Friday, October 21, 2011

Faber's Tone (Fact) Deafness Due to Needle Stuck in An Irrelevant Groove

From Jim N. Reed, October 21, 2011
After listening to Senator Faber debate Dale Butland in Columbus recently I was amazed at how frequently Faber resorted to ubiquitous scripted canned responses, regardless of their incoherence or irrelevancy to questions or remarks from Butland.
This prompted a review of their early October debate at Ohio University-Lancaster. After digesting that confrontation it became even more obvious that Faber's fact needle is stuck in an irrelevant groove.
Very few times did Faber respond to a question or statement from Butland with a pertinent response. Instead the one-track senator hit the auto response button to rely with a generic or unreliable statistic or diluted fact to escape well-researched, hard facts.
It would seem that those "haven't-made-up-my-mind" voters would be insulted by such shenanigans, especially when Faber continued to contend that "most Ohioans" agreed that SB 5 was full of "reasonable reforms."
In his first attack ad Faber began his presentation with what must be assumed as his (and most pro-SB 5'ers) bell-cow statistic, a keynote "reasonable reform," the requirement that all public employees pay 10% toward their pensions and 15% toward their healthcare premiums. Even though a Butland retort offered records supporting 94% to 100% of public employees already are meeting those standards, it was though the senator turned off his ability to absorb that piece of information. Butland even offered local statistics showing Fairfield County area educators paid an average of 18% for their healthcare coverage. Never rebuffing or statistically challenging Butland's numbers, the senator-in-his-groove continued to repeat the same absurd assertion as the debate progressed, even using it in his closing remarks.
However, before he stumbled with closing arguments (after being admonished about the limited time frame of the debate) he had plenty of time to spread a wealth of other misguided assertions. A prime of example being his stand-tall claim that SB 5 proponents were operating a morally transparent campaign. His crow was, "Transparency, that's what it's all about!" Maybe he has no shaving mirror.
One of his lost disciples better proffer a definition of transparency to hijacked Grandmother Quinn!
At times his silence to Butland's contentions was deafening. He did not seem to hear the pro-collective bargaining quote from former Republican Governor Voinovich. He seemed not to know Republican Bill Seitz-he of the committee firing- who recognized SB 5 was on steroids. And not once did Faber respond to Butland's factual allegations that closing tax loopholes for his wealthy Republican campaign donors would be a better deficit cut than whacking teachers, firemen and policemen.
I have yet to hear a "reasonable reformer" defend the resolution to the diluted collective bargaining impasse segment of SB 5. The one that says if the teachers offer their plan and the Board offers its plan and there is no agreement, the Board takes its plan and goes home and the educators have no recourse.
What needs to be emphasized more intently is the comparison of the number of public worker labor stoppages since collective bargaining became the law in 1983 and those prior. This type of an unlevel playing field for professional educators will destroy morale among current staff and chase off prospective educators.
I never thought I would hear so many current/former educators hesitate when asked if they would counsel their children to enter the profession. Attacks on fair bargaining for rights of teachers and opportunities for students, standardized student testing, increasingly bulky rules to force teachers back for continued education,often will little relevance to the real tasks and challenges of the real classroom, and merit pay based on who knows. We're already seeing a 50% attrition rate after five years in the profession. These are harbingers of coming hard times for the profession and its clients.
On a personal note, I know many educators who grind their teeth at Faber's oft quoted line about "teachers getting paid for the length of time they have sat in a chair." If I were his advisor I'd suggest he drop that line. It's a losing proposition to paint teachers as free-loaders. Too many of their clients-students-will destroy your easel.
As for performance-based education that is rooted in results from standardized testing, as a four-decade educator in the public schools, my sense is that it has sorely polluted the teacher-student learning experience.
Back to the misguided senator's attempts to insult public servants. One of his final comments promised "to bring taxpayers back to the table." When did Ohio's public servants stop paying taxes at the table, including Social Security taxes to which they are not fully entitled even when quarters of pay-in qualify them? I heard no mention of Social Security-eligible educators being able to collect only about a third of what they had earned at retirement.
Now for me to be totally transparent. I was raised in a union household. My memories are strong of my factory union steward father telling us at the kitchen table about his attempts to protect the men he represented in the Furnace Room. Protecting them from unsafe working conditions and uneven work evaluations on their swing shifts and protecting their families at home.
My attitudes have also been shaped by 45 years in Ohio's public schools. I can't imagine any consistent good for students and staff that could have come from not having a sharp-minded colleague representing us in the bargaining unit.
An outspoken proponent of SB 5 should be equally transparent. At least we would know what really stokes his fire. And it would be easier to understand why, if I agreed with him, we would both be wrong!
Jim N. Reed
45-year educator

October Board News from STRS

Despite Strong Investment Returns, Annual Actuarial Valuation Underscores Need for Pension Plan Adjustments
At its October meeting, the State Teachers Retirement Board received the preliminary annual actuarial valuation report prepared by its actuarial consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The report provides a "snapshot" of the actuarial position of the retirement fund as of July 1, 2011. Even though the system reaped its strongest investment return in nearly three decades during fiscal year 2011, the funding period for the pension fund remains "infinite," and the funded ratio declined slightly from 59.1% to 58.8%. The fund experienced a small actuarial gain of about $181 million during the fiscal year.
While the positive investment return for fiscal year 2011 generated a gain, STRS Ohio uses a common accounting and actuarial technique called "smoothing" to spread market volatility over four-year periods. This method helps pension funds recognize investment returns for a given year over a four-year window rather than a one-year "spike." The smoothing technique is more apparent when the returns are especially high (as they were in 2011), or unusually low (as they were in 2009). Some of the significant investment losses from fiscal year 2009 are still being absorbed into this year's valuation, which is part of the reason for the overall decline in funded ratio. The pension fund has a net $5.5 billion in unrecognized gains being deferred to future years.
Other significant factors in this year's valuation included:
• A net gain for the system in individual salary increases — these increases were smaller than expected.
• Net losses for the system in retiree mortality — retirees are living longer than expected and collecting benefits for a longer period of time.
• A net loss for the system in retirements/terminations/withdrawals — the system saw a greater number of retirements than expected.
The results of this year's actuarial valuation reiterate the need for pension reform and implementation of the changes the Retirement Board proposed to strengthen the financial condition of the retirement system.
CEM Benchmarking Gives STRS Ohio High Marks for Member Service
CEM Benchmarking, a leading global research and benchmarking company, reported the results of its annual pension administration benchmarking report for fiscal year 2010 at the October Retirement Board Meeting. CEM has used peer comparative analysis to measure the performance of public pension plans since 1998, and STRS Ohio has consistently scored in the top quartile of CEM's universe for service. This year's results again recognize STRS Ohio as above the peer median for total service, while noting that the system's total cost is also above the peer average (but below the average of all 78 participating private and public retirement systems from around the world). The report noted that STRS Ohio's costs per member decreased by 2.7% annually between 2007 and 2010, while the average cost of its peers increased by 2.0%.
One key takeaway from the report is that there is a global shift to online service and related savings. STRS Ohio has been aware of this shift and is currently developing an online Service Retirement Application to make the retirement process easier for members and more efficient for the retirement system. STRS Ohio will continue to enhance its website and to review other internal processes to identify opportunities to gain efficiency.
Retirements Approved
The Retirement Board approved 1,090 active members and 134 inactive members for service retirement benefits.
Other STRS Ohio News
ORSC Scores Proposals for Pension Plan Adviser; Firms to Present to Council Nov. 16
A subcommittee of the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) met Oct. 11 to score six proposals that were submitted in response to a request for proposals issued by the Council. The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), also includes Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) and Seth Morgan, a gubernatorial appointee.
Categories included in the scoring were: management summary, vendor capabilities and references, staff qualifications, resources, methodology, timeline, additional information about services, glossary and cost information. The Hay Group received the highest score — a 46 out of a possible 50 points. The combined proposal from Pension Trustee Advisors/KMS Actuaries came in at 43 points. Two firms, The Segal Company and Milliman both scored 37 points. Rounding out the bottom with 30 and 26 points, respectively, were Bolton Partners and Deloitte.
The results of the scoring were accepted by the full Council at its Oct. 13 meeting. On Nov. 16, the six bidding firms are expected to make presentations to the Council. Awarding of the contract will likely happen after the November meeting.
Open Enrollment for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program Begins Nov. 1
The annual open-enrollment period for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program for calendar year 2012 will be Nov. 1–22. Benefit recipients currently enrolled in an STRS Ohio health care plan will soon receive a personalized information packet about their 2012 plan options, monthly premiums and details about features of the hospital/medical and prescription drug coverage. During open enrollment, current enrollees may change plans and enroll dependents. Benefit recipients who do not currently participate in the program may enroll without a waiting period.
STRS Ohio Receives Additional ERRP Payments
After a lengthy quality assurance review by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), STRS Ohio received $9.3 million on Sept. 21 for a 2011 payment from the Early Retiree Reimbursement Program (ERRP). This brings the system's total ERRP funds received to $29.7 million. In late September, STRS Ohio staff submitted four new payment requests: two for the 2010 self-insured plans and two for the fully insured plans for 2010 and 2011. The total of the four requested payments is $35.9 million. Staff expects these payments to be subjected to HHS quality assurance review; so, it is unclear if or when STRS Ohio will receive any reimbursement.
Health Care Services staff is currently working with consultants to plan the timing of fourth quarter ERRP submissions to HHS, as it is unknown at this time when the federal ERRP funds will run out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

ORTA on Facebook

From Kathie Bracy, October 20, 2011
[Click images to enlarge.]
Did you know ORTA has its own page on Facebook? It's right here:
If you are a Facebook member, you can even post comments on their site. (If you're not, John Curry and I would be more than happy to post it for you.; A word of advice, though. If their censor(s) don't happen to get a warm, fuzzy feeling about your commentary, it won't stay on there very long.
Here's what John Curry posted today (but it was removed very quickly):

Here's what I posted a little later (it was down in about three minutes; as a very disillusioned life member of ORTA, I have trouble being "nice" anymore; click this one twice):

Gee, we could keep them busy all day, couldn't we? Or all night, for that matter, since some of us are night owls. If you post your comments on there, see how long it takes for them to remove it. You can make a screenshot of your post by pressing the Prt Sc key on your keyboard, then right-clicking and clicking Paste on a blank page that will accept it (a blank e-mail, perhaps, or a Word document, or some other blank page). Then you might be able to save it to your Documents or Pictures by right-clicking on it and clicking Save As, or some other way (your grandkids can show you how). If you have Windows 7, the snipping tool will make it a cinch.

If you are a public school educator and you like Keith need help!

From John Curry, October 20, 2011
So 100 people applied for a math teacher job therefore teachers are overpaid?
By On October 20, 2011
Here's a quick thought on another argument SB5 supporters keep using during debates: quoting the number of applicants for teaching jobs.

In a recent debate between State Senator Keith Faber (representing Better Ohio) and Dale Butland (representing We Are Ohio) the participants are asked a question about whether SB5 will make public positions less attractive to highly-qualified applicants.

Butland speaks first and mentions that starting pay for Ohio’s teachers is only $31K/year – which puts Ohio at #42 for the lowest paid teachers in the country. And Senate Bill 5 removes even the minimum pay standards for teachers. Butland calls this “absurd” – and he’s right.

Faber’s response, however, is also pretty damn absurd. He claim schools in his district receive, on average, 400 applicants for each opening for a K-6 teacher position. (jump ahead to about 1:57:00) Later he mentions that 100 people applied for a high school math position.

First, notice that Faber never tries to dispute the fact that teachers are paid too little and will likely be getting lower pay under SB5. He not only seems to accept that point – he seems this think it’s a good idea. Faber’s argument is based purely on the economics of the situation and he completely fails to address the quality of education our children will receive, the quality of the teachers applying for the jobs or the quality of life a teacher deserves.

Faber seems to be saying that since the demand is so high for math teachers we are obviously paying them too much. Even if we pay them less – and cut the crap out of the benefits they receive – we’ll still have a lot of people who are willing to do the job.

Under Faber’s logic, if we get 100 people applying for a math teacher job at $33K, then we can probably cut it down to $25K and still get 50 people to apply. Why not figure out the absolute minimum we can pay and still get ANYONE to apply? Why should we only be the 8th worst in the country for starting teacher pay when we can be #1?!

It’s a completely screwed up argument that shows how little respect Faber and other SB5 supporters have for the teaching profession.

It’s also a red herring.

Notice that Faber also fails to mention that Ohio – and the country as a whole – in is the middle of a recession. With nearly a 10% unemployment rate, anyone and everyone is applying for every job available. Saying 100 people applied for a math teacher job doesn’t tell you much about the job or the people. How many of the applicants were even eligible to teach in Ohio? How many actually had degrees in math, or any degree at all?

100 people applying for a math teacher job – or ANY job – right now is not surprising. You can hear similar stories around the state for all kinds of public and private sector jobs.

For example, FIVE THOUSAND people applied for jobs as dealers at the new casino in Cleveland. Jobs that pay, on average, about $35K year. I can almost guarantee that none of these people were highly qualified card dealers and I’d be surprised if any of them have ever worked in a casino before.

Quoting the number of people who applied for a teaching job is completely irrelevant and simply a distraction. As Dale Butland put it, it’s like the pretty girl on stage intended to distract you from the magician’s tricks.

Vote No On Issue 2

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 what does ORTA say/do re. SB they post their stand on their cover page of their website?

[Click images to enlarge.]
From John Curry, October 18, 2011's what they say about SB 5 on the cover page of their website:
"SB5 Referendum Update -County elections boards verified and Secretary of State Jon Husted certified 915,456 signatures from about 1.3 million submitted on petitions by opponents of the SB5. Senate Bill 5 is now headed to the November ballot, giving Ohio voters the final say on the controversial collective bargaining package that drew thousands of protesters to the Statehouse during legislative deliberations earlier this year."
Nice little history lesson, ORTA, but....NO CIGAR! You took no stand at all!
But...if one looks a little more at your cover page they do see this:
ORTA opposes HB 136 – the expansion of the voucher program in Ohio. It’s time to contact legislators on this issue. For talking points in contacting legislators, click HERE
My, my, ORTA, looks like you took a stand when it comes to HB 136. The way I read it, it appears that you really "took a stand" on a House Bill. Correct me if I am wrong, please. Now....why can you take a stand on a House Bill pertaining to vouchers but yet you don't (or won't) take a stand on a State Issue that all the teacher professional organizations have taken a stand as well as the professional associations of the firemen and police? Just what will it take to move you off dead center with Issue 2. You have no courage! What's wrong with your leadership?
John is a link to the main ORTA website...see for yourself.

Sincere condolences are extended to CORE Vice President John Curry and his wife Sally in the recent death of her son, his stepson, Steve Gutierrez. His obituary may be viewed here.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
web page counter
Vermont Teddy Bear Company