Friday, September 14, 2007

Remember that Colin Powell Leadership Academy (charter school) in Dayton that AG Dann has filed suit against? LOOK at this connection!!!!!!!!

From John Curry, September 14, 2007
Subject: Remember that Colin Powell Leadership Academy (charter school) in Dayton that AG Dann has filed suit against? LOOK at this connection!!!!!!!!

My, my.....what have we here? It seems as though our old nemesis has popped its ugly head up once again, the Fordham Foundation, the organization that blasted STRS and the defined benefits of STRS. Well, good 'ol Fordham has thrown quite a few bucks into this charter school that has failed so many state requirements! Imagine that! I wonder if former General Colin Powell would agree with this school's example of achievement? I wonder what Chester Finn opines about this not-so-fine example of academia! It's a small world with lots of bedfellows, isn't it? John
Colin Powell Leadership Academy
Dayton, OH 45418
.(Click image to enlarge)

The first shots of this war were fired in Husted's back yard and a whole new meaning of the words "in-your-face!"

The start of charter wars? Did the legal war over Ohio charter schools start today?
Columbus Dispatch
The Daily Briefing
Attorney General Marc Dann went to court this afternoon to close two poor-performing charter schools in Dayton. But, more important, he vowed to take similar action against such schools statewide.
“There are lots of charter schools in this state that serve great purposes and do what charter schools were designed to do…we don't want to interfere with that,” Dann told The Dispatch.
“But certainly there are 30 or more that scream out for this kind of attention. Whether I can get to all of those I don't know.”
In an in-your-face to House Speaker Jon Husted, an ardent charter school supporter, Dann filed the lawsuits in Husted's home Montgomery County. The AG's unexpected strike prompted Ohio's largest teachers union to drop a lawsuit against the state that alleged education officials were failing to monitor the privately operated, tax-funded schools.
One of the Dayton schools, New Choices Community School, has met only 1 of 29 academic performance standards during its six years of operation as a middle school, Dann contended.
The other, the Colin Powell Leadership Academy, has met only 1 of 61 standards in six years of operation. It offers classes for from pre-school through 8th grade.
The two schools have received more than $17 million in state aid during those six years.
About 76,000 students are attending 311 charter schools in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
--By Catherine Candisky

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jon Husted...your worst nightmare is coming true as AG Dann is on a roll for justice...more subpoenas are to come!

Attorney general plans to sue more charter schools
Associated Press Writer, Sep 13, 2007
Ohio's attorney general plans to sue additional charter schools, a spokesman said Thursday, a day after he filed suit against two Dayton schools accused of repeatedly failing to meet academic and financial standards.
Attorney General Marc Dann will sue at least one school next week and, in the near future, more suits will follow against charter schools, which are privately run but receive state taxpayer dollars, said spokesman Leo Jennings.
The move brought about the latest tiff between Dann, a Democrat, and a Republican-controlled Legislature that claims he is constantly invading its turf.
A spokeswoman for House Speaker Jon Husted, a Kettering Republican and ardent supporter of charter schools, said the Legislature has already passed laws that hold the schools accountable.
"We have put significant accountability measures in place for charter schools in order to weed out the bad actors," said Karen Tabor. "What the attorney general is doing isn't really necessary. He's making his move at the same time these schools would be reviewed."
The charter schools matter is the third separation-of-powers issue the Legislature and Dann have butted heads on since the attorney general took office in January.

Dann sues to close 2 charters

Attorney general: Schools have failed to live up to their obligations to educate children.
"These two institutions are not meeting their fiduciary responsibilities under Ohio's charitable trust laws," Jennings said. "They are not achieving their charitable purpose. They are not educating kids and they need to be held accountable." Leo Jennings, a spokesman for Marc Dann
By Scott Elliott
Staff Writer
Dayton Daily News, Thursday, September 13, 2007
DAYTON — Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann filed suit Wednesday seeking to force the two city charter schools to close, arguing that they have failed to live up to their obligations to educate children.
The schools are Colin Powell Leadership Academy, 834 Randolph St., and New Choices Community School, 601 S. Keowee St.
The two complaints were filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. More low performing charter schools could face similar action, said Leo Jennings, a spokesman for Dann.
The move was hailed by teachers unions as an overdue step toward accountability. They have long been critics of charter schools but assailed by supporters of the charter movement as a declaration of war on charters.
Dann's lawsuits target the schools' status as "charitable trusts" under state law. He argues that by operating schools that produce consistently poor academic results, the trusts are not living up to the law's requirements.
"These two institutions are not meeting their fiduciary responsibilities under Ohio's charitable trust laws," Jennings said. "They are not achieving their charitable purpose. They are not educating kids and they need to be held accountable."
Ron Adler, president of the Ohio Coalition for a Quality Education, said the move was an attempt to circumvent state law.
Ohio has just implemented new rules that will close charter schools rated in the lowest state category for three straight years.
"I'm not opposed to closing schools, but you have to do it orderly and you have to follow the law," he said. "It seems like they're trying to expand the powers of their office."
Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering, said charter schools have tougher accountability than regular public schools.
"A neighborhood public school has no threat of being shut down under current law, but we will shut down these schools at the end of the year if they don't improve under our law," he said.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2485 or

Rudy Giuliani (GOP) visits charter schools operator David Brennan

From RH Jones, September 13, 2007
To all:
Please be informed that, as reported in the Beacon, on both 09/12/07 & 09/13/07 that Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has visited the Akron home of businessman David Brennan “…for a private fund-raiser.” ‘I think he would make a good president,’ Brennan said, declining further comment… Brennan owns White Hat Management, which operates charter schools in Ohio and nationwide…Brennan met Giuliani when Giuliani was mayor of New York and the two discussed school choice and charter schools…Brennan’s fundraiser was expected to draw about 50 people and add $100,000 to Giuliani’s coffers…(End Quotes)
My opinion is that: It is no coincidence that Giuliani was in Akron, Ohio for the anniversary of 9/11. He knows Ohio is key to victory. But courting David Brennan will not gain him my vote. Nor should he gain votes of any other active/retired Ohio educator. It is not in the best interests of children or their public school district educators, either active or retired, to have an advocate of destructive charter schools in the White House!
Nor is it in our best interests to have a distructive divestiture advocate such as Barach Obama (D) in the White House. Neither of these two deserves our consideration for President of the United States of America. This is my personal opinion.
Robert Hudson Jones, a proud member of Concerned Ohio Retired Educators (CORE)

John Curry to Barack Obama re: Iraq

John Curry to Barack Obama, September 13, 2007
Subject: Re: Iraq
Dear a life long Democrat I agree with much of what you say in your letter to me below.
I do wish to remind you however that (not listed in your letter below) you sponsored a Senate bill to force divestiture on retirement systems holdings in some companies that are listed (all lists don't agree on who these companies are) as terrorist related will cause significant harm to retirees of these respective retirement systems. You and I both understand the plight of retirees in this country...a plight to survive our miserable economy and the healthcare insurance problems every day of our lives. I believe we agree 100% with those issues.
Another terror upon us is the forced divestiture that your Senate bill entails...a terror upon my pension system (and other U.S. systems), The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio. According to our chief investments officer, Stephen Mitchell, forced divestiture will cost our system (thus the retirees) between 70-100 million dollars. This loss will translate into financial losses of my retired brothers and sisters who educated America's children for decades. Many retirees in my system will face $850 monthly healthcare premiums in 2008, the very same year that you wish to become President. Other Presidential candidates in our Party haven't made pro-divestiture statements in their campaigns because they understand the hurt that divestiture will cause America's public pensioners.
Please don't compound our pains by forcing divestiture upon us. You have lost my support for your candidacy for this very reason....likewise, you have also lost the votes of over 100,000 retired educators in this state as well. Ohio is known as a "pivotal state" in Presidential elections....Barack, imposed divestitures will cause Ohio to "pivot" to the right, something that you don't want, do you? If nominated for President you can't afford to lose 100,000 Buckeye votes. In fact, you can neither afford to lose votes from the Ohio delegates to the Democratic convention due to this forced divestiture, can you? Please take the hint from your fellow party Presidential candidates who really understand what harmful impact that forced divestiture has on America's seniors who depend upon public retirement systems' benefits to survive in our "Golden Years." Domestic terrorism takes on a whole new meaning with your divestiture movement...we retirees can't afford this brand of domestic terrorism!
John Curry
A retired Ohio public educator
Barack Obama to John Curry, September 12, 2007
Subject: Iraq
Dear John,
The saddest thing about the Bush administration's surge of public relations in favor of the war in Iraq this week is how predictable it has become for them to make their case for war around the anniversary of 9/11.
Five years ago today -- September 12, 2002 -- President Bush made his case for war at the United Nations.
He was wrong. The people who attacked us on 9/11 were in Afghanistan, not Iraq, and his case was built on exaggerated fears and empty evidence.
But conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war. Too many politicians feared looking weak and failed to ask hard questions. Too many took the President at his word instead of reading the intelligence for themselves. Congress gave the President the authority to go to war, and our only opportunity to stop the war was lost.
I made a different judgment. I opposed this war from the beginning. I opposed the war in 2002. I opposed it in 2003. I opposed it in 2004. I opposed it in 2005. I opposed it in 2006. And I introduced a plan this January to remove all of our combat brigades by March 2008.
The time to end this war is now.

My plan for turning the page in Iraq is clear:
  • remove our combat troops from Iraq's civil war by the end of 2008
  • take a new approach to press for reconciliation within Iraq
  • escalate our diplomacy with all of Iraq's neighbors and the United Nations
  • confront the human costs of this war directly with increased humanitarian aid
Sign on to support the plan now and join the voices calling for an end to this war:
Our troops have performed brilliantly, but let me be clear: there is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was.
The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq's leaders to resolve their civil war is to begin to remove our combat troops immediately.
Not in six months or a year -- now.
We must get out strategically and carefully, but our drawdown should proceed at a steady pace of one or two brigades each month. If we start now, all of our combat brigades should be out of Iraq by the end of next year.
Show your support for the immediate drawdown of our combat forces:
While we change the dynamic within Iraq, we must surge our diplomacy in the region.
We need to launch the most aggressive diplomatic effort in recent history to reach a new compact in the region. This compact must secure Iraq's borders, keep neighbors from meddling, isolate al Qaeda, and support Iraq's unity.
Conventional thinking in Washington says Presidents cannot lead this diplomacy. But I think the American people know better. Not talking doesn't make us look tough -- it makes us look arrogant. And it doesn't get results.
Strong Presidents tell their adversaries where they stand, and that's what I would do. Now is the time for tough and sustained diplomacy backed by real pressure. It's time to rally the region and the world to our side.
Support new diplomatic leadership and my plan to end the war:
The final part of my plan is a major international initiative to address Iraq's humanitarian crisis.
There's no military solution that can reunite a family or resettle an orphaned child. It's time to form an international working group with the countries in the region, our European and Asian friends, and the United Nations.
We should increase our support for displaced Iraqis and expand access to social services for refugees in neighboring countries.
It's also time to go to our friends and allies -- and all the members of our original coalition in Iraq -- to find homes for the many Iraqis who are in desperate need of asylum.
As Americans, we must keep faith with Iraqis who kept faith with us and take responsibility for our own actions:
I welcome all of the folks who have changed their position on the war over these last months and years. We need more of those votes to change if we're going to change the direction of this war. But if we've learned one thing from Iraq, it's that the judgment that matters most is the judgment that's made first.
I opposed this war from the beginning, and I want to bring this country together to end this war now. The American people have the right instincts on Iraq. It's time to heed their judgment.
We have the power to do this -- not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. We don't have to wait until George Bush is gone from office -- we can begin to end this war today, right now.
It's time reclaim our foreign policy. It's time to reclaim our politics. It's time to lead this country -- and this world -- to a new dawn of peace and unity.
Thank you,
Barack Obama

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Reason to oppose Sudan divestment

Cheryl Flagg to John Curry, September 12, 2007
Subject: Re: Darfur and Genocide
John, This UN document [a 176-page pdf file, available from John Curry,], plus other research several of us have done, demonstrates one of the reasons many have opposed Sudan divestment from the very beginning. AIPAC, who is behind both Sudan and Iran divestment bills, pressured Colin Powell and Bush,, into stating that it was genocide. AIPAC has countered the UN report, saying the UN as a body is a holocaust/genocide denier. Sudan divestment was to be the small palatable forerunner to the biggie, Iran divestment. I keep reading and hearing that if we can accept Sudan divestment, why not Iran divestment? Or just expedite the process and present a Sudan-Iran divestment bill. Talk about a slippery slope. So, as you say, people just wrapped themselves in the flag, took up the cause of the day, and jumped on the bandwagon. All knee jerk reactions!! Aided by certain celebrities, books, slogans, and tons of money. And we who are members of public pension funds became their targets and therefore victims of their veracity unless we can somehow defend ourselves. I'm never sure what to do with the UN information but it reinforces my personal belief that we do have a right to resist Sudan divestment bills.
See Section II "Have Acts of Genocide Occurred" The relevant pages are 124-132 & also see: Conclusion see page 131, paragraph 518.

NEA endorses divestment (in case you missed it in July)

European Parliament and US National Education Association endorse Sudan divestment!
Earlier this month a resolution was approved by European Parliament regarding the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Noting that "power and wealth, now expanded thanks to oil revenues, is very much concentrated in the centre, to the disadvantage of those in the periphery" the resolution calls on "EU Member States to encourage divestment of European companies and funds from Sudan." This resolution confirms the internationalization of the divestment movement and adds momentum to burgeoning divestment campaigns underway in over half a dozen European countries.
Also this month at their annual national meeting, the National Education Association, the largest professional organization in the country representing over 3.2 million educators, voted to "utilize its influence to have retirement systems consider policies of targeted divestment from companies on the Sudan Divestment Task Force's Highest Offenders list." The NEA pledged to support legislative efforts on behalf of Sudan divestment in addition to divesting their own funds.

Tom Curtis and Tom Hall on Divestiture

Tom Hall to Tom Curtis, September 10, 2007
Subject: RE: 090907 Curtis To Hall, Divestiture
Dear Tom:
Good to hear from you. I was thinking about you a couple of weeks ago, wondering how you are.
All is fine here. Back at school for three weeks now, doing the usual stuff.
My view on divestiture is quite conservative, and it carries over to "socially conscious" investing (I think that's what people call it). I think that those responsible for managing pension funds, mutual funds, etcetera, have one job and one job only and that is maximizing the returns for the owners subject to risk considerations. And if that means owning companies that operate in Sudan or sell cigarettes, then so be it.
The reason I hold this position is because I think that this is one of those cases where once you go down the road of diversiture, where do you stop? Granted, terrible things are going on in Sudan, but they're going on in a lot of places in the world (although perhaps not as bad as in Sudan). The problem is, once you say we need to unload our holdings of companies having anything to do with Sudan, where do you stop? Should we unload holdings of companies operating in China? Russia? I can think of several Middle Eastern countries that are no better.
The same thing, in my opinion, applies to those who think we should have nothing to do with tobacco companies. What's so special about tobacco? I can think of several products we consume that cause health problems. Alcohol? Trans fats? Automobiles? Petroleum? Where do you stop?
So since I don't know where you stop along that road, I think the best thing is to never go down it. And I'm surprised and disappointed the legislature thinks we should be doing that.
I hope all is well with you.
Tom Hall
Tom Curtis to Tom Hall, September 9, 2007
Subject: 090907 Curtis To Hall, Divestiture
Hello Tom,
I hope all is well with you and your family and you are having a good year. We haven't conversed for some time, but I would like to hear what your thoughts are on the following.
I have been reading the numerous articles concerning divestiture of the public retirement systems throughout the country. As an economist, what is your position on divestiture by the public retirement systems in Sudan, or any other country that our state legislature might suggest? What are some of the positive and negative ramifications that the pension systems will have to shoulder?
Take care,
Tom Curtis

Marc Dann scores victory over Rx company reporting false earnings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, September 10, 2007
CONTACT: Michelle Gatchell Assist. Dir. of Communication
Attorney General Dann joins 49 state AG’s to stop a pharmaceutical company from reporting false earnings
COLUMBUS – Attorney General Marc Dann joins attorney’s general from 50 states and the District of Columbia to announce reaching an agreement in principle with Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc. The company will pay $182.8 million in state and federal money to settle allegations of reporting inflated average wholesale prices for their drug, Anzemet. These false prices resulted in Medicaid and Medicare paying too much for this product.
Aventis Pharmaceuticals provides prescription drugs, paid for by Medicaid, to Ohioans. Medicaid is the federal/state health care insurance program that provides health care coverage for the economically disadvantaged. This Program is funded by both state and federal dollars. Dann claims the company issued false and misleading wholesale prices to induce the state and Ohio citizens to pay excessive, inflated prices for prescription drugs.
“I want to make sure Ohioans are not victimized by big business defrauding the system,” said Attorney General Dann. “This type of deceptive business practice will not be tolerated and my office will continue to look into the pharmaceutical industry to make sure no other company is taking advantage of the system or Ohioans.”
In addition to the civil settlement, amounting to $182.8 million in damages to the federal government and state, Aventis will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. The CIA imposes significant requirements upon Aventis that will minimize the possibility of this behavior reoccurring. A large portion of the recovery will go to the Federal government to reimburse their Medicare dollars, due to Anzemet’s approved usage in conjunction with chemotherapy. $22.7 million will go to the state Medicaid programs, and of that Ohio will receive more than $676,000.
The settlements with Aventis are the result of negotiations conducted by the Department of Justice and the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units, led by the Unit Directors from Ohio, New York and Virginia.
The Attorney General’s office has similar lawsuits pending against Abbott Laboratories Inc., Pharmacia Corp., Warrick Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Roxane Laboratories Inc.

3 Ohio Charter Schools BACK DOWN!

Ohio Education Association Applauds Attorney General's Action Against Poorly Performing Dayton Charter Schools
Posted on : 2007-09-12
Author : Ohio Education Association News
Category : PressRelease
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Ohio Education Association hailed the decision by Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann to seek court orders to close down three Dayton-area charter schools for failing to live up to Ohio's academic standards.
"OEA has hoped for this kind of enforcement action to reverse the state's long-term failure to monitor charter school programs. Finally, we have an Attorney General willing to target enforcement action against charter schools that have failed to meet standards of academic and fiscal accountability," said OEA President Patricia Frost-Brooks.
The Attorney General's actions followed a lawsuit filed last March by Dayton families and the Dayton Education Association, an OEA/NEA affiliate, with the support of OEA. The plaintiffs sued to force the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio State Board of Education to hold charter schools accountable. The lawsuit asserted that charter schools that failed to comply with state law, state academic standards and provisions of their contracts with non-profit sponsors were not entitled to taxpayer support.
Yesterday, in a pending settlement with the Attorney General's office, the plaintiffs agreed to withdraw their lawsuit. The Attorney General, as part of the settlement, agreed to initiate legal action to close down charter schools that:
-- Are in academic emergency or academic watch for two of the last three school years and have performance index scores lower than scores of the school districts from which they draw the largest number of their students, -- Have not lived up to academic and financial provisions of the contracts with their non-profit sponsors, -- Have unauditable financial records or have failed to correct repeated unfavorable findings of state audits.
Under the agreement with plaintiffs, the Ohio State Board of Education has six months to develop clear standards for how sponsors of charter schools will hold their schools accountable when they are out of compliance with sponsorship contracts or are producing poor academic results.
Frost-Brooks said the settlement brings about a very practical result. "The Attorney General would rather focus on actual enforcement of Ohio's charter school laws than defend the state's lack of enforcement. We couldn't agree more," she said.
Charter schools, known as community schools in Ohio, draw more than $500 million a year away from traditional public school funding, despite a seven- year record of sub-par academic performance.
"In cases where charter schools cannot serve students effectively, state officials should close them down. Traditional public schools will welcome them back, and many of them have returned already," Frost-Brooks said.
The Ohio Education Association is the state's largest professional employee organization and represents 130,000 teachers, education support professionals and higher education faculty in Ohio's public schools, colleges and universities.

Dennis Leone responds to Mark Meuser

Dennis Leone to Mark Meuser, September 9, 2007
Subject: My Response To Mark Meuser
Mark – Didn’t realize, initially, that you made it a point to copy 30 people with your email to me, including some of your OEA friends. Here is my response to you, Mark, for their reading pleasure as well.
Try as you wish, Mark, to change what happened at the August 17 board meeting, but the truth is the truth. Listen to the tapes of the Board meeting, Mark, and you will hear yourself questioning whether my motion regarding the authorization of the recent severance checks for laid-off employees was “worthy.” Here is the bottom line: Had you done your homework before the Board meeting – had you studied the information supplied by Damon Asbury in July regarding the severance checks – you would have better understood why I wanted our internal auditors to look into the matter. And yes, Mark, had you voted no to my motion on Aug, 17, it would have been a departure from your fiduciary responsibility, just like it was when you voted in favor of Damon presenting a budget to the Ohio Retirement Study Council that included 9 new employees – and you did not know why the positions were needed and what their salaries were going to be. Had you bothered to do your homework before the August 17 Board meeting, Mark, you would have learned that:
1. There is nothing in Board policy, nothing in the employee handbook, and nothing in STRS administrative regulations that speaks to severance checks for laid-off employees. In fact, in the spring of 2006, the board reduced staff perks in 6 areas – and one those cuts was severance checks for employees who resign at STRS. Does it bother you, Mark, that the Board was not offered information that future laid-off employees were due to receive severance checks even though we cut severance checks for regular employees who resign on their own? Perhaps you are not understanding the significance of this.
2. The Board was told on June 21 in executive session that the payments were “pursuant to Board policy.” They were not. It doesn’t matter, Mark, that you were not in attendance on June 21. You received the same homework documents that everyone received in July, prior to the August Board meeting.
3. The Board was told on June 21 that the cost for the severance was “approximately $70,000. The real cost is $93,000.
4. The Board was not told on June 21 that the severance for the employees included STRS-paid health insurance AFTER they were laid off. Nor were we told that the severance arrangement was also available for part-time STRS employees. The point is, Mark, that no one on the Board knew about any of this until after we received Damon’s email in July. Don’t we, as Board members, have the right and obligation to ask questions about these things – as we did for the other perks cut in the spring of 2006? Or should we do what the “old” board did – which was look the other way, and pretend we’re informed.
5. Does it bother you, Mark, that the terms of the individual “settlement agreements” laid off employees are asked to sign references the employee and the “employer?” Who do you think the “employer” is, Mark? Don’t you think the “employer” should be entitled to know what the hell is happening.
6. Does it bother you, Mark, in case you missed it, that the severance “policy” Damon sent us in July said it was “issued” in 2002, then “revised” on September 11, 2006 – but no one on the board had any knowledge of this? I took the time, Mark, to read all policies, all handbooks, all regulations, and all Board minutes for the past 5 years, and guess what – there’s nothing there about severance for laid-off employees. Funny, isn’t it, Mark, that the “revisions” put in place on 9-11-06 involved 3 perk areas (sick leave, vacation time, and college course reimbursements) the Board cut for other employees a few months earlier in 2006. Do you get it, Mark? The staff knew, if these 3 areas were not changed for laid-off employees, that such employees would have perks (AFTER THEY WERE LAID OFF) that regular STRS employees did NOT have. But the Board was not told any of this in 2006, were we, Mark?
At the end of your email below, your write “I commend you on that” – referencing my research and personal involvement in the development of a new PBM contract. Then you wrote: “It is not, however, quite the same situation as when the budgets for vendor contracts have already been approved by the board.” What the heck are you talking about, Mark? It is precisely the same. Eleven months ago, YOU voted no on my motion to require the board to review summaries of big ticket contracts BEFORE WE VOTE ON THEM. Right after your no vote, you offered this amazing statement in writing: “Any board involvement in vendor contracts inhibits the staff’s ability to negotiate.” (Don’t let the Gahanna-Lincoln Teachers Assn know your feel that way.)
Have you stopped to think that in the old days, Mark, the Board not only would have no involvement in the new PBM contract, the staff would have gone ahead and done whatever they desired on the matter without the board knowing one thing. It is a fact – the new PBM contract is better, tighter, and cleaner BECAUSE the board was given the opportunity to have involvement. By the way, Mark, why didn’t you participate in any of the discussions on August 17 in executive session about the new PBM contract? And why didn’t you ask any questions about the severance checks? And why didn’t you object to the legal fees of 3 staff members being paid a few months ago when free legal service was available to them from the State Atty General’s Office? And did it bother you, Mark, that the board (in your absence on June 21) initially voted as it did on the divestiture question without having sufficient information in hand? That was like when the board voted for a settlement agreement regarding non-investment staff bonuses without having a document in hand. Does it bother you, Mark, that this happened also? And why did you vote for a contract extension for Damon Asbury when the board had not done his evaluation and when the matter was NOT on the meeting agenda? (Gosh, Mark, I wonder what you would do as the Gahanna-Lincoln Teachers Assn President if the school board gave the supt a new contract without doing his evaluation and without the matter being on the agenda?) And I have always wondered, Mark – why didn’t you speak up when you learned that STRS was paying for a fax machine in the home of Michael Billirakis? Why are John Lazares and I the only ones to question the wisdom of these things?
You see, Mark, your fiduciary responsibility as a board member involves far, far more than you realize. Your statement questioning whether my motion seeking internal auditor assistance was “worthy” ranks up there with Judith Fisher’s “intrusive” comment, Geoff Meyers’ “this is a waste of time” comment, Jack Chapman “drop in the bucket” comment, Hazel Sidaway’s “we were doing board business during the Broadway Show intermission” comment, Joe Endry’s “I don’t get paid as a board member so I deserve these things” comment, and Tim Myers’ “crackpot/savior” comment. You are an OEA clone, Mark. You are a Stepford Man. As far as debating STRS issues, just tell me the place and time, and I will be there.
One thing, however, Mark: I will not meet you in Philadelphia, where you recently spent $2,901.65 of STRS money for in-service. It amazes me how board members spend thousands of dollars of pension money for out-of-state meetings, only to come back to Ohio and vote the way they do after NOT asking questions and NOT doing their homework. I can’t wait to hear what YOU have to say about the severance checks at the Board meeting on September 20. Maybe NOW you and my fellow board members will think about their vote every October to give the STRS Executive Director blanket authority to spend money as he sees fit “on behalf of the board.”
You once said, Mark, that you heard at a meeting that the purpose of all pension boards should be “undivided loyalty to the membership.” One way you can start doing that is to ask questions and not (like some others on the board) be a blind rubber stamp for the staff. I honestly do not feel that you and some others on the board have the experience or the capacity to be suspicious about anything that staff does. How many examples will you need before you learn? I thought you would have learned more about the misconduct of the prior board and the prior executive director. I guess not.
Dennis Leone
From Mark Meuser, August 24, 2007
Subject: RE: FW: Update: STRS Board on August 17
You have chosen to discuss events of the last STRS Board meeting in the rather public forum of e-mail. While I do not think this a particularly good idea, since you have made a number of statements about me, I feel the need to answer those statements in the same forum.
In explaining your motion to investigate Damon's decision to issue severence [sic] checks, you leveled the very serious charge against him that he had acted outside his authority. My objection to your motion was that it seemed to include a condemnation of the executive director. I did not want to vote on that before all the facts were in. I wanted to know specifically whether his actions were worthy of such a censure before making that decision. When Conni pointed out that the motion contained no condemnation of the executive director, but was simply designed to investigate the facts, I had no problem with it, as evidenced by my "yes" vote.
You also have the order of events wrong. I said that I would not jump simply because you said "jump" only in response to your accusation that I was breeching my fiduciary duty if I did not vote "yes" on your motion. I want to make one thing clear. I will vote in the way I feel is proper in exercising my fiduciary duty to the entire system. In the process of arriving at those decisions, I will gladly engage in rational discussion based on facts and research. I will not be swayed by intemperate accusations from you or anyone else. If you make statements which attack my character or judgement or statements with which I disagree, I will not sit idly by.
One final comment. I fully understand that your research and the questions you asked about Express Scrips [sic] helped our negotiators to reach a great deal on the PBM contract. I commend you for that. It is, however, not quite the same situation as when the budgets for vendor contracts have already been approved by the Board.
Mark Meuser

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

ODE response to outrage over Akron charter school

Click on image to enlarge


Shirlee Zerkel: A question on coverage for PET scans for pre-Medicare retirees and an answer from Sandy Knoesel

Shirlee Zerkel to John Curry, September 7, 2007
Subject: Fwd: Health question
I hope that both my question Ms. Knoesel and her reply get through to you. To me this was an important question and her answer is worth hanging onto if any of us would need such tests. I know I am going to file this little tidbit. But I can clearly see MM. or Aetna trying to get out of paying for multiple tests per year. Can't you/?
Sandy Knoesel to Shirlee Zerkel, September 7, 2007
Subject: RE: Health question
Good afternoon. I have taken a few extra days to respond to your e-mail because I wanted to provide some additional information. Currently, there is no limit for PET scans for cancer patients. Both Aetna and Medical Mutual base requests for this service on medical necessity and have extensive policies that are used in administering this benefit. Predetermination of coverage by the provider is recommended before the performance of this procedure.
Sandy Knoesel
Shirlee Zerkel to Sandy Knoesel, September 2, 2007
Subject: Health question
I have a question concerning health care testing. If an STRS retiree not yet on Medicare was found to have a cancer that required frequent PET scans, how many such scans would either Aetna or Medical Mutual pay per year?
Shirlee Zerkel

Dayton Daily News: Ohio not waiting for feds to solve health insurance problem

Democrat Strickland, Republican Husted working on plans to make insurance available.
By William Hershey
Staff Writer
Dayton Daily News, September 9, 2007
COLUMBUS — — With no immediate help in sight from the federal government, Gov. Ted Strickland, House Speaker Jon Husted and other government and business leaders are gearing up to find an Ohio solution to providing affordable health care to the estimated 1.2 million Ohioans without insurance.
"I believe it is morally unacceptable that so many Ohioans and Americans don't have access to quality, affordable health coverage," Strickland, a Democrat, said in an e-mail. "And I believe we have it within our ability to make it right in Ohio."
"I believe we owe it to the people of our state to work on a state solution," said Husted, R-Kettering.
Compared to other states, Ohio's 10.7 percent uninsured rate — based on a three-year average from 2004-2006 — is relatively low. Thirty-eight other states have higher uninsured rates, with Texas' 24.1 percent at the top.
This is due partly to Ohio's history of large employers with union contracts that are likely to provide health insurance, said William Hayes, president of the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, a Columbus-based independent, nonpartisan health research group. This is changing as the state continues to lose manufacturing jobs that usually came with health insurance, Hayes said.
Strickland and Husted said they hope to come up with legislative proposals by the first of next year, just as the presidential campaign heats up with health care as a top issue.
They have a private sector partner in their search for solutions.
The Ohio Business Roundtable, the nonpartisan group of chief executive officers from major Ohio corporations, has made health care reform a priority, said Richard Stoff, the group's president.
"Clearly, the top cost pressures facing business today are health care costs," said Stoff.
The roundtable helped overhaul the Ohio tax code in 2005.
A 12-member bipartisan panel of legislators, state officials, health care experts and labor leaders appointed by Strickland is expected to play a key role in coming up with proposals. The roundtable is represented on the panel.
Strickland formed the panel after Ohio was one of 14 states chosen by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to participate in a program aimed at expanding health care to the uninsured. Representatives from the foundation's State Coverages Initiatives Program already have started working with the panel.
"I want to go into this with an open mind and an open agenda because we are asking them to help us," said Strickland. "We have presented them with the core ideas we have and how we would like to proceed to expand coverage to many thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of additional Ohioans."
Also, the Ohio Insurance Department, with $500,000 provided in the budget, already is working on a plan to develop a health care exchange. The idea would be to work with small businesses and insurance companies to create a marketplace where affordable health care plans would be available on a voluntary basis to uninsured Ohioans who don't have access to employer-sponsored insurance. Ideally, the cost would be cheaper than if an individual tried to buy insurance on his or her own, said Strickland.
A similar program already is under way in Massachusetts, but a key difference is that the Massachusetts plan mandates that everyone in the state have health care coverage while Strickland's proposal is voluntary.
For those who would need a subsidy to buy insurance, even at a reduced rate, Strickland has offered a suggestion that has produced a backlash from Ohio hospitals.
It would require seeking a permission from the federal government to use some of the approximately $328 million in federal money that currently goes to hospitals that provide a disproportionate share of uncompensated services to the indigent and uninsured.
Strickland said he has talked with Michael Leavitt, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, about the proposal and Leavitt said the Bush administration believes some of the money could be used to purchase private coverage.
However, John E. Callender, senior vice president of the Ohio Hospital Association, said that to qualify for the $328 million in federal money the state has to put up $217 million in matching money — a match the hospitals now provide on their own.
"Our position is that all of these federal dollars, where the hospitals put up the matching dollars, should go to hospitals," Callender said.
Husted didn't seem keen on the idea, either.
"We have to be cautious about that approach," said Husted.
However, Husted said he believes he and Strickland can work together.
"We both share the same concern that we want to cover more Ohioans," he said.

That's a nice letter, Pat, are still sitting on the fence re: HR 676!

From Congressman Pat Tiberi, September 10, 2007
Sent to Ms. Linda F. Meinelt
Dear Ms. Meinelt,
Thank you for your email. I appreciate this opportunity to correspond with you.
In your email you mention H.R. 676, the United States National Health Insurance Act. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) introduced H.R. 676 on January 24, 2007. H.R. 676 was referred to the Committees on Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives for further consideration. This legislation seeks to create a new universal health insurance program. A single payer would finance the health care program, similar to the already existing Medicare program. It would be expanded it to all U.S. residents.
Universal health care is a broad concept. There are a few important points to consider when reviewing any health care proposals: benefits, costs and quality. More generous coverage and quality entails higher costs. These costs must be paid, either by insurers, providers, employers, families and individuals, taxpayers, or a combination of these.
Ensuring affordable, quality healthcare is one of my top priorities as your Representative to Congress. I am concerned about the quality, availability, and cost of health care. In the 109 th Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives worked to address some of these issues. However, there is much more work to be done.
Americans deserve high-quality, reasonably priced, reliable health care, and the security of knowing they will have it when they need it. Please rest assured I will continue to be an advocate for responsible legislation that will help achieve these goals.
Thank you again for your email. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if I may be of assistance in the future.
Patrick J. Tiberi
Representative to Congress
PJT/ lv

RH Jones: What divestment advocates don't understand -- it's OUR money

From RH Jones, September 11, 2007
Subject: What pro-divestiture advocates do not understand!
To all:
In questioning 2 pro-divestiture guests on 09/10/07, Fox News Network TV left out an important point: THE MONEY IS OURS. This is NOT public money! Their guests said that: “It is public money.” That which Fox News left out was hurtful to thousands of active and retired members of state public pension funds across the country.
Legally after the public employer, and the employee, place their money into the State Teacher’s Retirement System of Ohio, it belongs to the members of that system. It is not, then, up to the public to decide what stocks the STRS managers should purchase or sell. The STRS Ohio board and managers are required by law to get the BEST RETURN for their members' investment.
Our federal government is to decide foreign policy. That division of government is to punish our nation’s enemies; that should not be left up to our public pensions investment employees. If the Feds wish to divest American’s money, from any particular foreign country, they are to do it in a way that is fair and proper for all citizens. Only to select state retirement systems, and just some companies, and not everyone, is unlawful discrimination.
God bless our troops. As a veteran, I sympathize with the soldier in the field in Iraq. But, I do know that these soldiers are not fighting there to protect economic discrimination in America; they are there to support the Constitution of the United States of America. In fact, they must swear to protect it when they volunteer for military service and take that fateful step forward.
Federal politicians swear allegiance to the Constitution as well; therefore, no matter how noble divestiture may sound, they should not make decisions on emotions. Any reasonable American would want to deny our nations enemies financial gain. But to do it in a manner that is economically unjust to state public pensions, is not the right path: Equal protection under the law is! That is my opinion.
Robert Hudson Jones, a retired STRS of Ohio member and a proud member of the Concerned Ohio Retired Educators (CORE)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A former White Hat board member speaks out

The Cleveland Free Times, September 5, 2007
Charters And Gaffes
There are lots of villains and no clear heroes in a court battle involving charter school oversight
By Charu Gupta
TOWNSEND - A fixture on numerous county boards during their times of peak ineffciency.
AKRON-BASED WHITE HAT MANAGEMENT and former Clevelander Robert Townsend once enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. White Hat operates charter schools, reporting to each school’s board of directors. Townsend joined one of those boards as president in 1999, then went on to preside over an additional 18 others. Townsend was paid for his service, White Hat saved time by dealing with fewer board presidents, and everyone seemed happy.
The relationship began to sour in 2005. Suddenly, after years of relative silence, Townsend and some fellow board members started, well, acting like a board. They complained that White Hat wasn’t doing enough. They questioned why test scores were so low, who White Hat was hiring, and how state money was being spent. They demanded more information and better results. Meetings got heated.
Whether they were concerned more about the students they’d been appointed to watch over or their own reputations (White Hat’s image was being tarnished by media reports at the time) remains a matter of some debate. But whatever the case, the simmering tension prompted White Hat to seek relief from its many friends in the state legislature, who obligingly changed the law in ways that helped the company to marginalize the meddling Townsend and his colleagues.
“It gets really tiresome sometimes, to fight that fight,” Townsend said recently. “It takes a toll on your family and yourself when you’re trying to do something to educate people, and then they introduce a bill, a law, and change the whole charter school movement and no one says anything?”
Today the whole affair is in court, with Townsend and eight fellow board members on one side, and White Hat and the state legislature and department of education on the other. And frankly, it’s hard to know who to root for.
IN OHIO, the person most closely associated with charter schools is David Brennan. The Akron-based industrialist had great influence in determining how charter schools are established and run.
A school-choice advocate, Brennan cultivated political clout. George Voinovich received more than $120,000 from the Brennan family during his time as Ohio’s governor, 1991-98, which helped earn Brennan the chairmanship of Voinovich’s Commission on Educational Choice. The commission would soon recommend taxpayer-funded vouchers for parents and students. Brennan then raised millions to help Republicans win control of the General Assembly in 1994.
The next year, a $5 million voucher pilot program for Cleveland went into effect, providing up to $2,225 per student. Nonprofit, private schools collected the state money and passed on an administrative fee to Brennan’s people. However, the model never expanded beyond Cleveland’s city limits, and profits proved marginal. One study found voucher students in Brennan’s private schools were even lagging behind academically.
By the late ’90s, Brennan abandoned voucher schools for a more lucrative education business model: charter schools.
Under the system established by the legislature in 1997, “any person or group” could start a charter school, upon approval by a public sponsor, like the state board of education or local school boards. Once this agreement was in place, the founders had to select a “governing authority,” or board. This board reported to the sponsor, but oversaw hiring, curriculum and management of the school. Board members subsequently entered into contracts with management companies, which handled day-to-day operations.
As the ink dried on the 1997 law, Brennan was ready. In early 1998, he incorporated (out of state) White Hat Ventures, LLC. Under this umbrella company, which housed a realty arm as well, was White Hat Management. White Hat immediately sought approval from the state board of education for charter schools in Cleveland and Akron.
Brennan met Robert Townsend sometime in 1998, as he combed urban centers for potential board members for Hope Academy Broadway Campus, which opened in Cleveland in 1999. If Brennan was looking for pliable candidates, Townsend was a good choice. He was a fixture on numerous Cuyahoga County boards during their times of peak inefficiency.
In June 1998, Townsend was a senior member of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority board when it came out that executive director Claire Freeman was turning in financial reports that listed her monthly mortgage payment as an “executive benefit.” When asked by the Plain Dealer if the board should have queried further, Townsend replied yes. “We made a mistake. I take that responsibility for myself.”
He also served on the board of Ward 1’s Amistad Community Development Corporation, which lost hundreds of thousands of dollars through bad investments, questionable hires and poor oversight (“Who’s Got the Money?,” Free Times, May 2, 2007). He has since moved to Oakwood Village, where he serves on the city council and is running for mayor.
Townsend told the Free Times in March that he signed on with White Hat “to give a choice.”
“No one can argue that Cleveland public schools have problems,” he said. “Charter schools are a way of helping to resolve their problems, because they deal with the word choice.”
When Townsend joined his first charter school board, White Hat was opening schools at a steady pace, with sponsors such as the University of Toledo and St. Aloysius Orphanage. Townsend soon was board president for 19 schools, one of which was more than three hours from where Townsend and other board members lived.
Attorney Robert DiCello, who represents Townsend and his co-plaintiffs, admits that they were chosen because White Hat wanted hands-off management. These folks weren’t educators, DiCello notes, and were “asked to run an entity that [they had] no prior experience running.”
He did not explain why they agreed to serve on the boards. But he defends White Hat’s asking Townsend to agree 18 more times.
“It’s much more economical for the kids,” DiCello says. Otherwise, imagine the chaos with 19 different school boards telling White Hat to go in 19 different directions. It’s not clear whether he understands or cares that the promise of charter schools was to offer parents more educational choices.
And he does not mention the other role that economics might have played. In 2006, the Plain Dealer reported, Townsend received almost $55,000 from White Hat for his charter school board service that year. Part of that money came from board members scheduling one meeting to discuss six or more schools at a time, and then collecting six or more fees.
A 1999 CONTRACT BETWEEN Townsend’s board and White Hat precluded the board from approving how money was allocated. In 2002, Townsend and his board agreed to let White Hat directly collect 97 percent of the available state funds, and thus put state money behind the wall of a private corporation.
“My clients didn’t have the resources to really vet the contract, to make sure the contract allowed the board to fulfill the mission of helping low-income kids,” DiCello says. Townsend and other board members trusted White Hat’s “package presentation”of the contract.
In December 2003, a report by the Legislative Office for Education Oversight (a government agency established in 1990 to provide independent evaluations for state-funded programs and abolished in 2005), reported 2001-02 test results for several charter schools, including Townsend’s first, Hope Academy Broadway Campus. An average of 11 out of 52 fourth-graders passed reading, math, science and citizenship exams. Of 29 sixth graders tested, an average of two passed the same exams. Writing was the only field in which Hope Academy Broadway’s students tested well.
Still, it was another two years, even by DiCello’s reckoning, before board members began to get tough with White Hat.
“The thing is,”he says, “you can be told as a board member, well, we’ll get to it in the next meeting. You can have six meetings in a year, and be told six times we’ll get to it, and a year is gone. From a point of view of sheer time, it looks pretty long in development. But I think it was a series of meetings, a series of rejections that ultimately leads to the 2005 point, when [the board] wanted more accountability.”
When board members finally stirred the pot in 2005, White Hat refused to answer their questions. In March 2006, board members reduced White Hat’s direct collection of state money to 96 percent. Then the board took away one bookkeeping contract.
“It was as if my clients were just polished figureheads,” DiCello says, “and they started to get frustrated with that, and they expressed their frustration.”
But even in trying to stake out their independence, the board members seemed to prove their own incompetence. They cut White Hat as their accountant and hired an outside firm, but the company they chose was reprimanded by the state auditor for lack of supporting documentation, purchases allocated to the wrong schools and incomplete accounting practices.
Townsend was also singled out for collecting almost $2,000 in improper, nonschool-related expenses. Cleveland Zoo tickets were purchased for $110. Registration fees, totaling nearly $1,600, were paid for Townsend and a guest to attend conferences hosted by the National League of Cities and National Black Mayor’s Conference.
The audit also took issue with several board members’ practice of collecting multiple fees for one meeting, a practice the audit labeled “abusive.” DiCello blames it on bad advice. “I don’t know if this issue snuck up on them, like we’ll get to it, we’ll discuss it later, no one is telling us it’s wrong, so therefore maybe it’s not.”
An official board response contained in the audit report offers a different excuse, only slightly more plausible: That downsizing at White Hat required board members to put in between 15 to 50 hours a week attending to school operations previously handled by the company. So the compensation for multiple meetings was in effect payment for excess hours over monthly time periods. (DiCello wonders about the timing of this audit report and hints at a conspiracy to make his clients look bad. “Is it a coincidence that the auditor is getting this information now?” he asks. “I certainly don’t think so.”)
APPARENTLY TIRED OF BATTLING with boards, White Hat ran to its powerful friends in Columbus, seeking changes to the system it had helped put in place. In December 2006, Republican legislators quietly slipped new charter school provisions into a bill that dealt largely with teacher background checks. The provisions barred anyone from serving on more than two charter school boards and allowed a management company to appeal to the charter school’s founding institution if the board tried to end its contract. If the decision was overturned, the board would be disbanded and the management company would choose a new one.
Led by Townsend, nine board members have sued on grounds that the law, which went into effect in March, is unconstitutional and deprives charter school boards statewide of the right to oversee management companies. DiCello says a decision in the case should be ready in a few weeks.
A spokesman for White Hat, Bob Tennenbaum, refused to answer any questions related to board members.
DiCello, meanwhile, seems to want to keep his clients’ options open.
“I really want to emphasize,” he says, “I really want this to be known: my clients do not have a desire to terminate White Hat at this time. And more importantly, we recognize that White Hat has considerable resources and skills for the kids, and remember, it’s about the kids.”
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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