. With this albatross around our necks, we will never be able to survive as a nation much longer.
As a nation and state, it is get mentally tough or die. Before I was in my late 40s, I had been in 12 foreign countries that included the now “kaput” Soviet Union. I spent 1½ years in Asia. One year in 1952-53 when S. Korea was an agricultural country. Through a strong investment in education, they are now, just 60 years later, a leading industrial nation – I LOVE that new 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS; it’s beautifully sleek, affordable, and very desirable. Uneducated, how can we compete with friendly countries or survive a war with those who are unfriendly, wealthy and educated, albeit educated in “far out” fascist or communist idealisms? Believe me, through survival of the fittest -- and I mean intellectually fittest -- America and Ohio will move forward. And, of course, physical fitness is part of education. Just go to any Wal-Mart and you will see that America certainly is unhealthily unfit. When coming back from the 7 times that I visited Japan, I was always shocked to see the slothful, unkempt manner of dress, lack of disciplined human courtesies to one another, and just disgusting behavior by our citizenry. Frankly, I was ashamed. The real shocker came when I was guiding a group of Japanese on a Washington DC subway. We were lucky to get off without out being robbed -- although, we were verbally abused by some of the ugly Americans aboard.
Good folks, we MUST educate. It’s the only way we’ll survive. If you are unwilling to give up some of our standard of living, and to put a high value on education for your families, God Save Us. For my fellow Christians, have an Easter filled with a new birth for education. For my Jewish friends, have a Passover that continues your admirable family value of education. All others, this springtime, invest more in education for all.
RHJones, retired Ohio educator
Good Friday 2010
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(Click twice for full screen size.)

April 2, 2010..............................

Washington Post: Diane Ravitch - A new agenda for school reform

From Ralph Roshong, April 2, 2010

"We must break free of the NCLB mind-set that makes accountability synonymous with punishment. As we seek to rebuild our education system, we must improve the schools where performance is poor, not punish them.

"If we are serious about school reform, we will look for long-term solutions, not quick fixes.
We wasted eight years with the 'measure and punish' strategy of NCLB. Let's not waste the next eight years."
A new agenda for school reform
By Diane Ravitch, April 2, 2010
I used to be a strong supporter of school accountability and choice. But in recent years, it became clear to me that these strategies were not working. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program enacted in 2002 did not produce large gains in reading and math. The gains in math were larger before the law was implemented, and the most recent national tests showed that eighth-grade students have made no improvement in reading since 1998. By mandating a utopian goal of 100 percent proficiency, the law encouraged states to lower their standards and make false claims of progress. Worse, the law stigmatized schools that could not meet its unrealistic expectation.
Choice, too, has been disappointing. We now know that choice is no panacea. The districts with the most choice for the longest period -- Cleveland and Milwaukee -- have seen no improvement in their public schools nor in their choice schools. Charter schools have been compared to regular public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, and have never outperformed them. Nationally, only 3 percent of public school students are enrolled in charters, and no one is giving much thought to improving the system that enrolls the other 97 percent.
It is time to change course.
To begin with, let's agree that a good education encompasses far more than just basic skills. A good education involves learning history, geography, civics, the arts, science, literature and foreign language. Schools should be expected to teach these subjects even if students are not tested on them.
Everyone agrees that good education requires good teachers. To get good teachers, states should insist -- and the federal government should demand -- that all new teachers have a major in the subject they expect to teach or preferably a strong educational background in two subjects, such as mathematics and music or history and literature. Every state should expect teachers to pass a rigorous examination in the subjects they will teach, as well as a general examination to demonstrate their literacy and numeracy.
We need principals who are master teachers, not inexperienced teachers who took a course called "How to Be a Leader." The principal is expected to evaluate teachers, to decide who deserves tenure and to help those who are struggling and trying to improve. If the principal is not a master teacher, he or she will not be able to perform the most crucial functions of the job.
We need superintendents who are experienced educators because their decisions about personnel, curriculum and instruction affect the entire school system. If they lack experience, they will not be qualified to select the best principals or the best curricula for their districts.
We need assessments that gauge students' understanding and require them to demonstrate what they know, not tests that allow students to rely solely on guessing and picking one among four canned answers.
We should stop using the term "failing schools" to describe schools where test scores are low. Usually, a school has low test scores because it enrolls a disproportionately large number of low-performing students. Among its students may be many who do not speak or read English, who live in poverty, who miss school frequently because they must baby-sit while their parents look for work, or who have disabilities that interfere with their learning. These are not excuses for their low scores but facts about their lives.
Instead of closing such schools and firing their staffs, every state should have inspection teams that spend time in every low-performing school and diagnose its problems. Some may be mitigated with extra teachers, extra bilingual staff, an after-school program or other resources. The inspection team may find that the school was turned into a dumping ground by district officials to make other schools look better. It may find a heroic staff that is doing well under adverse circumstances and needs help. Whatever the cause of low performance, the inspection team should create a plan to improve the school.
Only in rare circumstances should a school be closed. In many poor communities, schools are the most stable institution. Closing them destroys the fabric of the community.
We must break free of the NCLB mind-set that makes accountability synonymous with punishment. As we seek to rebuild our education system, we must improve the schools where performance is poor, not punish them.
If we are serious about school reform, we will look for long-term solutions, not quick fixes.
We wasted eight years with the "measure and punish" strategy of NCLB. Let's not waste the next eight years.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A new STRS vocabulary terminology?

(Click image to enlarge.)
From John Curry, April 1, 2010
I'm sure you all have heard of "pension envy," haven't you? Well, in STRS associate land we see a strong desire from something other than a good pension (that OPERS guarantees them already....along with very affordable health care insurance for themselves and their spouses) so....we now have a new vocabulary term........"bonus envy!"
Happy Easter!

Conrad Ott

Special condolences to the wife (Jeanne) and family of Conrad Ott, who passed away today (3/29/10) following an automobile accident in Akron. Conrad was best known and highly respected for his many years of service as superintendent of the Akron City Schools. He was also a member of CORE and vitally concerned about all issues pertaining to STRS. He will be greatly missed by many.

Conrad Ott

Comments from Dave Speas re: increased employer contribution

From Dave Speas, April 1, 2010
Subject: Re: The time for an employer increase contribution has arrived
To all,
I do not disagree with Bob. However, our local board has not had to cut teachers, programs, possibly close buildings, and not offer a raise to our teachers since the mid 60s. We are in that position now as the state aid has diminished, property is sitting empty and not selling and a large entity in our small township has not paid any taxes since they built the building and went into operation years ago.
Many of our people are out of work and have not had raises in years. In the last 16 years, the board has not received any substantial raise in state funding to speak of and we have used our over million dollar carryover to keep the education program in place and not lay off teachers or administration. We did this as we waited for a renewal of an emergency levy. As my son who is in education said, maybe it is time for the teachers to pay the 5% so we can be protected when we retire in our 60s.
It is a bad sign when education, the engine that produces our future workers and citizens, is put in a situation that it cannot do its job to the best of its ability. When money is taken from the boards, the children do not get it and our parents do not understand why they pay and we are cutting programs for their children. If this is done, a concerted program of explanation from our lawmakers, STRS, and the retired teachers organizations will be necessary.
The public is angry and fed up with higher taxes and seeing the ones they love the most lose services and opportunities. I am a retired teacher and have been active in the cause. However, the selling of this component to the public is going to have to be strong as many of Ohio's school districts begin to tighten our belts and move toward Ohio's minimum standards in course offerings.
I know some very difficult cuts and job cuts are being looked at by us and we are a conservative district with finances. May God help us all and especially our children caught in this mess of deficit spending across this great land. Spending more with less is going to be difficult when we do not even know how deep the cuts that may come will be.
Dave Speas

James A. Stoll, candidate for active seat on STRS board



Please pass this on to all teachers!

Vote for James A. Stoll on April 2nd when you receive your STRS Ballot!



What I AM:

  • A HARD-WORKING educator – like you!

  • Disgusted by the frivolous spending of OUR MONEY by the STRS.

  • Intolerant of the payment of bonuses when our fund LOSES BILLIONS.

  • Dedicated to fighting for what is right – Did you know that I went to the SUPREME COURT OF OHIO last year to help raise awareness of the mismanagement at STRS? Case No. 09-0414.

  • A successful BUSINESSMAN – check out the business that I started and grew during the summer months. You may have heard of some of my clients!

  • Worked with Ohio Legislators Matt Huffman (Lima) and Danny Bubp (Brown/Adams Counties) to pass legislation to PROTECT OUR RETIREMENT FUNDS.

What I am NOT:

  • A Politician or an OEA-sponsored “Yes Man” (check their voting records). OEA-endorsed members serving on the STRS Board have failed you. They have voted to CUT your benefits, increase your contributions and raise the age and years of service requirement , YET voted 7 - 2 to give STRS Investment Associates enormous "bonuses" despite their losing 30 Billion dollars of our investment assets from 2007 - 2009. STRS employees profited while you and your pension suffered............Unbelievable.

  • Satisfied with the status quo.

  • Going to stand by and let STRS extend our required years of service, cut Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA), and eliminate health care benefits WITHOUT A FIGHT!
Join us on FACEBOOK: Jim Stoll STRS
For More Information Go To:
About Jim Stoll:
Jim Stoll is the Director of Athletics at Sycamore High School in Cincinnati and a veteran teacher and coach who has contributed to STRS for the past 24 years. He taught American Government classes and coached basketball for 13 years before becoming an administrator. He was also an adjunct professor of Sports Marketing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and has served as an assistant basketball coach at Miami (Ohio) and the University of Wyoming.
Jim is also a successful business owner who in the summer months founded a company called ProCamps which puts on youth sport camps for professional NBA and NFL athletes around the country. Knowing full well the diligence, hard work and sacrifice required to succeed in business, Jim has fought hard against the outrageous spending practices and incredibly huge bonus awards for STRS investment staff that continue unchecked while the STRS pension fund lost almost 33 Billion dollars of its assets (your dollars) in 2008 and 2009. In turn, this has led directly to proposed drastic and undesirable changes in your pension benefits.
Vote for James A. Stoll
Contact Jim at:
Jim Stoll - STRS Board Candidate
Director of Athletics
Sycamore High School
7400 Cornell Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242
513-686-1770 ext. 3210

Endorsed by Concerned Ohio Retired Educators (CORE)

Dale Price: Candidate for STRS Board 2010

Click image to enlarge.


STRS Board Candidate Dale Price Corrects Toledo Blade in Letter

Read how Dale Price, the first to qualify for the STRS Board ballot, set the Toledo Blade straight about the high value and low cost of public pensions.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

RH Jones: Time for an employer increase

From RH Jones, March 31, 2010
Subject: The time for an employer increase contribution has arrived
To all:
It seems to me that 25-years is enough time to wait for an increase in the employer contribution.
The Los Angeles Times (3/31, Graham) reported that actor Tony Danza said his first 6-months as a teacher has been harder than he imagined. Also, the Beacon (30/31) mentioned that recently deceased Retired Akron Superintendent, Mr. Conrad Ott, moved Akron, Ohio forward. May I ask the associations representing the foes of excellent Ohio public school education: Were we not worth the cost? As Actor Danza puts it, "...didn't know how difficult their jobs were"? Please look below:
Subject: A not-so-pretty pension picture.
(Click image to enlarge)


Shirlee Zerkel: Some answers from Greg Nickell

From Shirlee Zerkel, March 31, 2010
Subject: Fwd: Question about 2011 Benefits Lever
Here are some of my questions and Mr. Nickell's answers to information from the March 18,2010 Health Care Report from the Member Benefits Department. I have his permission to send it out.
From Greg Nickell, March 31, 2010
Subject: RE: Question about 2011 Benefits Lever.

Dear Ms. Zerkel:

I have attempted to answer your questions below. My responses are in red.


Greg Nickell

From Shirlee Zerkel, March 30, 2010

Subject: Question about 2011 Benefits Lever

Dear Mr. Nickell:

Someone who attended the last Board meeting brought me the handout concerning Health Care. I have some questions about the Prescription Drug Benefits. I understand the first one about Delect Home Delivery in summer 2010. But the information mentioned next about a Part D (PDP).

1. For the retiree, will this be like the Medicare Part D? It would be an actual Medicare Part D plan and replace the current prescription program for those who are enrolled in the STRS Ohio health plans administered by Aetna, Medical Mutual and Paramount and eligible for Medicare.

2. Will there be another premium for those over 65 to pay? No, it would continue to be part of the premium that includes the STRS Ohio medical coverage.

3. Will this Part D be optional for us? It is not optional if you enroll for STRS Ohio medical coverage. You can not purchase medical or prescription coverage individually under the STRS Ohio programs.

4. Whose federal subsidy will be increased: Express Scripts or STRS's? STRS Ohio would receive more subsidy money which would be placed into the Health Care Stabilization Fund to provide subsidy to retirees in the future.

5. Then on page 13 of the handout, it states that STRS Ohio administrative cost be eliminated.

Would that means STRS staff would be reduced and the subsidy would increase? It means IT staff maintenance of the programs to file monthly subsidy claims to the government would be eliminated and the monthly staff time spent reconciling the monthly submissions and also the annual reconciliation of the prior year is eliminated. These eliminations only equate to partial reductions in total time for the individuals doing this work. For both the IT staff and the health care services staff, the individuals involved all have work beyond 40 hours on average each week even with the elimination of this requirement.

Thank you for considering my questions,

Shirlee Zerkel

Tom Curtis: Questions for Ann Hanning

From Tom Curtis, March 31, 2010
Subject: 033110 Executive Director Expenses Questions
Hello Ann,
I am interested in knowing what your annual salary is for the duties you are asked to perform as the executive director of ORTA? Also, are all of your travel, mileage and food expenses covered over and above your salary? Would you kindly respond?
Tom Curtis
From Ann Hanning, March 29, 2010
Subject: RE: Life Member of ORTA
I have received, read & shared your message. Your name is being removed from our mailing & contact lists.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tom Curtis: Letter to Ann Hanning

From Tom Curtis, March 29, 2010
To: Ann Hanning, Executive Director of ORTA
From: Thomas Curtis, Life member of ORTA
Date: 3.29.10
Dear Ann Hanning,
Kindly remove my name from your membership list immediately.
I no longer desire to be a life member of ORTA. You have chosen to use my name, address and phone number information in a manner that I do not approve of. I do not want anyone calling me about some kind of insurance or anything else you and your board have decided is good for us.
What I have always desired from ORTA are an executive director and board that stood up for the people that it represents, against the greedy management at the STRS and OEA. The last executive director to do that was Joe Endry, but when he left that position and became an STRS board member, the OEA neutered him: he voted YES on all of the abuses that Herb Dyer and the OEA majority held board voted through for 3 consecutive years, until Dr. Dennis Leone came on the scene and said that is enough.
Did ORTA back Dennis Leone? Absolutely not! That was a travesty for all STRS stakeholders, as the greed and misspending continued and ORTA continued to sit on its hands. I still have not figured out what ORTA does for retired educators, but supply a forum for luncheons.
Ann, I have never witnessed or heard that you have ever stood up and spoken to the STRS board on behalf of retirees. Instead, you simply sit on your hands and join in with the OEA people and say nothing. You are paid a considerable amount of money to represent us and yet you do nothing to stop the bleeding.
I retired in 1998 and paid to become a life member of ORTA, thinking ORTA was an advocate and stood up for retiree benefits. Since that time I have seen nothing but a loss of the benefits I was promised at retirement, so I must ask you, just what has ORTA done for me? Very little from where I stand. Over one-third of my pension has gone for out-of-pocket HC expenses since 2004, when the only pension system in the State of Ohio stripped away any subsidy for spouses. That is disgraceful and should weigh heavily on all of the various administrative people’s backs.
Retirees have all of the leadership people of the OEA/OFT/ORTA and the STRS to hold responsible for failing to find a dedicated flow of income for the HCSF that was established in 1974. That fund is projected to go bankrupt in 2018, if those figures can be trusted. This is going to be a travesty for so many retirees.
Instead of using retirees’ money to find alternative types of insurance that will probably be as worthless as our current HCSF, why doesn’t ORTA get a backbone and stand up to the very organizations that have placed us in this quagmire? Oh, that’s right, ORTA is not confrontational. That is why you didn’t back Dennis Leone, right? Why any retiree joins ORTA today must only be for the social aspect, because you have never been an advocate for change in my opinion.
Tom Curtis
P.S. I hope this letter encourages others to follow in my footsteps, because ORTA has not been an advocate for retirees' benefits and curbing expenses at the STRS, since I retired in 1998.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thought for the day (click to enlarge).....

Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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Vermont Teddy Bear Company