Saturday, July 07, 2007

Check out the Vermont delegation at the NEA convention

From John Curry, 07/07/07
Subject: From NEA's "Annual Meeting"..looks like they're pushing FOR divestment!
Wonder if they understand the terminology "losing money?

Check out item # 4 from the NEA website. These items are being discussed by NEA. I get a kick out of the statement in article #4...
Since many states are already divesting from these companies, their stocks are losing value, so divestment is fiduciary prudent."
Now, for reality..."losing value???"....PetroChina (PTR) and Schlumberger (SLB), two "worst offenders" according to These two companies are at a 52-week HIGH.
"fiduciary prudent" ????????
Whose side is the Jay Kaplan and the Vermont delegation on??? Maybe Jay and the Vermonters can afford to lose moneys in their retirement system or maybe they don't care!


NEA utilize its influence to have retirement systems develop policies of targeted divestment from companies on the Sudan Divestment Task Force’s Worst Offenders list. Also that the NEA inform its members and affiliates about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Since many states are already divesting from these companies, their stocks are losing value, so divestment is fiduciary prudent.

Submitted by
Majority vote at regularly called meeting of the state delegation in connection with the annual meeting.

Jay Kaplan, Vermont

Relevant Operational Service (OS) Area
OS-2 Member Advocacy

Cost Implications
Assuming NEA would use its influence by sending a communication on this subject to member trustees and that members would be educated through existing electronic means, this NBI can be accomplished within the proposed 2007-08 Strategic Plan and Budget at no additional cost."

Problem solved -- meet Max!

I have uploaded this Doberman image and named him Max, in honor of a very computer-savvy 13-year-old young man in Cleveland who helped me solve my problem of saving images from Google in a format my blog will accept. I've had this problem since getting my new laptop PC 2-1/2 weeks ago. The ultimate solution: going through Firefox instead of Internet Explorer 7. Thanks, Max -- you have rescued my blog from eternal boredom! By the way, Max's summer volunteer project is working with seniors in a senior residence, teaching them how to use computers. Way to go, Max -- this senior blogger is extremely grateful for your expert help! (And thanks to Max's mom, who is also a blogger and was the one who saw and responded to my SOS on my blog.) KBB

Two items from the Dayton Daily News re: STRS Ohio

Our view: Pension plan needs rethinking top to bottom
Our view: Data doesn't support study conclusions
By Dayton Daily News
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Think tanks and public pension systems aren't typically parties to street fights. But there was a rumble last month when the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a study on the State Teachers Retirement System in Ohio.
The teachers' retirement fund fired a pre-emptive shot the day before the report's publication. The pension system complained that Fordham had refused to share an advance copy of the report — adding, by the way, that the pension system is fiscally sound, well-managed and forward-looking.
The Fordham Institute released the report the next day under the banner headline: "Ohio teacher pension system in urgent need of overhaul." It called the system "a ticking time bomb" that's "out of step with Ohio's current teacher needs, labor markets and career patterns," and that carries "$20 billion in unfunded liabilities — more than $4,000 per Ohio household."
Pension administrators shot back with their own poison press release, stating that "the report appears to be a very incomplete analysis of the system," and that it contains "glaring mistakes and misstatements."
The name-calling from each side continues to this day, and is counterproductive. The reality is that both sides have valid points, and current teachers, retirees and taxpayers would be foolish to ignore them.
The Fordham Institute is wrong to imply that the retirement system is in crisis, or that Ohio taxpayers suddenly could be saddled with huge liabilities. Such alarmist talk is factually inaccurate and does not fairly characterize what the researchers found.
The retirement system has ample assets to pay retirement benefits. There is no risk that Ohio taxpayers could be stuck with huge, unforeseen pension liabilities.
But that fact doesn't mean everything is OK. Everything is not OK — not if you are a teacher and you want to retire with health-care benefits.
Health care is the crux of the controversy and the disputed shortfall — and a source of real urgency. The teachers' retirement fund has no legal duty to offer retirees health-care coverage. Nevertheless, the pension fund's investments have been sufficient to pay a big part of their health-care premiums in retirement. That can't be sustained much longer.
Administrators of the fund ultimately have two choices: Either reduce the insurance benefit or persuade lawmakers to increase the amount that participants and school districts pay into the system. Neither option is attractive.
Here the Fordham study makes a good point: policy makers should reconsider the current system from top to bottom, thinking through whether it offers the best way to fund a secure retirement for today's teachers. Fordham correctly notes that the system has been cobbled together over many years and is the product of lobbying and politics rather than policy and planning.
Few employers in the private sector still provide "defined benefit" pensions like what teachers and other public employees receive. Instead they offer "cash balance" programs such as 401(k) accounts.
Would that kind of system be less costly, freeing up resources to help pay for health-care benefits?
Does a pension system that primarily rewards longevity unreasonably penalize teachers who want to leave the profession? Does it undermine school districts' ability to recruit mid-career professionals who want to become teachers?
If Ohio were to start over, would the pension plan look like what we have today?
These are timely questions. Public pension systems across the nation — not just the Ohio teachers' plan — have a duty to search for answers.
From teachers' pension Fund [STRS]
Other views: Data doesn't support study conclusions
Our view: Pension plan needs rethinking top to bottom
Dayton Daily News
Saturday, July 07, 2007
These are edited excerpts from an article in the forthcoming edition of the State Teachers Retirement System's newsletters to active members and retirees:
On June 7, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released the results of a study it conducted about STRS Ohio. STRS was not consulted by the two individuals hired to write the report. Unfortunately, conclusions were drawn that aren't validated by the report's content or any existing data.
Nevertheless, a report such as this serves as another "wake–up call" for STRS and other public pension plans. Across the country, discussions are being held regarding the pros and cons of defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans.
In some states, the discussion has resulted in either proposed or enacted legislation closing defined benefit plans to new employees and putting defined contribution plans in their place.
These two plans have distinct differences. For example, under the STRS' defined benefit plan, the pension amount is determined by a calculation that uses members' age, years of service credit and the average of the three highest salary years. Survivor and disability protection is also provided.
However, under STRS defined contribution plan, retirement income is based on the performance of investment choices members select and manage for the contributions made by the members and their employers.
In short, a defined benefit plan provides protection throughout the life of the recipient. A defined contribution plan provides income until the account is depleted.
STRS is one of only a few retirement systems in the country that offers three retirement plan options — a defined benefit plan and defined contribution plan and a combined plan. The vast majority of public educators prefer the STRS defined benefit plan.
Unfunded liabilities can occur in a pension plan when investment returns or actuarial experience don't match expectations; plan design changes can also have an impact. In STRS' case, the significant amount of additional allocations that have gone toward health care coverage for retirees in the past 33 years, plus the accompanying potential investment earnings (that weren't realized), are largely responsible for the current unfunded liabilities.
However, the benefits of current retirees are fully funded.
The Fordham report states that our funding period is 47.2 years and our unfunded liability is $19.4 billion. As of June 30, 2006, these numbers were correct.
While we would caution that these numbers are preliminary until we receive our actuarial valuation in October, it appears that our funding period as of June 30 will drop to somewhere between 30 to 35 years.
The Fordham report suggests that STRS undermines school efforts to recruit and retain high quality teachers. STRS' own research of its active members indicates that one out of two teachers plans on teaching longer — often because of anticipated health-care costs in retirement.
We continue to welcome discussion and debate with our members and legislators that are based on accurate data and objective analysis.

[You can view STRS' June 7, 2007 news release by going to and typing "STRS Ohio responds to Fordham Institute report." It is in PDF format; if you do not have Adobe Reader 8 on your computer (which makes it easier to pull up PDF files), you may want to download it (free):]

Friday, July 06, 2007

From Molly: Links to your Ohio Representatives and Senators

From Molly Janczyk, July 5, 2007
Subject: Contacting Legislators on Important issues

Use these links:
[Case-sensitive; if typing these into your browser, use capital R in the first one; lower-case, otherwise]

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ohio superintendents and university presidents: This one is for you

From RH Jones, July 5, 2007
An open letter asking for help from superintendents and university presidents
There is a critical need now, more than ever, for additional help from Ohio’s active/retired “super” superintendents and active/retired public university presidents. Some of the present “super” educator leaders, as in Dr. Dennis Leone and Mr. John Lazares, have worked extremely hard in their capacity as Ohio STRS board members. They desperately need your expert backing and, better yet, your active leadership service. There have been some, who will not be named here, that have given us wonderful direction and advice. However, in this critical campaign, the front line combatants need additional leadership direction that only the multitude of officers (supers & Univ. Presidents), huddled in your bunkers, can give. All across the main line of resistance, you need to come out and lead this fight. You, sirs and madams, are the educators who have shown the most leadership skills in your careers; and, therefore, have the responsibility to continue to lead us; you have shown the effectiveness and drive to manage school districts and colleges. While public educator compensation has never been comparable to the business establishment with similar job obligations, you now earn, or have earned, and rightfully so, larger salaries than teachers; so, therefore, you have the most to lose from this unprecedented, destructive, neo-conservative, anti-public education campaign in the history of America. This is happening now. The Beacon, just today, ran an article on page C6 & 7 that states: …”The administration sees no difference between lost pants and Enron.” [View article here]
We who are in the forward outposts of the front lines have taken a beating from the big-name corporation leaders, the ultra-rich zealots and politicians who flaunt constitutional law. They have hidden behind religion and now our flag in their anti-public education attacks. By using OH HB 151, HB 152 and SB 161 and similar outlandish actions in both Ohio and Washington, they are attempting to destroy our public education system Pre-K-16.
In dealing with such people on your job, you are the best equipped among us to be victorious over those who would put us back into another Great Depression. We are on that way now. Under your direction, and experience -- your boards have been dominated by conservatives -- we can overcome the powerful group that confronts us; we can avoid a disaster for our state and nation. As your names are best known to the voting public, your influence is most suitable to project to the media the value of the public education system to achieve the lofty goals of our beloved American civilization.
During our professional careers, we teachers followed your thrust. For the sake of your families, the children and your professional staff, and all Americans, we need you to at the forefront.
Robert Hudson Jones
Retired Ohio STRS member, proud Concerned Ohio Retired Educator (CORE) and ORTA member

John Curry: An open letter to Rep. Josh Mandel re: HB 151

From John Curry, July 5, 2007
Subject: An open letter to Representative Josh Mandel re. HB 151
Josh Mandel
77 S. High St.
12th Floor
Columbus, Oh 43215-6111
Honorable Mr. Mandel,
First of all, I wish to congratulate you re. your service to our country in the battlefields of Iraq. I have the utmost respect for all U.S. Vets. I, just like most all other Buckeyes, detest terrorism and/or oppressive governments who subject their citizens to abuses and economic hardships. I have no doubt that both Iran, Sudan, and a host of other countries have and are subjecting their citizens to these same types of hardships.
That being said, I want to state that your HB 151 will also subject my fellow retirees to a similar hardship.... the hardship of my (and other) state retirement systems losing millions of dollars should your "forced" divestment survive (as written) the Ohio House, the Ohio Senate, Governor Strickland, and then become law.
I am aware of the "deal" brokered by Rep. Husted with the state retirement systems that will cause these systems to voluntarily divest of some holdings of companies that are purportedly doing business with terrorist nations. This deal is one that apparently the Ohio systems can live with and suffer minor losses as compared to the much greater losses that would have been imposed by the inclusion of hundreds of some "terrorist related" companies that appeared on an earlier list obtained and released on the Ohio Retirement Study Council's website ... a list which included Honda, Rolls-Royce (showing interest in an Ohio location), and many other companies which employ thousands of Ohioans...a list which disappeared as quickly as it appeared on the same site - if you'd like a copy of "that" list, I will gladly forward it to you.
At this point in time there are several questions that I would like you to consider. (1) Will this "brokered" deal be enough to satisfy you and your fellow House members or will you continue to peruse your bill regardless of the "deal?" (2) Why is it that an Ohio legislator is assuming the role of the U.S. Government by sanctioning companies who supposedly do business with terrorist regimes? (3) Why does your bill only require state retirement system monies to be involved in the proposed divestment? (4) What about private investors, banks, and other institutions that also invest in these companies... do they get off unscathed?
Mr. Mandel, you and your fellow House members have a few months off to ponder the ramifications of HB 151. I hope you and your fellow House members have a chance to contemplate the above questions and will come back to work in the fall with an increased understanding of why your bill is not in the best interest of hundreds of thousands of Ohio public retirees. Leave foreign policy and related sanctioning to our federal government and spend more time legislating items that will serve the citizens of the State of Ohio whom you were elected to serve. If, after the summer break,you still think your bill is in the best interest of the citizens of the State of Ohio then I suggest you take a hint from State Representative Steve Nickol (R) of Pennsylvania (article below) who said, and I quote, " If we're going to conduct foreign policy with pension money that really doesn't belong to us, we should be willing to reimburse (the) pension funds for any (my emphasis) losses." Mr. Mandel, I get a little nervous when some politicians put my (and thousands of others') retirement moneys where their mouth is.
Sincerely & Respectfully,
John Curry
Wapakoneta, OH
30 year "vested" member of The State Teachers Retirement System
Member of Concerned Ohio Retired Educators (CORE)
House advances bill to ban pension holdings related to Darfur
The Associated Press
A bill to force Pennsylvania's two massive public sector pension plans to sell stock in companies deemed to be complicit in bloodshed in the Darfur region of Sudan was changed Monday so that state taxpayers -- not the pension funds -- would cover resulting investment losses.
"It's a chance for you all to put your money where your mouth is," said Rep. Steve Nickol, R-York, sponsor of the amendment. "If we're going to conduct foreign policy with pension money that really doesn't belong to us, we should be willing to reimburse (the) pension funds for any losses."
Nineteen Democrats crossed party lines to vote for the Nickol amendment, and only four Republicans voted against it. It passed 113-85.
The Democratic majority defeated several other Republican sponsored amendments to the proposed Sudan Divestment Act, which covers investments by the State Employees' Retirement System and Public School Employees' Retirement System. A final vote on the bill in this House could occur later this week.
"I do not want blood on my hands. I do not want my money going to a company which helps a government perform genocide," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Philadelphia.
Josephs' bill would require the sale of stock in companies that directly or indirectly help the Sudanese government perpetuate genocide if those companies do not change their behavior after being contacted about it.
The bill includes a "stop loss" provision that would limit the funds' losses to $500 million. Together, their value is approaching $100 billion.
The State Employees' Retirement System estimates that it currently holds about $145 million in companies that have been identified as divestiture targets by the Sudan Divestment Task Force. A figure for the teachers' pension was not immediately available.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

RH Jones: HB 151 currently on hold; exposing false patriotism on this Fourth of July

From RH Jones, July 4, 2007
Subject: Hurtful Divestment HB151 on Hold
To all:
Public school districts have a friend in Rep. Brian Williams (D). His aide, Lyn Falk, informs me that: "As far as I know HB 151 is on hold due to other arrangements between the Legislature and the Ohio pension funds. The other two bills {HB 152 & SB161} are still pending. The Legislature is now in summer recess so there should be no activity until at least August."
Active & retired educators, during this "recess" we should use the time to create, compose and organize our opposition to the moneyed, predatory, ruthless, and hypocritical politicians who represent those well-to-do citizens unfriendly to public school funding. As they take a "recess" to enjoy their ill-gotten money from us, we need to keep them uncomfortable. They have played hardball with our schools and certainly have pulled no punches in this fight. In their front-line attack they used heavy national artillery in their hand-to-hand combat with public schools. I site the false patriotism of the secular, far-right, neo-conservative individuals such as in the Fordham Institute, the Hoover Institute ---remember the President Hoover that was in office at the start of the Great Depression ---, the powerful Heritage Foundation, and all the other anti-public school foundations listed in a wonderfully comprehensive and outstanding : A Brief Framework for Understanding the Anti-Public School Movement Publication date: 2005-05-30 by Tom Siebold. [Click here to view article] Please take the time to read this. It is an eye-opener! It exposes what is rotten in this movement to kill our schools. In their assault on public schools, they have found out that using religious values did not work, so now they are trying to force change by using false patriotism.
Exasperated by the 2007 ORTA President Dr. Don Bright's message in the Summer 2007 Quarterly, pg. 6; "Instead of always bemoaning changes, let us embrace them." Dr. Bright, I do bemoan change when in the "new challenges" you mention changes such as: 'No Child Left Behind', "Education Standards", and "More Testing". These are changes that the active teacher organizations have listed as unacceptable. Not all change is good for children, their active/retired teachers, nor the tax paying public! These negative changes, and the others I have mentioned, have unfairly increased the tax burden on the struggling home owners. When you say we should accept "more taxes", do you mean that we should accept those that put the burden on some, and not all citizens, I wonder?
The anti-school movement has a the forefront of it's mindset to destroy our active and retired teacher state and national unions along with our public school system. When Dr. Bright uses jargon that expects ORTA members to "collaborate" with those who wish to demolish our schools, I wonder if he could be part of our problem. For at least 50-years ORTA did represent leadership in retired teacher issues. For the past 10-years, it seems to me, that on many occasions they have not. This is "change" this life member cannot accept. My opinion is: Weakness is shown when a leader of an education union expresses words of support that emboldens those opposed to our public schools.
On the positive side, this ORTA member will give credit to the Quarterly Editor, Tom Seamons, for putting my SummitCRTA Legislative Chair, Dr. K. Fluke's photo on the front page. Dr. Fluke has been a retiree sparkplug in long fight to keep the Ohio Legislature open, honest and incorruptible. Editor Seamons, at least, gave our STRS Retired Rep., Dr. Dennis Leone, a small photo on pg. 10. It would have been cordial to have mentioned some of his comments.
By the way, this retired member is not bemoaning but forcefully expressing my mind in strong support of those who are like minded in the long battle to expose the threat to our schools, their students and the active/retired teachers who have served them.
RHJones, proud life-member of CORE and a life member of ORTA

Molly Janczyk: Quotes from ORTA Quarterly

From Molly Janczyk, July 4, 2007
Subject: ORTA Reports: Ohio Future Campaign;Charters;HCA legis;HB151; Fordham report
From the ORTA QUARTERLY for those of you who do not receive it:
*Legislative Day went well with over 70 legislators participating or represented.
*Petitions were circulated for the "Coalition for Ohio's Future" campaign.
400,000 signatures are needed by the first of August for the fall ballot. This amendment also supplies property tax relief for seniors. Go to : or to for info on this important issue. You can also type 'Coalition for Ohio's Future' in search to learn more and request petitions. Jim Betts, co chair.
*CPE: ORTA, an active participant of CPE (Coalition for Public Education) welcomed Barbara Shaner, OASBO and Chair of the CPE, who spoke of concerns about the operation of charter schools and the effect on public schools. Darold johnson, (OFT) works with the CPE as well , and stressed that charters should be required to adhere to the same standards as public schools with academic and financial accountability and vouchers should be ended.
*HCA legislation: Felicia Bernardini, Project Direc. and Bill Leibensperger, Co-Chair of the HCA, related the relationship between HCA and STRS with one issue" Health Care. OSBA (Ohio School Boards) find it difficult to support the issue that could cost districts more money. They have stepped away.
GO TO YOUR LOCAL SCHOOL BOARDS: Bernardini encourages retired teachers to go directly to individual school districts to explain benefits of the initiative as provided in earlier emails and which can be accessed on the OEA and ORTA websites.
Leibensperger stated he feels no national relief is in sight.
Directives for EFFECTIVE communications established by HCA for STRS approved by ORTA on HCA Legislation:
ORTA is participating in various coalitions working on passage or against certain legislation. It is important that once HCA legislation is reintroduced that membership of all groups communicate feelings and opinions to representatives and senators. ((All groups are working of these issues but as with all issues, legislators need to hear from constituents as well: numbers matter. m.j.)).
Determined to be Effective: courtesy; personalize; succinct; one page to the point immediately; commend them for a past or present action; give ((clear and well supported)) reasons for your position.
Determined to be futile: unrealistic; form letters; addressing multiple subjects; assuming legislations know all details; threaten or attacking; degrading or impugning their motives.
TALKING POINTS: -ask for their position on our issue -include your address, name, phone and sign your name -follow up after they respond and thank them -if they agree with our position, suggest they take a leadership role -if they disagree, send additional information
-Keep communicating with legislators:
-divestiture puts foreign policy objective above fiduciary duty to invest in the sole interest of membership and sets a dangerous precedent of using TRUST fund money to try to achieve a political or social objective
-investment decisions should be made by a retirement board and financial investment experts, not legislators
-estimated that STRS would lose about $75 million in 5 yrs.
-STRS holds nearly $19 BILLION in global internat'l investments BUT NO DIRECT HOLDINGS in governments of Iran or Sudan or businessses based in those countries
-We all condemn terrrorism but passage of this bill makes members of the pension systems victims of such terrorism
*Fordham report: STRS rebuffs this report:
-STRS is far from obselete and is one of the only a few pension plans offering 3 options for its members : DC, DB, reselection on 5th anniv. of teaching
-no statistical data to support suggestion that STRS undermines school efforts to recuit and retain high quality teachers; in fact, defined contrib. (DC) addresses needs of a mobile teacher. 75% of each years retirees at STRS have 30+ years of service; since 2000, number retiring with
30 years has declined by almost 30% (with educators staying longer) and 35 yr retirements have increased by more than 330%.
-STRS is NOT seeking any contribution increase for funding its pension plan; employer contributions has NOT INCREASED from 14% since 1984; employee increased from 9.3% to 10%.
-STRS is seeking contribution increase for a dedicated stream of revenue for health care from employee/employer (from their funding towards their HC)
-most of pension income (75%) comes from investments
-once an STRS member begins receiving psnsion checks IT CANNOT BE CHANGED and the State of Ohio is NOT bound to bail the system out nor do taxpayers bear liability. Legislators or STRS can address issues of changing benefits for those NOT yet receiving benefits ((as is true with all systems and companies)).
- STRS is not covered by Soc Sec and receives no benefits for disability or survivor benefits from S.S. thru spouse or self as this benefit is offset thru GPO and WEP. -STRS is transparent in governance, operations, structure, finance. Reviews by a third party, annual reports, results are all provided to members, media, legislators. -approx. 13% not 19% return to an STRS position after retirement and 70% of these are subs or part time earning an average of $20,000 or less. -STRS has taken a leadership role in adopting plans to meet needs of mobile teachers, find solutions for a stream of revenue for HC, insure transparancy with accurate data and objective analysis.
MANY RTA , OEA, ORTA, etc. leaders were mentioned and pictured.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Good news from STRS re: Investments

From STRS Ohio, July 2, 2007
Subject: [News] STRS Ohio Returns Take Investment Assets to a Record High
Preliminary results for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007, indicate that the market value of investment assets for the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS Ohio) now totals about $76.6 billion - a record high for the public pension fund that was established in 1920. This represents an increase of about $11.3 billion from the $65.3 billion total at June 30, 2006.
Preliminary figures indicate a total fund return of 20.4% for the past
12 months, from July 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007, with all asset classes beating their benchmark returns. Overall, the total fund exceeded the composite benchmark return by an estimated 125 basis points or 1.25%. After all direct internal investment costs and external manager costs are subtracted from this gross active management return, the net value added was 110 basis points, or about $675 million for fiscal year 2007. This represents the additional value brought to the funds though active management by STRS Ohio associates and external managers, above and beyond the passive indexing of system assets.
The approximate makeup of STRS Ohio's total investment fund (as of June
30, 2007) is as follows: domestic equities, 40%; international equities, 25.5%; real estate, 8%; fixed income, 19%; alternative investments, 3.5%; and liquidity reserves, 4%.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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