Saturday, May 05, 2012

Public schools, ALEC and.....boy this lady sure knows how to hit the nail squarely on the head!

From John Curry, May 5, 2012
The People Behind the Lawmakers Out to Destroy Public Education: A Primer What You Need To Know About ALEC
By Diane Ravitch
Common Dreams
Saturday, May 5, 2012

Since the 2010 elections, when Republicans took control of many states, there has been an explosion of legislation advancing privatization of public schools and stripping teachers of job protections and collective bargaining rights. Even some Democratic governors, seeing the strong rightward drift of our politics, have jumped on the right-wing bandwagon, seeking to remove any protection for academic freedom from public school teachers.

This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators. Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. It drafts model legislation that conservative legislators take back to their states and introduce as their own "reform" ideas. ALEC is the guiding force behind state-level efforts to privatize public education and to turn teachers into at-will employees who may be fired for any reason. The ALEC agenda is today the "reform" agenda for education.

ALEC operated largely in the dark for years, but gained notoriety because of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. It turns out that ALEC crafted the "Stand Your Ground" legislation that empowered George Zimmerman to kill an unarmed teenager with the defense that he (the shooter) felt threatened. When the bright light of publicity was shone on ALEC, a number of corporate sponsors dropped out, including McDonald's, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Mars, Wendy's, Intuit, Kaplan, and PepsiCo. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said that it would not halt its current grant to ALEC, but pledged not to provide new funding. ALEC has some 300 corporate sponsors, including Walmart, the Koch Brothers, and AT&T, so there's still quite a lot of corporate support for its free-market policies. ALEC claimed that it is the victim of a campaign of intimidation.
The campaign to privatize the schools and to dismantle the teaching profession is in full swing. Where is the leadership to oppose it?
Groups like Common Cause have been putting ALEC's model legislation online and printing the names of its sponsors. They have also published sharp criticism of ALEC's ideas. This is hardly intimidation. It's the democratic process at work. A website called haspublished ALEC's policy agenda. Common Cause posted the agenda for the meeting of ALEC on May 11 in Charlotte, N.C. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has dropped out of ALEC and also withdrawn from the May 11 conference, where it was originally going to be a presenter.
A recent article in the Newark Star-Ledger showed how closely New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's "reform" legislation is modeled on ALEC's work in education. Wherever you see states expanding vouchers, charters, and other forms of privatization, wherever you see states lowering standards for entry into the teaching profession, wherever you see states opening up new opportunities for profit-making entities, wherever you see the expansion of for-profit online charter schools, you are likely to find legislation that echoes the ALEC model.
ALEC has been leading the privatization movement for nearly 40 years, but the only thing new is the attention it is getting, and the fact that many of its ideas are now being enacted. Just last week, the Michigan House of Representatives expanded the number of cyber charters that may operate in the state, even though the academic results for such online schools are dismal.
Who is on the education task force of ALEC? The members of the task force as of July 2011 are here. Several members represent for-profit online companies, including the co-chair from Connections Academy; many members come from for-profit higher education corporations. There is someone from Jeb Bush's foundation, as well as right-wing think tank people. There are charter school representatives, as well as Scantron. And the task force includes a long list of state legislators, from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Quite a lineup. Common Cause has asked why ALEC is considered a "charity" by the Internal Revenue Service and holds tax-exempt status, when it devotes so much time to lobbying for changes in state laws. Common Cause has filed a "whistleblower" complaint with the IRS about ALEC's status.
The campaign to privatize the schools and to dismantle the teaching profession is in full swing. Where is the leadership to oppose it?

The nightmare of ALEC and Express Scripts

John Curry to Bob Stein  and Jim McGreevy (retired members of STRS board), May 5, 2012
It has come to my attention that STRS's pharmacy benefits manager, Express Scripts, is continuing to be a member supporter of ALEC as per the latest ALEC member list released by Common Cause several days ago. Will STRS consider this relationship the next time the PBM contract is negotiated? What about the OEA board members and our retiree board members of STRS. Will they, in good conscience, request STRS draft a letter to Express Scripts expressing their disappointment re. this relationship? Do you want to bet they won't initiate such a motion? They should!
If they have any doubt they should click on this link to verify the Express Scripts membership in ALEC.

Friday, May 04, 2012


From John Curry, May 4, 2012
(Click image twice to enlarge)


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

STRS Asset Value

From Mario Iacone, April 21, 2012
CURRENT ASSET VALUE as of 3/31/2012
.....65.6 Billion
.....65 Billion
.....approx 80 Billion
LOW ASSET VALUE...early 2009
.....approx 47 Billion
approx 66.2 Billion
approx 15 Billion BELOW 2007 HIGH and
approx 18 Billion ABOVE 2009 LOW
STRS board to meet May 16-17, 2012
Details here.

STRS calls special board meeting for May 15, 2012
Details here.

Note: STRS board meetings are open to the public except for executive sessions.

No CORE meeting this month.

Here is a any of these people look familiar?

From John Curry, May 1, 2012
Click images to enlarge.
This is the OEA-R Advisory Council. When have you seen or heard this council speak out at STRS board meetings and/or stand up for retirees? When have you heard them (or ORTA, for that matter) stand up and speak out against cutting the COLA of the lowest pension recipients among the Ohio Highway Patrol Retirement System already acted upon ......or that CORE has been pressing for?
........I didn't think so!
P.S. If you know any of these people why don't you ask them in person?
From KBB: John -- Are you sure this group really exists? I couldn't find a list of names of the Advisory Council on their website ( When I clicked on Advisory Council Minutes (, I got a blank page. Seems like there's more OEA stuff on their site than stuff they generated themselves. I can't even FIND the word "COLA". Could it be they're all wealthy and unconcerned?

Dennis Leone warned about this years ago, didn't he?

From John Curry, May 1, 2012
Panel leery of returns of public pension funds
By David Eggert
The Columbus Dispatch 
April 19, 2012
In the last six months of 2011, the investment portfolios of Ohio’s five public-pension plans took a hit — giving Republicans another opportunity yesterday to question the systems’ projections of 8 percent annual returns over the long haul.
The six-month returns ranged from minus 6.2 percent for the Highway Patrol Retirement System to minus 3.8 percent for the State Teachers Retirement System. Over 10 years, returns averaged around 5 or 6 percent a year.
Those numbers caused members of the Republican-controlled Ohio Retirement Study Council to again question whether the funds are being realistic when assuming 8 percent yearly returns over a 30-year period.
Mike Nehf, executive director of the teachers’ fund, which covers nearly 470,000 educators and retirees, responded that all the plans have seen 8 percent or higher returns the past 25 to 30 years. The reason for lower returns the past 10 years was a “1 in 100-year negative performance,” he said, referring to 2008.
The retirement systems relied on the long-term projections when drafting proposals more than two years ago to ensure the long-term solvency of the funds, which have $163 billion in assets covering more than 1.5 million public workers, retirees and their beneficiaries. Those plans could receive votes in coming months from the state Senate. Proposals include higher retirement ages, lower cost-of-living adjustments and bigger deductions from employee salaries.
Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, R-Napoleon, expressed concern that the pension funds’ 10-year annualized investment returns were about 5 percent.
“They did not meet expectations,” he said.
The council of legislators and gubernatorial appointees hired an independent actuary to review, among other things, the systems’ economic assumptions. A final report is expected this summer.

NPR's take on the Pension Crisis

From John Curry, April 26, 2012
New Teacher Pension Plan Calls for Raising Teacher Contributions, Retirement Eligibility Ages 
April 25, 2012
By Molly Bloom 
A new plan being pitched to legislators to ensure Ohio’s teacher pension system can meet its obligations would save the State Teachers Retirement System about $13.3 billion in future pension costs and other accrued liabilities.
But it would also have teachers “paying more and getting less,” the Columbus Dispatch reports.
The plan approved by the State Teachers Retirement System board earlier this month calls for:
• Higher member contributions. Teachers would have to contribute an additional 4 percent of their salaries towards their pensions, with the increase being phased in at 1 percent per year starting in July 2013. That’s up from the 10 percent required now.
• Higher retirement ages. To retire with a full pension, teachers would have to be at least 60 and have at least 35 years of service, with the change being phased in over time. Currently, teachers can retire with a full pension at any age as long as they have at least 30 years of service.
• Lower cost of living increases. Retirees would not receive a cost of living increase in 2013. And teachers retiring after August 2013 wouldn’t get a cost of living increase for five years. And when that cost of living increase comes, it would be 2 percent rather than the current 3 percent.
The plan would also change how the pension fund calculates retirees’ earnings and the benefits formula

Monday, April 30, 2012

Question(s) of the Day

Why did the two retired STRS board members not vote their conscience when the board unanimously passed Scenario 8 at the 4/19/12 board meeting? Is STRS an organization that was created to look out for the benefits of active educators only?
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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