Saturday, December 08, 2007

Molly Janczyk to House Speaker and Senate President: When will you appoint STRS Board member?

From Molly Janczyk, December 8, 2007
Subject: STRS Investment Appointee
House Speaker, Sen. Pres., Gov. Asst. Hartnett, I still have had not response to my question as to when you are going to appoint an investment candidate to the STRS Board.
I have suggested Prof. Tom Hall, Economics: Miami Univ., multiple times receiving no response. Hall is an investment expert of the highest verifiable caliber being a published author on topics such as market trends, investments, business cycles and economics. He also has a vested interest in STRS.
I am a paying taxpayer and wonder why my inquiries as a constituent merit no acknowledgement. You are in office to recognize your population's needs and concerns. I have called, written many times with absolutely no comment.
Please advise on this issue and if you are considering Prof. Tom Hall for this appointment who will be an independent thinker and follow the ORC without fail.
Molly Janczyk

(Address, etc.)

Friday, December 07, 2007

RH Jones: Lack of adequate public education funding hurting youngsters

From RH Jones, December 7, 2007
Subject: Lack of adequate public education funding hurting youngsters
To all:
Having an Ohio legislature that has been reluctant to the extreme in backing traditional public schools with adequate funding, is it no wonder that, as reported in the media, crime and incarceration is increasing in Ohio, especially for females. If the legislature does not spend money on public education, they will spend it on jails and prisons. Without education, and the jobs, and the wealth that follows, life is hopeless. Crime results. Victims of crime increase proportionately.
There are fewer men nowadays getting into teaching. And can you blame them for not? They pay their own way to become teachers; and after employment, to gain increasingly stringent certification standards, they must pay for advanced education well beyond the bachelors degree. Hard-hearted legislators continually attack the profession and think they save money by holding back on traditional public school funding. They cite wrongful and unfounded research backed by powerful neoconservative money pinchers.
Everyone knows that youngsters of both genders need a decent male image on which to base their conception of manhood, without which the “macho dude” hanging about on the corner or the unsavory rock star becomes their role model. In modern times, with mothers away from home working, and over half of Ohio’s families without a father at home, youngsters need more male teachers in the classroom. Young boys, for the most part, are more physically oriented than girls. For at least part of the school day, they need supervised physical work alongside men. Our child labor laws should to be rethought to accommodate this phenomenon.
With a preponderance of women in leadership roles in Ohio’s classrooms, girls generally have been better served in the education setting. After having over 30-years of service in the classroom, I have been witness to this. Boys, most certainly, would stay out of trouble if they were allowed to learn in an environment that allows them to apply and adapt the abstract learning from their desks to that of the real world of work. I know. I was a boy once. However, both boys and girls need to learn the personal satisfaction they get from work. Recent media reports have said that teen pregnancy is again on the rise. Would not girls put off pregnancy longer if they learned how to work alongside decent men? Recently passed laws now insure that teachers follow moral behavior when dealing with students. Only individual educators out of their minds would risk a career that has required years of expensive college training; might I add: especially if you are actively teaching and know that your employer is willing to increase their share of contribution for the STRS retirement health care fund.
Our Ohio legislators need to face reality: educating children for the world of work and good citizenship costs money; the alternative, jail and prison costs even more. And, yes, teaching is different from police and fire employment. Being an educator is just as risky but it must be recognized as essential for Ohio’s youngsters and their future happiness and security. Our children, our most precious possession, deserve the best. The future depends on them and on the supporting legislation of the present.
RHJones, a retired STRS member & a proud union member for life.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

RH Jones re: Sen. Carey's anti-teacher strike bill

From RH Jones, December 6, 2007
Subject: Sen. Carey's anti-teacher strike bill
To all:
Please oppose the Ohio Sen. John Carey’s (GOP), 17th District, plan, in a bill that will be coming out in a few days, to ban teacher strikes. Evidently he does not understand that good teachers are attracted to states that allow their teachers the security of knowing that they can strike if there employer becomes totally unreasonable. Ohio’s children deserve our best teachers -
The right to strike, among other advantages, insures that.
Retired educators need to stand in solidarity behind our teachers in this assault on active teacher’s right to strike. Could it be that this bill is designed to insure that there cannot be any teacher strikes over the loss of HB 315 (The retired teacher health care bill)?
The active/retired teachers who reside in Sen. John Carey’s Wellston District should let him know immediately that we are strongly opposed to his bill. And, any other state politician that would sign on to such a bill, negative to the rights of teachers to strike, needs to realize that their ability to be reelected, or elected to a new position in Ohio, will be put in grave jeopardy. There are thousands and thousands of us.
My information comes from what I have read in the Akron Beacon Journal this morning, 12.06.07, pg. B4, “Ohio legislator wants to ban public-school teacher strikes Bill calls for binding arbitration. Walkouts legal in 12 other states.” The article goes on to say that: “StopTeacherStrikes, Inc., a nonprofit group formed in 2006, is championing a similar push to ban teacher strikes in Pennsylvania.”
My fellow educators: Can you believe that the anti-education folks are now forming corporations to fight against teacher rights? Why are they so hard hearted to those who taught both them and their children with such great affection and dedication? It makes one wonder.
A note to retired teachers: Watch your mailboxes! The new STRS Express Systems Prescription ID cards just came out. We don’t want them to fall in the hands of thieves.
RHJones, SummitCRTA Leg. CMTE member & a proud CORE member

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

From RH Jones: Final Version of STRS Responses to OSBA/OASBO

From RH Jones, December 5, 2007
Subject: Final Version of STRS Responses to OSBA/OASBO
To all:
The message below is quoted from the ORTA web-site. PLEASE read it & write your legislator. This is very important. We MUST get this HB 315 moving!
RHJones, a proud Life Member of ORTA, CORE, OEA/OFT, AEA, NEOEA, NEA/AFT, VFW & American Legion
From Bob Jones, December 5, 2007
Subject: Final Version of STRS Responses to OSBA/OASBO
"ORTA established 1947 Final Version of STRS Responses to OSBA/OASBO "Toolkit" Comments With the introduction of House Bill 315, discussion about the funding proposal for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program has increased. It is important that any discussion be based on fact. As has been the practice in the past, STRS Ohio and the Health Care Advocates for STRS (HCA) want to ensure that accurate facts are shared with members, employers and legislators. With that in mind, we would like to address some statements that have recently surfaced to ensure everyone has the correct information.
It has been suggested that STRS Ohio must take responsibility for the challenges facing health care funding, rather than asking employers to share in that responsibility.
Individuals who have been involved with the STRS Ohio Health Care Program for the past several years know that, were it not for changes made by the State Teachers Retirement Board in 2003, the Health Care Stabilization Fund would be depleted by now and the health care program would be ending in 2008. The Retirement Board made some tough decisions that angered many retirees — but they were decisions that needed to be made if the life of the program was going to be extended. These changes included: reducing premium subsidies; completely eliminating the subsidies for spouses and dependents of educators; and raising the eligibility requirement for health care to 15 years of service.
Over the years, the Retirement Board has taken other steps to control increases in health care cost trends, such as implementation of a disease management program for individuals with certain chronic diseases; incentives to promote the use of generic drugs; and moving to coinsurance from copayments. As a result, participants in the health care program are paying for 48% of the program’s costs each year through their premiums, copayments, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses.
Currently, state law only allows employer contributions to help with health care program expenses. With House Bill 315, for the first time active educators will be contributing to their own future coverage. With the full implementation of the bill, retiree health care coverage will be primarily funded by educators through the premiums paid by retirees and the additional 2.5% taken out of each educator’s paycheck.
STRS Ohio should look at requiring members to work longer or later in life to extend the life of the health care program.
At this time, the average age of an STRS Ohio service retiree is 58. If we changed the minimum retirement age to 60 for example, it only adds a few years to the solvency of the health care program. Such a change fails to address the need to fund the liabilities associated with retiree health care.
Additionally, about one-third of the individuals enrolled in the health care program are under age 65. If we eliminated health care coverage for these 38,000 retirees and their family members, we estimate that between 20%–25% of them would not be able to find coverage due to preexisting conditions. These individuals— somewhere between 7,600 and 9,500 people, including disabled teachers — would probably immediately join the ranks of Ohio’s uninsured or, if low enough in income, qualify for Medicaid.
Projections show that a couple age 65 today living to an average life expectancy could need as much as $295,000 to cover premiums for supplemental Medicare coverage and out-of-pocket medical costs. Few, if any, of today’s educators can save enough to pay for the cost of health care in retirement on their own. That’s why they have shown majority support for House Bill 315 — even though it means more money will be taken out of their paycheck. They would rather pay a manageable amount of money while they are working than be saddled with the full cost of health care in retirement.
School districts are already struggling with the high cost of health care for current employees — and the current school funding situation makes this additional contribution increase unaffordable.
The high cost of health care is an issue that is impacting all employers and all Americans. Ignoring the problem of retiree health care will not make it go away and can have a serious impact on school budgets. Without access to stable and affordable retiree health care, many more educators will likely teach longer because they can’t afford health care coverage in retirement. This translates into higher medical costs and higher wages — increased costs that will have to be absorbed by their employers. Should the health care program end, efforts at the bargaining table to increase educator salaries significantly will undoubtedly intensify because educators will know they will be responsible for 100% of their health care costs in retirement. Other alternatives include bargaining with employers to provide health care coverage to retirees and disabled educators.
If this legislation fails, the STRS Ohio Health Care Program will end — but the health care needs of retired educators and disabled teachers will not go away. Pushing the liabilities around doesn’t solve the problem. That’s why STRS Ohio and the HCA have stepped up to the challenge and developed a responsible, equitable funding plan that shares the responsibility for health care coverage among retirees, active teachers and employers.
School districts have always had to deal with finite resources; it has always been up to the people seated at the bargaining table to determine how these resources are distributed. The costs of House Bill 315 are known, can be budgeted for and are gradually phased-in. House Bill 315 is a proposal that recognizes the cost of health care and provides a method to pre-fund retiree health care on a long-term basis.
Employer contributions to STRS Ohio have not been increased in more than 20 years — they have been at 14% since 1984. House Bill 315 calls for up to a 2.5% increase in employer contributions, spread out over a five-year period. In meetings that have been held to date with K–12 employers, there has been recognition on all sides that retiree health care is a critical issue that needs to be addressed. Some employers, such as the Inter-University Council of Ohio, have voiced support for House Bill 315, recognizing that a “viable, fully funded and solvent program is critical for attracting quality faculty to Ohio’s public universities …. If the program were to expire, our institutions would be negatively impacted, in cost and quality of talent.”
Now is the time for school districts that are opposed to this contribution increase to come to the table to engage the issue. The opponents of House Bill 315 have not offered a viable alternative. And time is running out. While current projections show the health care fund being solvent until somewhere between 2021 and 2024, the principal in the fund will start being tapped somewhere between 2009 and 2011. Once that happens, the retirees’ portion of costs will quickly become unaffordable. At this point in time, a 5% contribution increase is workable and manageable as a long-term source of funding for the health care program. Employers, employees and retirees all have a stake in this problem and should be part of the solution. STRS Ohio and the HCA look forward to opportunities to discuss this proposal with school board members. We are all dedicated to having the best educators in our classrooms to serve Ohio’s students. Starting with that premise, we believe we can work together to address this critical issue."
RHJones, Life member of ORTA

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Paul Kostyu: Sen. Schuring's plan to boost revenue stream for school funding

School-funding revamp
Schuring proposes plan to boost revenue stream
Canton Repository, Tuesday, December 4, 2007
COLUMBUS It has a long way to go, but a constitutional amendment that would change how schools in Ohio are funded will be introduced today, and its sponsor wants it on the November 2008 ballot.
Without seeing how the amendment specifically helps districts, Superintendent Chris Smith of Plain Local Schools said, “We’re playing a high-stakes game of education chicken.”
That’s because Plain Local and other districts have failed multiple times to pass levies, and they need help now. Even if Ohioans approve the constitutional amendment, its effect may not be felt for a year or more. The Plain Local school board decides Wednesday whether to try a seventh time to pass a levy.
State Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, will introduce a long-promised plan to change how primary, secondary and higher education are funded in Ohio. Each chamber of the Legislature must pass the measure with a three-fifths majority to get it onto the ballot.
Schuring expects the proposal to relieve pressure on property taxes by increasing the state’s share of money. The state funding to individual school districts is based largely on local property wealth, which varies widely among rural, suburban and urban districts.
Schuring said a similar Michigan plan passed in the 1990s dropped the local share of funding from 60 percent to 20 percent, while the state contribution increased by a like amount. He expects that to happen in Ohio.
According to an analysis from the Legislative Service Commission, which researches and drafts legislative proposals, $12.24 billion will be spent by the state in the current fiscal year to subsidize education.
Based on that figure, Schuring’s proposal would fund schools using:
-- 59.6 percent of income tax receipts,
-- 71.2 percent of sales and use tax receipts,
-- 70 percent of the Commercial Activity Tax,
-- 25.4 percent of the Kilowatt-hour Tax and
-- 100 percent of Lottery profits.
The earmarks on income, sales and use taxes are new. The percentages from the Commercial Activity and Kilowatt-hour taxes are sent to schools now, but are set to expire in 2019 and 2017, respectively. The amendment would extend the reimbursements indefinitely. The lottery money is now constitutionally protected for primary and secondary education. Schuring’s amendment reinforces that.
Schuring said the state contribution to education will increase because collection of income and sales taxes grew by 200 and 300 percent, respectively, over the past 20 years.
“We avoid the smoke and mirrors of the lottery that enabled other revenues to be diverted from education,” Schuring said.
Schuring said he did not know how his proposal would affect individual districts, but said it would not eliminate the need for property taxes. And his proposal doesn’t “blow a hole in the state budget,” but will mean other departments will have to argue over what is left.
“We’re not going to let other aspects of the state operating budget rob from education,” he said. “This makes education the No. 1 priority. It will enhance Ohio’s competition in the global marketplace. Everyone understands that education and knowledge build the economy of the future.”
Gov. Ted Strickland, who has been criticized for not coming up with his own education funding plan, called Schuring’s effort “very admirable.” He said he would examine the proposal “and make a decision about its merits.”
Tim Pickana, treasurer of Canton City Schools, said he favors a mechanism that includes using income and sales taxes, which he said is more fair than property taxes.
Canton schools plan to close buildings because its 8-mill levy was defeated in November. The state placed the district in fiscal caution. Pickana said if Schuring’s proposal is approved by the General Assembly and Ohio voters, it likely won’t have an impact until 2010.
Smith said the Plain Local district can’t wait that long. It will need to know how much the new formula will provide “very quickly.” He worried that some voters will wait to see what happens with the proposal instead of approving a levy.
“This is a complicated jigsaw puzzle,” Schuring said. “By introducing this now, it starts the process of the leadership in the Legislature and the governor to work together to get something done.”
Click here for a breakdown of Schuring's proposal (PDF file, single page)
Reach GateHouse Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:

RH Jones: End-of-year bonus (HC) for retired teachers?

From RH Jones, December 4, 2007
Subject: End of yr. bonus HC for retired teachers?
To all:
Last week a police report has indicated that an Akron High School Principal was severely assaulted in the hallway by a student who had been recently transferred for discipline reasons. It took 3 teachers to pull the attacker off of the principal. This student had been transferred from building to building 4 times! The principal was taken to the hospital and the male student was taken to jail, where he remains. School authorities have not mentioned this attack. I wonder how many others go unreported across Ohio?
This is just another example that educators deserve their employers to provide the 2.5% contribution to the STRS for continuation of retiree health care (HC). Physical assaults of this severity will surely follow this unfortunate principal well into retirement years. I am sure he will suffer mentally with PTSD long after his physical wounds heal.
Also, many retirees were required by their school boards to have X-rays for TB. Have some of them developed lung cancer because of it? Many teach in buildings heavy with asbestos. Have, or will, some of them develop lung cancer because of it. Here in my hometown of Norton, the Loyal Oak Elementary School was torn down due to being full of asbestos. The other old Norton schools probably have it as well. Staph infections and other childhood infections are still another factor in the need for retired educator HC.
I am sure that this principal and all the rest of us educators have earned retirement HC. It is time the Ohio Legislature passed HB 315. A small well deserved and earned End of Year Holiday Bonus.
Robert Hudson Jones, retired STRS member

Monday, December 03, 2007

RH Jones: Treasurer's cost analysis of HB 315 correct?

RH Jones to Norton School Board treasurer, December 3, 2007
Subject: Treasurer's cost analysis of HB 315 correct?

Treasurer Stephanie Hagenbush of the NSB:

Re: HB 315 (The employer/employee increase for retired educator health care.)

At the Special Norton School Board (NSB) meeting of 10.22.07 a resolution was introduced by Mr. Collins, and was passed by a 5-0 vote, to oppose HB 315. I am concerned as to how the NSB arrived at $244-million cost figure to the Norton property owners - this resolution 07-214 states that: “it equates to .81 mills or 5.05 teachers”.

It seems to me that the cost of HB 315 would be modest compared with the costs to Norton for the many educators that will have to work on until they are eligible for Medicare. And, if some do not have a spouse that is eligible for Medicare, they would have to work on even further in their careers in Norton. Were not these longevity figures given a cost analysis? If not, why were they not? Without a proper cost analysis, how can the NSB vote in good conscience? Was inflation of the dollar taken into consideration in this negative NSB decision? After a more thorough and proper cost analysis is made, I think the NSB should reconvene in a special session to reconsider and change their negative vote.

It is my opinion that the NSB rubber-stamped 5-0 an under researched and wrongful decision made by the Ohio School Boards Association. And for the NSB to go on and put their names to such a misguided resolution that denies health care funds for their retired teachers is “beyond the pale” and even “hard-hearted” – especially when done so near to Christmastime. I seriously think the NSB made a thoughtless mistake.

As a retired teacher living and voting since moving here in 1960, my wife and I, who are childless, have never voted against a school levy. And there are many other retired educators living in Norton; and who, also, are informed voters. We spend our STRS checks in Norton businesses. And since having been promised by our school district employers, health care in our retirement, we will have to look very closely in the future at voting positive for new school levies, and at who is setting on our NSB.

Furthermore, we retired educators now pay 48% of our income on health care. In 2020,or so, we will pay 100%. So, without HB 315 being enacted into law, we will have even less to spend in Norton in the future. Note: also, without HB 315, the STRS cannot legally spend more of its budget on retiree health care.

Please respond.


Robert Hudson Jones
Norton, OH, Ward 1, House District 41
CC: Sen. Kevin Couglin, Rep. Brian Williams

The Educational Genocide, Close Up

Source: Schools Matter

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Educational Genocide, Close Up

From the SF Chronicle:

My school, Noralto Elementary School in Sacramento, is being torn apart, thanks to No Child Left Behind.

Of the 664 students at my school, 450 of them are English language learners. They come mainly from underprivileged families, and rely on our school as a pillar in their lives. Many parents are unable to provide the academic support our students need, and nearly all our students struggle with language barriers. Consequently, the vast majority of them are reading below grade level. Fortunately, the staff is full of passionate teachers who care deeply about these children.

When students arrive at our school from Mexico, Thailand and Laos, they have to learn to speak the language before they can begin to read. Additionally, students arriving directly from Thailand and Laos must first master the English letters before they can even begin to blend the sounds. Can you expect these children to be reading at a fourth- or fifth-grade level by the end of the year? Certainly not. Have the teachers failed because they have not achieved such a miracle? Yes, according to our president and his No Child Left Behind act.

Every year, No Child raises the standards higher, and schools scramble to meet them. Last year, the Annual Yearly Progress score requirement was 24.4 percent for English Language Arts (reading and writing). My school's was 27.9 percent - above the required percentage - but one significant subgroup, our Asian American population, scored only 22.8 percent.

So, once again, we did not meet the goal. Failing to meet the goal two years in a row labels a school Program Improvement. If you are such a school for five years, No Child can come in and wipe the slate clean, getting rid of all the teachers and replacing them with new, "more qualified" teachers - teachers who evidently possess mystical powers to teach English to nonnative speakers in the blink of an eye.

What is extremely frustrating for Noralto is that our administrators and teachers have been working harder than ever, and our scores have steadily improved since the inception of No Child in 2002, when our reading scores were only 14.3 percent. However, the government continues to take punitive action, and labels us as a "failing" school.

My school is in its fourth year of Program Improvement. Next year, the imposed goal is 35.2 percent - a goal we cannot hope to meet - and it will continue to leap every year until it reaches the 100 percent mark in 2014.

This means that my school and thousands like it have "failed," despite desperate efforts to provide quality education for all students. For us, this means that all nontenured teachers will probably be fired at the end of this year, and all permanent teachers could be "involuntarily reassigned" elsewhere in the district. And, sadly, our students and families will be faced with new teachers who will have no connection with them, the school, the community or each other.

How is this better for children? How does it make any sense? The reality of No Child is that it is sucking the joy out of education. A teacher's job is to breathe life into education and to get children to love learning. Creating rigorous testing is simply creating an oppressive educational system in which music, computers, physical education, science and social studies are gradually fading into nonexistence as the panicked push for language arts and math becomes a nationwide obsession.

"Good" teachers are the ones who teach to the test, rather than those who employ creativity, excitement and a positive learning environment. At my school, a specialist has created a rigorous "bell-to-bell" schedule, in which each minute of our day is mapped out. We are told what and how to teach, what to put on our walls, and what interventions to provide. All assemblies and field trips have been banned.

As a bonus, No Child is up for reauthorization in Congress, with the additional stipulation of merit pay. This dictates that teachers' salaries will be contingent upon test scores. The immediate effect of this act, if it goes through, is that all the best teachers will flee to the best schools, leaving the children who need the most help with the teachers least able to supply it. Then, truly, we will be leaving our children behind.

Alyson Beahm is a teacher at Noralto Elementary School in Sacramento. Contact us at

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