Saturday, February 09, 2008

OEA Educator Lobby Day, March 11, 2008

OEA is sponsoring an Educator Lobby Day on March 11 to address several issues important to teachers. At the top of the list is HB 315, which OEA supports:
"This legislation would create a dedicated revenue stream for funding health care benefits for current and future STRS retirees. The bill would increase contributions for employees and employers by 2.5% of salary, phased in over five years. This legislation is supported by the Health Care Advocates for STRS, a coalition of employee, employer and retiree groups."
For details, click here.

Column One: AIPAC's mystifying behavior

"As his bill made its way through the various committees, Mandel's initiative received a body blow from an unexpected direction. AIPAC representatives asked him to pare down his bill's divestment requirements to include only companies that invest more than $20 million in Iran's oil and gas sector.
Mandel was surprised. Why should companies that invest in Iran's defense, telecommunications and other sectors be immune from divestment? AIPAC went over his head to Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted. Husted amended the bill along AIPAC's suggested lines."
Column One: AIPAC's mystifying behavior
February 7, 2008
Josh Mandel is a first-term legislator in the Ohio House of Representatives. He is also a sergeant in the US Marine Corps reserves. Last year, Mandel arrived at the state house in Columbus after a tour of duty in Iraq.
There, he saw first-hand how Iran was fuelling the insurgency that is killing his fellow servicemen and Iraqi innocents. His experiences led him to introduce a bill that would divest Ohio's public employee pension funds from companies that do business with Iran and fellow state sponsor of terror Sudan.
As his bill made its way through the various committees, Mandel's initiative received a body blow from an unexpected direction. AIPAC representatives asked him to pare down his bill's divestment requirements to include only companies that invest more than $20 million in Iran's oil and gas sector.
Mandel was surprised. Why should companies that invest in Iran's defense, telecommunications and other sectors be immune from divestment? AIPAC went over his head to Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted. Husted amended the bill along AIPAC's suggested lines.
Mandel's experience is not unique.
Christopher Holton is director of the Divest Terror Initiative at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, where I serve as a senior fellow. In August 2004, the CSP launched its campaign to divest public employee pension funds from companies that do business with countries listed as state sponsors of terror by the US State Department. The decision was inspired by a study of companies invested in states that sponsor terrorism undertaken by Roger Robinson, the founder and president of the Conflict Securities Advisory Group.
Working from Robinson's research, the CSP discovered that on average, 15 percent-23% of US state employee pension funds were invested in companies that do business with state sponsors of terrorism. In 2004, the estimated total value of those investments was $188 billion. Some $70b. was invested in companies that did business with Iran, Syria and North Korea.
In 2005, after coming across the CSP's research, Missouri State Treasurer Sarah Steelman divested a portion of Missouri's pension plans from companies that do business with state sponsors of terror.
In late 2006, the terror divestment campaign received a major boost when Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu embraced it as a means of slowing down Iran's race to nuclear capabilities.
Encouraged by Netanyahu, Republican presidential hopefuls John McCain, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich announced their support for the plan in late 2006. Their announcements induced state legislators around the US to introduce bills that would follow the Missouri example and make their pension funds free of investments in countries that sponsor terror. Working with Robinson, London's FTSE financial index announced last November that it would begin providing a series of terror-free screened indexes that will allow public and private investors to easily screen their portfolios and divest from countries that do business with state sponsors of terrorism.
And then, AIPAC moved in.
Holton assists state legislators in their bid to introduce divestment bills. He explains that in Texas and California, AIPAC lobbyists led by AIPAC's policy director Brad Gordon, advocated that divest terror bill sponsors take North Korea and Syria off their bills. As they did in Ohio, they also strongly recommended that divestiture from companies invested in Iran be limited to companies that invest more than $20m. in Iran's oil and gas sector.
In Texas, AIPAC's interference so frustrated the bill's sponsor, State Senator Dan Patrick, that he allowed the initiative to fizzle out. In California, the bill passed into law reflected AIPAC's view, except that at the insistence of the bill's sponsor Assemblyman Joel Anderson, it also divested California from companies involved in Iran's defense and nuclear sectors.
In Florida, AIPAC pre-empted supporters of broad-based terror divestment. It advocated its pared-down, Iran only, oil and gas sector only divestment plan before a broader-based initiative could get off the ground.
Currently, AIPAC is working to pare down bills in Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Georgia. In the meantime, without AIPAC's intervention, the Louisiana legislature moved toward a broad-based divestment policy by establishing a terror-free investment index last year. Mississippi and Utah are also considering broad-based bills.
A message to Gordon's office this week requesting his comments on AIPAC's actions went unanswered. Ron Dermer, who as Israel's economic minister at the Washington embassy works on the issue with AIPAC, provided three general explanations for AIPAC's actions.
As Dermer explained, first, AIPAC wishes to limit divestment to large investors in Iran's oil and gas sector because that sector - which makes up at least 80% of Iran's exports and 40% of its governmental revenues - is the engine of Iran's economy and its Achille's heel. Second, AIPAC argues that it is unconstitutional for states to divest from companies that do business with terror sponsoring states. Third, AIPAC believes that by limiting the divestment program to Iran's oil and gas sector, they will mitigate opposition from pension and hedge fund managers and so enable more divestment laws to be passed than would be passed if states tried to adopt a broader approach.
YET AIPAC's arguments - as explained by Dermer, who does not work for AIPAC - fail to stand up to scrutiny. While it is true that oil and gas are the anchor of Iran's economy, it is also true that Iran's ability to function economically, support terror and build nuclear bombs is dependent on many other economic sectors as well. It is also clear that the strength of Iran's fuel economy is not dependent only on direct investments in oil and gas but also on indirect investments from other sectors.
Take Iran's dependence on imported refined fuel products, for instance. Although Iran is the second largest exporter of oil and gas after Saudi Arabia, it lacks refining capabilities and so is dependent on imported fuel products. Last week one source of that refined fuel disappeared. India's oil refiner, Reliance, decided to end its supply of refined oil products to Iran after the French bank BNP Paribus announced that it would no longer issue letters of credit for Iran. BNP Paribus and its cohort Calyon bank stopped offering Iran letters of credit due to political pressure from the US Treasury, which sanctions financial institutions that deal with Iran. So in the BNP Paribus example, financial sanctions from the US government on the banking sector are making it more difficult for Iran to run its oil and gas sector.
Many other firms not involved in oil and gas similarly contribute to the viability of the Iranian regime and its rogue activities. For instance, Alcatel SA, a French telecommunications firm, has operations valued at $300m. in Iran, Sudan and Libya. Much of its technology is inherently dual-use with major civilian and military applications. Alcatel's militarily relevant operations in Iran include the provision of data transmission and switching network capabilities to state-owned companies. Alcatel is also installing an undersea telecommunications cable in Iran. It is undertaking similar activities in Sudan and Libya.
Germany's Siemens has operations in Iran valued in excess of a half a billion dollars. They include the development of Iran's mobile telephone network, power plants and transportation sector. All of these projects have enormous military implications. Austria's Steyr-Mannlicher arms manufacturer sold Iran sniper rifles in 2006. None of these companies are targeted in AIPAC's limited divestment plan.
Beyond that, as Holton explains, most of the major companies invested in Iran's oil and gas sector - like France's Total SA and Norway's Statoil and China's Petro China - invested in Iran's oil and gas sector after Iran was declared a state-sponsor of terrorism. That is, they made a conscious decision to invest in Iran in spite of its behavior and irrespective of the financial implications for doing so in their trade with the US. The likelihood that these companies will end their operations in Iran as a result of the divestiture movement is not large. In contrast, many companies whose investments in Iran are below $20m. would be more likely to pull out their investments if maintaining them cost them US investment capital. So AIPAC's plan targets companies that are less likely to change their behavior while giving a free pass to companies that are more likely to be convinced by the divestiture movement to pull out from Iran.
AIPAC has informed state legislators who push for broad divestment that it would be unconstitutional for individual US states to divest from companies that do business with Syria. Its contention is based on a US Supreme Court decision from 2000 relating to a Massachusetts statute that prohibited the state from signing business deals with companies that also do business with Burma.
But according to Prof. Orde Kittrie, who served for years as an attorney at the State Department working on issues related to international sanctions, there is a distinction between divestment and taking direct action against foreign firms. A state is within its constitutional rights to decide where to invest its funds.
Finally, AIPAC's argument that broad-based divestment bills cannot expect to pass is troubling on two different levels. First, objectively, this is untrue. Louisiana's law is broad-based. Currently, broad-based divestment bills are moving through the Utah and Mississippi legislatures.
But even if AIPAC is right, and these broad-based divestment bills lack sufficient political support, why AIPAC is actively working to undermine them is a mystery.
There is a legitimate debate regarding the capacity of financial tools to compel governments to change their behavior. Generally speaking, when dealing with ideologically motivated, terror-sponsoring regimes such as Iran, Syria and North Korea, financial tools will be insufficient to force a consistent and credible change of behavior. But they can make it more difficult for such states to conduct their nefarious business as usual.
In the case of Iran, these extra difficulties can conceivably buy the West more time to either strike Iran's nuclear facilities militarily, or to induce regime overthrow by backing regime opponents, or both. What is absolutely clear is that the broader a divestment plan is, the worse for Iran and its fellow state sponsors of terrorism.
AIPAC's arguments are not without merit. It is not the contentions that are strange, but their source. It is simply bizarre that of all the organizations in the US, the organization dedicated to strengthening America's alliance with Israel is leading the effort to shield the North Korean, Syrian and Sudanese economies from divestment and to limit the damage the divest terror movement can exact on Iran's economy.

Click here to view full article.

RH Jones: Will schools lose funds by governor's proposal?

RH Jones to John Curry, February 8, 2008
Subject: Re: Will public schools lose some monies by this proposal?
John & all:
This retired teacher backs my OEA 100% on this matter. However, where was the OSBA on this? They certainly jumped on opposition to HB 315 (the STRS retiree health care increase) early on. And HB 315 will help public schools by expensive older teachers retiring earlier! Go figure? I shake my head in wonder.
RHJones, retired STRS member
Ted's college plan irks union Ohio's largest teachers union isn't happy about the governor's plan to help high school seniors jump-start their college careers.
Source: Columbus Dispatch
February 8, 2007
Money, mostly.
College tuition costs will be covered, in part, by diverting per-pupil state aid now paid to school districts, according to Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, who was assigned to work out the details.
"We would be concerned if the Seniors to Sophomores Program would inadvertently devalue 12th grade, or if it would divert funds from the public high school," said Michele Prater, spokeswoman for the Ohio Education Association.
Gov. Ted Strickland's program would allow qualifying 12th graders to spend their senior year on college campus, starting in the fall. Students would earn their high school diploma and a full year of college credit, allowing them to jump right to their sophomore year. He announced the plan Thursday during his second State of the State address.
Fingerhut said the program will be paid with "blended funding," a combination of state aid to school districts and state aid to colleges although the specifics have yet to be worked out. Additional state aid is not part of the mix, he said.
The funding plan sounds similar to the state's charter school program in which the state portion of per-pupil aid follows the student to charter school they attend. The teachers' unions have opposed the loss of those funds as well.
Prater said the OEA prefers a program in which college courses are offered at the high school, in part to avoid students having to spend money traveling from home to college.
"Rather than diverting students and funding from the local high school, we should create school-college partnerships that accelerate the learning of all students and make the best use of precious state and local resources," she said.
Posted by Catherine Candisky, Statehouse reporter on February 7, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Jim Kimmel..... 1941-2008
We are saddened to learn of the passing of a strong CORE advocate, Jim Kimmel, on 1/31/08. Jim worked tirelessly on behalf of teachers and will be very much missed by all, including many who knew his work but were never privileged to know him personally. Sincere condolences to his wife, Judy, and family.


Merck fined $671 million over rebates

From Ralph Lloyd, February 7, 2008
Subject: Merck Drug Company
Merck got fined $671 million for giving kickbacks to Doctors and Drug Pharmacists for them using their drugs instead of a cheaper supplier. This fine was levied by a Federal Court. See I told everybody that these drug companies are overcharging.
Ralph L. Lloyd
Kathie, you have my permission to put this on your blog.
Merck Settles With Govt Over Rebates
Associated Press, February 7, 2008
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — In one of the biggest U.S. health care fraud settlements ever, Merck & Co. will pay $671 million to settle claims it overcharged the government for four popular drugs and bribed doctors to prescribe its drugs, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
The alleged overcharges, dating back to the mid-1990s, involved Medicaid programs in the District of Columbia and every state but Arizona, as well as federal health-insurance programs at agencies including the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration.
[Click here to view the rest of the article.]

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mr. T and the OEA

From Duane Tron, February 5, 2008
The following are the exact numbers for our health costs. The monthly premium for my wife is presently $669.00/month and my premium is $181.00/month. This figures out to $850.00/month. Multiply this times 12 months and it figures out to $10,200.00. My wife chastised me because I was $400.00 too high in the amount I quoted yesterday. Oh Well! The premiums are still in excess of $10,000.00/year.
Two years ago our out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance and related costs factored out at $16,520.00/year. This was because I had a 20% hospital co-pay. Last year the total was $15,650.00/year. This year it will factor to about $17,000.00 for the year like I previously explained. This will take almost half of my yearly compensation.
Any reasonable, prudent, and rational person recognizes that this is insane and outrageous. The problem has been, and continues to be, that they keep placing all of the cost increases squarely on the backs of retirees with non-teaching spouses who have not attained Medicare age of 65. If I would have had any prior warning of these events I would have never retired. The problem was they dropped this on us without any advance warning and without providing any kind of phasing in over a specified period of time.
If they would have said we're going to have to phase this in and it will be achieved over a period of five years I would have maintained my principal's certificate and gone back to work. The problem was that when they informed me of the drastic and radical changes I had allowed my certificate to lapse. Wonderful! It also meant that I was four years older and my marketability was diminishing by leaps and bounds due to age. Add to that the fact my wife is two years younger than me so she has to go three more years on my health insurance plan before she qualifies for Medicare.
I look at OPERS and then look at what the OEA ilk pulled on us and people can't understand why we are irate?? It isn't rocket science and I will do everything in my human power to flush OEA down the toilet and make them irrelevant! I worked extremely hard as a classroom teacher, coach, building rep, association president, school principal and it took a toll on my health. The 10-15 hour days as a building principal really damaged my body and health. Then I have something like this dumped on me!
At one time I coached three sports and taught six classes with over 180 students/day. I attended graduate school full-time while teaching full-time and coaching varsity basketball and junior high volleyball. I wasn't supposed to do this but my advisor allowed me since I was carrying a 3.872 GPA. I received numerous awards for teaching excellence and that obviously didn't mean a thing.
I was recognized by President Clinton at a Town Meeting in Akron for my work with minorities. That obviously didn't mean anything, either. I have served with Dave Speas for eight years working with disadvantaged and academically challenged children from ten elementary schools in a city and that obviously hasn't meant anything to anyone apart from the children. On the other hand it is really all about the kids isn't it?!
Golly! What am I thinking? Some of us have always taken our responsibilities seriously and placed children first. Then I realized why would OEA honor and take care of retirees? Why would they seriously consider our needs and welfare? After all they have never cared about children or teachers apart from collecting all of that dues money to support their obscene lifestyles and take care of themselves. Tell me one thing OEA has done to place children first during the past 20 years??!! I have been thinking for days and I can't find a single event that distinguishes them as child advocates! Imagine that??!!
When you reflect on the majority of STRS Board they aren't even retiree advocates. Why not?? Ask a silly question! Because retirees aren't paying dues to them any longer so retirees are just a worthless burden draining money away from them. Ah! Now I get it! It wasn't really that tough to figure this all out was it??!! Active teachers need to wake up and dump OEA and get a union that really cares about children and teachers. Go OFT!
Please look up and post the salaries received by top OEA officials and it will explain everything clearly.
Duane Tron,
Retired 1998

Labels: , , ,

Salaries, etc., at OEA

OEA members: ever wonder where your dues money is going? Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and public information posted on the Internet, you don't have to wonder any more. Just click here: and enter "512-490" in the "File Number" box. Hit "Submit," then click on "2007 Report" (which is the most recent report) under "Fiscal Year."
To view reports dating from 2000, click on "National Education Asn Ind State Association, State Affiliate O," under "Affiliation/Organization Name."
These (the ones filed in November 2007) are public records from the U.S. Department of Labor for OEA disbursements for the period 9/1/2006 through 8/31/2007. You will see that your head honchos are not suffering, financially, so you needn't worry about them. There are a lot of other people you won't have to worry about, either; it's all there.

Labels: ,

For active teachers: How OEA spends your money

OEA Disbursements for fiscal year 9/1/2006 - 8/31/2007 as filed with the U.S. Department of Labor (partial list)
Here are some samples showing combined salaries and other disbursements for September 1, 2006 through August 31, 2007 (scroll down for link to complete report):
Disbursements to Officers (partial list)
Gary N. Allen, President $187,842
Patricia N. Frost-Brooks, Vice President $173,910
James L. Timlin, Secretary-Treasurer $173,312
William N. Leibensperger, Past Treasurer $68,579
....Total Officer Disbursements $725,497

Disbursements to Employees (partial list)
Dennis M. Reardon, Executive Director $195,385
Mark A. Allison, CIS Consultant $133,144
John N. Avouris, LRC (Labor Relations Consultant) $105,563
Bryant N. Warren, LRC $101,905
Cecelia N. Weldon, LRC $141,055
Cathy M. White, LRC $123,286
Kent N. Williams, LRC $133,488
Debra S. Wing, LRC $115,684
James S. Yoder, Regional Director $158,038
Norman N. Young, LRC $138,398
Susan M. Babcock, Dir. Human Resources $140,805
Ann N. Bayou, LRC $136,674
Marla N. Bell-Gombita, LRC $134,688
Timothy N. Bibler, LRC $133,616
Susan C. Biddle, LRC $135,194
Rodney E. Bird, LRC $134,238
Lee E. Blandon, LRC $115,834
George M. Bozovich, LRC $137,838
Robin N. Busby, LRC $148,847
Gary P. Carlile, LRC $129,410
Elizabeth M. Chandler, LRC $126,992
Peggy N. Chavez, LRC $135,274
Melissa A. Clark, Lobbyist $117,880
Darren A. Clum, CIS Consultant $132,781
Joseph C. Cohagen, Dir. Acctg & Bldg SVC $123,450
Patricia N. Collins-Murd, Reg. Dir. $136,613
Shawn N. Cooper, LRC $105,065
Mark N. Constantino, LRC $118,872
Douglas N. Crawford, LRC $135,028
Donald N. Dalton, LRC $134,951
Robert G. Davis, Lobbyist $107,486
Vicky L. Davis, LRC $133,838
Daniel N. Day, LRC $94,511
Matthew M. Dotson, Lobbyist $119,058
Betty N. Elling, LRC $106,114
Fritz N. Fekete, Dir. Info. Syst. $156,676
Ruth A. Field, LRC $136,881
Linda K. Fiely, Dir. Leg. Serv. $124,863
Kevin N. Flanagan, Reg. Dir. $158,323
Randall V. Flora, Ed. Reform Cons. $112,450
Karen N. Fulton, Reg. Dir. $153,168
Gregg M. Gascon, LRC $139,553
Karen N. Gee, LRC $135,465
John R. Grafton, LRC $119,963
Stuart C. Graham, CIS Consult. $135,152
Russell N. Harris, Ed. Research Con. $132,505
Jonathan S. Hart, CIS Cons. $104,540
Lynn N. Heitzman, LRC $133,090
Edward N. Helvey, LRC $138,884
Donald J. Holub, Research Cons. $114,560
Lynette N. Howell, LRC $127,890
Talmadge N. Hutchins, LRC $135,379
Paul A. Jewell, Research Cons. $116,089
Charles N. Johnson, LRC $134,472
Rachelle N. Johnson, Assn. Counsel $122,479
Jan N. Jones, LRC $133,556
Bonnie N. Joseph, LRC $133,872
Thomas A. Jowhar, LRC $134,782
Suzanne N. Kaszar, LRC $145,267
Jeffrey L. Kestner, LRC $143,772
Amber N. Kirkwood, LRC $103,483
Gary N. Kovach, LRC $102,752
Annette M. Kubiske, LRC $135,319
Kimberly N. Lane, LRC $139,418
Chloann N. Leidy, LRC $122,902
Mark N. Linder, LRC $114,342
Linda S. Lindsey, LRC $135,467
Lavonne N. Lobert-Edmo, LRC $116,692
Michael N. Mahoney, Dir. Communications $127,348
Victor V. Marchese, LRC $122,556
James E. Martin, AED Bus. Services $169,292
Robert J. Matkowski, LRC $134,111
Michael N. Matusick, LRC $135,374
Linda N. May, LRC $131,161
Deborah N. Maynard, LRC $96,283
Michael N. McEachern, LRC $111,107
Bonnie N. McMurray, LRC $135,447
Darlene N. Messer, LRC $111,692
Donald C. Messer, LRC $124,107
Diane N. Miller, LRC $143,216
Timothy N. Miller, LRC $140,415
Vickie N. Miller, LRC $111,547
Henry A. Musilli, LRC $133,356
Alfred N. Nelson, LRC $123,701
Julie A. Newhall, Editor $122,061
Jeffrey F. Nolasco, LRC $119,493
Parry L. Norris, Reg. Dir. $133,941
Kathleen N. O'Connell-Burt, LRC $113,536
William N. Otten, LRC $135,818
Maureen N. Patrick, Production Cons. $122,143
William N. Pearson, LRC $146,582
Dennis F. Peltola, LRC $133,753
Cynthia N. Petersen, Ed. Reform Cons. $133,680
Herman K. Pipe, LRC $112,217
Michele L. Prater, Media Rel. Cons. $104,266
Deidra M. Reese, Dir. Gov. SVC $141,948
Marci D. Reimund, LRC $133,460
Thomas M. Renaud, LRC $134,228
Daniel N. Rivera, AED Mem. Services $154,673
Lora L. Rumsey, LRC $104,805
Sheila A. Saad, LRC $130,493
Venita N. Shoulders, LRC $142,731
Rebecca Y. Slaughter, Mgr. Gov. Real. $92,254
Carrie N. Smolik, LRC $132,134
Jerry N. Squires, LRC $138,272
Edward N. Stephenson, LRC, $133,633
Mary E. Suchy, Dir. Membership $133,633
Melodie T. Gettman, LRC $119,562
Diane N. Tieman, LRC $145,796
Jennifer N. Toth, LRC $111,773
Helen L. Trapp, LRC $119,483
Dolores N. Tufaro, LRC $98,063
Patricia N. Turner, Research Cons. $133,952
Eric J. Urban, LRC $114,636
Rebecca S. Villamagna, LRC $133,642
....Total Employee Disbursements: $20,950,902 [which includes the partial list above]

To see the complete report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor in November 2007, go to and enter "512-490" in the "File Number" box. Hit "Submit," then click on "2007 Report" under "Fiscal Year." To view reports dating from 2000, click on "National Education Asn Ind State Association, State Affiliate O," under "Affiliation/Organization Name."

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Molly Janczyk to Joyce Baldwin: Appreciation for STRS staff

From Molly Janczyk, February 5, 2008
Subject: FW: STRS associate....."I have always been treated with respect from CORE..."
Dear Joyce,
YOU KNOW WE LOVE YOU! I do have remarks posted on the blog and did not mention particular names so that all would know we appreciate all. BUT, you and so many others exemplify what it means to be STRS employees EVER helpful and respectful and generous with your efforts! Dee, Eileen, the associate who always helped me before I knew you on the 6th flr. and my mind is blank: She always answered me from the general STRS email address HC Comments. Sandy Knoesel, Gary Russell, Steve Mitchell, Bob Slater ALL take time as well.
ALL are professional, courteous yet approachable. Some Dept Heads do not respond but all of you have been so friendly and let us know that you only wish to promote STRS with your more than reaching out to us manner.
The gentlemen at the doors remember us and call us by name. They are conversational and so polite. The lunch chef and staff are outstanding in their efforts AND food quality. We look forward to good soups and wonderful salads and sandwiches.
ALL staff with whom I have had contact are wonderful. A few Dept Heads seem unwilling to respond but that is no fault of staff.
I know change is hard -- on ALL of us. But I have seen grace and adaptability on the part of STRS Staff.
Molly Janczyk

SB 264 (teachers' right to strike) and educating an educator re: STRS and CORE

Kathie Bracy to Phil Hayes, February 5, 2008
Subj: Good session in the Hearing Room today
Hi Phil --
It was really good to meet you and Greg [Goodlander] today. Between the echoing acoustics and my bad hearing, I couldn't hear everything you said in your testimony, but what I did hear sounded like you were presenting a strong case for retaining teachers' right to strike. What clout do teachers have, ultimately, if they can't hold that over the heads of administration at the bargaining table? It's hard for me to fathom that legislators think they can legislate away what I consider a basic right. The legislature is definitely NOT teacher-friendly these days, particularly in regard to the public schools. They would love to break up the unions, destroy the public schools and get their hands on our pension fund. We are constantly fighting them.
HB 315 is our big issue right now, as it would preserve healthcare mainly for those of you who haven't retired yet by providing a dedicated revenue stream to keep our HC from disappearing altogether. Unless this bill is passed or some other solution comes along, our healthcare fund will start eating at the principle in 2009, and in a few years it won't be there at all for any of us. Not much for you active teachers to look forward to. Difficult for school boards to do their share of the funding, but disastrous if something isn't done.
Mary Ellen Angeletti, who was with me today, is vice president of CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators), our grassroots organization of retired and active educators that is working for reform at STRS. She does want to be on your mailing list.
I am pasting below several posts from my blog in the last few days, where some of us wrote responses to a person from STRS (an anonymous writer, possibly a spouse of someone who works at STRS) which sum up our history in a nutshell, and which will also help you understand the need for reform at STRS and the rift between our organization and OEA. There is a search engine on my blog; if you use keywords such as "Frost-Brooks," "Leibensperger" and [xxx] or pull up posts added after the 12/13/07 STRS Board meeting, you will get some recent insights. We would like very much to work with OEA (most of us are life members of OEA, ORTA, etc.), but so far such attempts have not been fruitful.
Sorry this is so long -- I know you don't have a lot of time to read it, but there are things that the active teachers need to know. We are well aware they are overwhelmed with NCLB and don't have the time to become informed on what's really going on at STRS, or how seriously their lives will be impacted by what is happening there. We also don't have the resources to really get the word out to them. If you do nothing else but put this aside to read another time, I think you will find it worth your while.
Thank you for all the tireless work you do for students and teachers. Keep it up, especially your legislative involvement. Good luck with this bill; I'll be eager to hear how it comes out. Again, if we can do anything to help with this or any other cause that will help teachers, kids or the public schools, please feel free to ask.
Phil Hayes is a high school social studies teacher in the Columbus City Schools, an active member of the Columbus Education Association and editor/publisher of The CEA Blog. On February 5, 2008, he presented testimony before the Ohio Senate Education Committee in opposition to SB 264, which would strip teachers of their right to strike. He made reference to the last strike the CEA was involved in, the strike of 1975. Mary Ellen Angeletti and I both walked the line that year. KBB

Labels: , , , ,

Tom Curtis re: Expressing appreciation to general STRS staff

Joyce Baldwin to Tom Curtis, February 5, 2008
Subject: RE: Board Retreat
I can only speak for myself; I have always been treated with respect from CORE, and other outside member groups/organizations that attend the STRS Ohio Board meetings. I am thankful that you have heard nice things from other retirees; it lets me know that after 16 years I am still doing what I can to help active and retired members here at STRS Ohio.
I would suggest posting something on Kathie’s blog that would let the general staff know exactly how retirees feel about the good job they are doing on behalf of STRS Ohio Active and Retired Educators. As we all know, word travels fast and I am sure it would not take long.
Best regards,
From Tom Curtis, February 5, 2008
Subject: RE: Board Retreat
Thank you Joyce,
As usual, you are always there to help when asked. You need to know just how much all of us retirees appreciate your willingness to provide us with whatever you are able to offer us. That has been consistent and mentioned time and again by all of those retirees that have come into contact with you. Kudos to you.
This brings me to a concern that has been brought to retirees attention. Kathie Bracy recently received an email, it is not from an associate, as stated, but from a close friend of STRS associates. What is your take on this? Is this for real? If so, what can we do to improve this situation?
Joyce, I do not know how frank you can be with me as your position obviously asks that you hold a great deal of discretion in what you say and do.
However, if the above email does in fact represent the true feeling of many general (normal) staff members, would you kindly offer some suggestions that might alleviate this problem?
Retirees do not desire the general staff to have any feelings that we are unhappy with the services they provide. To the contrary, I have been treated with the utmost respect by all general staff I have encountered during my retirement process and while being in the building the past five years.
Retirees are unhappy with upper management and various board members, both past and present. In my opinion, rightfully so. They have supported expenditures that were not in line with 3307.15. They accepted gifts from vendors that should not have been accepted, etc. etc. Further, they have all defended their right to such with no remuneration ever being levied for their improper handling of our funds. Of course, that has become common practice in the USA today.
What many retirees have lost since roughly 2000 has been taken away without the consideration of most general staff. That loss has been far more reaching in our day to day living environment then most general staff would ever realize.
Retirees cannot simply change employers or pension plans to bring about a more desirable outcome. If that were possible, many of us would have chosen to switch to the OPERS system in 2004, which I believe to this day, still subsidizes a family HC plan. The increase in HC costs I have had to realize since retirement in 1989 have taken away more then one third of my income. That has come about because of the failure of the board and upper management to meet the need of establishing a dedicated flow of income into the HCSF.
In closing, do retirees have the autonomy to reach the general staff by group email to voice our appreciation of their efforts?
Thank you for your response,
Thomas Curtis
From Joyce Baldwin, February 5, 2008
Subject: RE: Board Retreat
No problem, we'll mail the information.
From Tom Curtis, February 3, 2008
Subject: Board Retreat
Hello Joyce,
Good afternoon. It just occurred to me that I had forgotten to request the handouts, minutes and the CDs of the retreat. Would you kindly send me those materials when they are available?
Thank you,
Thomas Curtis

Ever wonder how a public fund management board should be run? Look no further!

Stanford Fund Governance Best Practice Principles
("The Stanford Study")
.....The Stanford Institutional Investors' Forum
.....Committee on Fund Governance
.....Best Practice Principles (31 pages in PDF)
..........(Click here for HTML version)
Peter Clapman, Chair
May 31, 2007
(These Principles were used as the focus of the STRS Board retreat on January 30, 2008. KBB)
Some words of wisdom.....
"Each trustee should be inquisitive and should appropriately question staff, advisors, and fellow trustees as circumstances require."
.................~ The Stanford Study, May 31, 2007

*.... * ....* ....* ....*
From John Curry, February 1, 2008
Subject: "Each trustee should be inquisitive..."
STRS stakeholders, how many times have you heard a fellow STRS Board member's negative reaction to Dr. Leone's asking hardball questions about an STRS potential contract or other STRS decision at a monthly board meeting? Some Board members have even gone as far as accusing Dr. Leone of "micromanaging" by doing what the "Stanford Fund Best Governance Best Practice Principles" recommend! You might want to peruse one page from this study that was used as a model to the current STRS Board that the January 2008 "retreat." Maybe some of the current Board members will take notice of this the next time they are presented with the approval of an STRS contract with a contractor and don't have the slightest idea what is going on! It's easy to rubber stamp something that you don't understand, isn't it?
P.S. Dr. Leone, please keep on being "inquisitive."

Who likes the House speaker?

Source: Columbus Dispatch

In his final term leading the chamber, House Speaker Jon Husted raised $1.05 million in 2007, tops among all elected officials in Ohio. He is getting strong backing from a variety of business interests, particularly energy companies, charter school operators, health care and insurance. Here’s a look at some of his top contributors:

Political Action Committees
Ohio Optometry: $10,670
Wholesale Beer & Wine: $10,500
Dealers Investment Group: $10,000
Duke Energy: $10,000
First Energy: $10,000
RPM Manufacturing: $10,000
Fifth-Third Bank: $9,355

Weisberg family, Georgia, William and Morton, health care management: $25,000
Carl Lindner and wife Edith, insurance executive, Reds owner: $20,000
Mathile family, Mary, wife of former Iams pet food executive Clayton Mathile, Michael and Timothy: $15,250
George Repchick and wife, nursing home operator: $15,000
Richard Pogue and wife, managing partner Jones Day law firm: $11,000
Vail Miller and son Vail Jr., alcohol beverage distributor: $10,500
Wayne Boich, coal company owner: $10,000
David Brennan and wife Ann, charter school operator: $10,500
Otto Budig, president of Budco Group, philanthropist: $10,000
Bob Castellini, produce distributor: $10,000
Brian Colleran, nursing home operator: $10,000
Matt Evans, executive with Strategic Global Policy: $10,000
Richard Glennon, retired manufacturing executive: $10,000
Randall Gunlock, real estate developer: $10,000
William Lager, charter school operator: $10,000
George and Michael Oberer, housing developers: $10,000
Ronald Pizzuti, real estate developer: $10,000
Wanda Rice, Carrington Health Systems: $10,000
John Schiff, Cincinnati Financial: $10,000

Mythbusting Canadian Health Care -- Part I

10 Myths About Canadian Healthcare, Busted
By Sara Robinson February 4, 2008
2008 is shaping up to be the election year that we finally get to have the Great American Healthcare Debate again. Harry and Louise are back with a vengeance. Conservatives are rumbling around the talk show circuit bellowing about the socialist threat to the (literal) American body politic. And, as usual, Canada is once again getting dragged into the fracas, shoved around by both sides as either an exemplar or a warning -- and, along the way, getting coated with the obfuscating dust of so many willful misconceptions that the actual facts about How Canada Does It are completely lost in the melee.
I'm both a health-care-card-carrying Canadian resident and an uninsured American citizen who regularly sees doctors on both sides of the border. As such, I'm in a unique position to address the pros and cons of both systems first-hand. If we're going to have this conversation, it would be great if we could start out (for once) with actual facts, instead of ideological posturing, wishful thinking, hearsay, and random guessing about how things get done up here.
To that end, here's the first of a two-part series aimed at busting the common myths Americans routinely tell each other about Canadian health care. When the right-wing hysterics drag out these hoary old bogeymen, this time, we need to be armed and ready to blast them into straw. Because, mostly, straw is all they're made of.
1. Canada's health care system is "socialized medicine." False. In socialized medical systems, the doctors work directly for the state. In Canada (and many other countries with universal care), doctors run their own private practices, just like they do in the US. The only difference is that every doctor deals with one insurer, instead of 150. And that insurer is the provincial government, which is accountable to the legislature and the voters if the quality of coverage is allowed to slide.
The proper term for this is "single-payer insurance." In talking to Americans about it, the better phrase is "Medicare for all."
2. Doctors are hurt financially by single-payer health care. True and False. Doctors in Canada do make less than their US counterparts. But they also have lower overhead, and usually much better working conditions. A few reasons for this:
First, as noted, they don't have to charge higher fees to cover the salary of a full-time staffer to deal with over a hundred different insurers, all of whom are bent on denying care whenever possible. In fact, most Canadian doctors get by quite nicely with just one assistant, who cheerfully handles the phones, mail, scheduling, patient reception, stocking, filing, and billing all by herself in the course of a standard workday.
Second, they don't have to spend several hours every day on the phone cajoling insurance company bean counters into doing the right thing by their patients. My doctor in California worked a 70-hour week: 35 hours seeing patients, and another 35 hours on the phone arguing with insurance companies. My Canadian doctor, on the other hand, works a 35-hour week, period. She files her invoices online, and the vast majority are simply paid -- quietly, quickly, and without hassle. There is no runaround. There are no fights. Appointments aren't interrupted by vexing phone calls. Care is seldom denied (because everybody knows the rules). She gets her checks on time, sees her patients on schedule, takes Thursdays off, and gets home in time for dinner.
One unsurprising side effect of all this is that the doctors I see here are, to a person, more focused, more relaxed, more generous with their time, more up-to-date in their specialties, and overall much less distracted from the real work of doctoring. You don't realize how much stress the American doctor-insurer fights put on the day-to-day quality of care until you see doctors who don't operate under that stress, because they never have to fight those battles at all. Amazingly: they seem to enjoy their jobs.
Third: The average American medical student graduates $140,000 in hock. The average Canadian doctor's debt is roughly half that.
Finally, Canadian doctors pay lower malpractice insurance fees. When paying for health care constitutes a one of a family's major expenses, expectations tend to run very high. A doctor's mistake not only damages the body; it may very well throw a middle-class family permanently into the ranks of the working poor, and render the victim uninsurable for life. With so much at stake, it's no wonder people are quick to rush to court for redress.
Canadians are far less likely to sue in the first place, since they're not having to absorb devastating financial losses in addition to any physical losses when something goes awry. The cost of the damaging treatment will be covered. So will the cost of fixing it. And, no matter what happens, the victim will remain insured for life. When lawsuits do occur, the awards don't have to include coverage for future medical costs, which reduces the insurance company's liability.
3. Wait times in Canada are horrendous. True and False again -- it depends on which province you live in, and what's wrong with you. Canada's health care system runs on federal guidelines that ensure uniform standards of care, but each territory and province administers its own program. Some provinces don't plan their facilities well enough; in those, you can have waits. Some do better. As a general rule, the farther north you live, the harder it is to get to care, simply because the doctors and hospitals are concentrated in the south. But that's just as true in any rural county in the U.S.
You can hear the bitching about it no matter where you live, though. The percentage of Canadians who'd consider giving up their beloved system consistently languishes in the single digits. A few years ago, a TV show asked Canadians to name the Greatest Canadian in history; and in a broad national consensus, they gave the honor to Tommy Douglas, the Saskatchewan premier who is considered the father of the country's health care system. (And no, it had nothing to do with the fact that he was also Kiefer Sutherland's grandfather.). In spite of that, though, grousing about health care is still unofficially Canada's third national sport after curling and hockey.
And for the country's newspapers, it's a prime watchdogging opportunity. Any little thing goes sideways at the local hospital, and it's on the front pages the next day. Those kinds of stories sell papers, because everyone is invested in that system and has a personal stake in how well it functions. The American system might benefit from this kind of constant scrutiny, because it's certainly one of the things that keeps the quality high. But it also makes people think it's far worse than it is.
Critics should be reminded that the American system is not exactly instant-on, either. When I lived in California, I had excellent insurance, and got my care through one of the best university-based systems in the nation. Yet I routinely had to wait anywhere from six to twelve weeks to get in to see a specialist. Non-emergency surgical waits could be anywhere from four weeks to four months. After two years in the BC system, I'm finding the experience to be pretty much comparable, and often better. The notable exception is MRIs, which were easy in California, but can take many months to get here. (It's the number one thing people go over the border for.) Other than that, urban Canadians get care about as fast as urban Americans do.
4. You have to wait forever to get a family doctor. False for the vast majority of Canadians, but True for a few. Again, it all depends on where you live. I live in suburban Vancouver, and there are any number of first-rate GPs in my neighborhood who are taking new patients. If you don't have a working relationship with one, but need to see a doctor now, there are 24-hour urgent care clinics in most neighborhoods that will usually get you in and out on the minor stuff in under an hour.
It is, absolutely, harder to get to a doctor if you live out in a small town, or up in the territories. But that's just as true in the U.S. -- and in America, the government won't cover the airfare for rural folk to come down to the city for needed treatment, which all the provincial plans do.
5. You don't get to choose your own doctor. Scurrilously False. Somebody, somewhere, is getting paid a lot of money to make this kind of stuff up. The cons love to scare the kids with stories about the government picking your doctor for you, and you don't get a choice. Be afraid! Be very afraid!
For the record: Canadians pick their own doctors, just like Americans do. And not only that: since it all pays the same, poor Canadians have exactly the same access to the country's top specialists that rich ones do.
6. Canada's care plan only covers the basics. You're still on your own for any extras, including prescription drugs. And you still have to pay for it. True -- but not as big an issue as you might think. The province does charge a small monthly premium (ours is $108/month for a family of four) for the basic coverage. However, most people never even have to write that check: almost all employers pick up the tab for their employees' premiums as part of the standard benefits package; and the province covers it for people on public assistance or disability.
"The basics" covered by this plan include 100% of all doctor's fees, ambulance fares, tests, and everything that happens in a hospital -- in other words, the really big-ticket items that routinely drive American families into bankruptcy. In BC, it doesn't include "extras" like medical equipment, prescriptions, physical therapy or chiropractic care, dental, vision, and so on; and if you want a private or semi-private room with TV and phone, that costs extra (about what you'd pay for a room in a middling hotel). That other stuff does add up; but it's far easier to afford if you're not having to cover the big expenses, too. Furthermore: you can deduct any out-of-pocket health expenses you do have to pay off your income taxes. And, as every American knows by now, drugs aren't nearly as expensive here, either.
Filling the gap between the basics and the extras is the job of the country's remaining private health insurers. Since they're off the hook for the ruinously expensive big-ticket items that can put their own profits at risk, the insurance companies make a tidy business out of offering inexpensive policies that cover all those smaller, more predictable expenses. Top-quality add-on policies typically run in the ballpark of $75 per person in a family per month -- about $300 for a family of four -- if you're stuck buying an individual plan. Group plans are cheap enough that even small employers can afford to offer them as a routine benefit. An average working Canadian with employer-paid basic care and supplemental insurance gets free coverage equal to the best policies now only offered at a few of America's largest corporations. And that employer is probably only paying a couple hundred dollars a month to provide that benefit.
7. Canadian drugs are not the same. More preposterious bogosity. They are exactly the same drugs, made by the same pharmaceutical companies, often in the same factories. The Canadian drug distribution system, however, has much tighter oversight; and pharmacies and pharmacists are more closely regulated. If there is a difference in Canadian drugs at all, they're actually likely to be safer.
Also: pharmacists here dispense what the doctors tell them to dispense, the first time, without moralizing. I know. It's amazing.
8. Publicly-funded programs will inevitably lead to rationed health care, particularly for the elderly. False. And bogglingly so. The papers would have a field day if there was the barest hint that this might be true.
One of the things that constantly amazes me here is how well-cared-for the elderly and disabled you see on the streets here are. No, these people are not being thrown out on the curb. In fact, they live longer, healthier, and more productive lives because they're getting a constant level of care that ensures small things get treated before they become big problems.
The health care system also makes it easier on their caregiving adult children, who have more time to look in on Mom and take her on outings because they aren't working 60-hour weeks trying to hold onto a job that gives them insurance.
9. People won't be responsible for their own health if they're not being forced to pay for the consequences. False. The philosophical basis of America's privatized health care system might best be characterized as medical Calvinism. It's fascinating to watch well-educated secularists who recoil at the Protestant obsession with personal virtue, prosperity as a cardinal sign of election by God, and total responsibility for one's own salvation turn into fire-eyed, moralizing True Believers when it comes to the subject of Taking Responsibility For One's Own Health.
They'll insist that health, like salvation, is entirely in our own hands. If you just have the character and self-discipline to stick to an abstemious regime of careful diet, clean living, and frequent sweat offerings to the Great Treadmill God, you'll never get sick. (Like all good theologies, there's even an unspoken promise of immortality: f you do it really really right, they imply, you might even live forever.) The virtuous Elect can be discerned by their svelte figures and low cholesterol numbers. From here, it's a short leap to the conviction that those who suffer from chronic conditions are victims of their own weaknesses, and simply getting what they deserve. Part of their punishment is being forced to pay for the expensive, heavily marketed pharmaceuticals needed to alleviate these avoidable illnesses. They can't complain. It was their own damned fault; and it's not our responsibility to pay for their sins. In fact, it's recently been suggested that they be shunned, lest they lead the virtuous into sin.
Of course, this is bad theology whether you're applying it to the state of one's soul or one's arteries. The fact is that bad genes, bad luck, and the ravages of age eventually take their toll on all of us -- even the most careful of us. The economics of the Canadian system reflect this very different philosophy: it's built on the belief that maintaining health is not an individual responsibility, but a collective one. Since none of us controls fate, the least we can do is be there for each other as our numbers come up.
This difference is expressed in a few different ways. First: Canadians tend to think of tending to one's health as one of your duties as a citizen. You do what's right because you don't want to take up space in the system, or put that burden on your fellow taxpayers. Second, "taking care of yourself" has a slightly expanded definition here, which includes a greater emphasis on public health. Canadians are serious about not coming to work if you're contagious, and seeing a doctor ASAP if you need to. Staying healthy includes not only diet and exercise; but also taking care to keep your germs to yourself, avoiding stress, and getting things treated while they're still small and cheap to fix.
Third, there's a somewhat larger awareness that stress leads to big-ticket illnesses -- and a somewhat lower cultural tolerance for employers who put people in high-stress situations. Nobody wants to pick up the tab for their greed. And finally, there's a generally greater acceptance on the part of both the elderly and their families that end-of-life heroics may be drawing resources away from people who might put them to better use. You can have them if you want them; but reasonable and compassionate people should be able to take the larger view.
The bottom line: When it comes to getting people to make healthy choices, appealing to their sense of the common good seems to work at least as well as Calvinist moralizing.
10. This all sounds great -- but the taxes to cover it are just unaffordable. And besides, isn't the system in bad financial shape? False. On one hand, our annual Canadian tax bite runs about 10% higher than our U.S. taxes did. On the other, we're not paying out the equivalent of two new car payments every month to keep the family insured here. When you balance out the difference, we're actually money ahead. When you factor in the greatly increased social stability that follows when everybody's getting their necessary health care, the impact on our quality of life becomes even more signficant.
And True -- but only because this is a universal truth that we need to make our peace with. Yes, the provincial plans are always struggling. So is every single publicly-funded health care system in the world, including the VA and Medicare. There's always tension between what the users of the system want, and what the taxpayers are willing to pay. The balance of power ebbs and flows between them; but no matter where it lies at any given moment, at least one of the pair is always going to be at least somewhat unhappy.
But, as many of us know all too well, there's also constant tension between what patients want and what private insurers are willing to pay. At least when it's in government hands, we can demand some accountability. And my experience in Canada has convinced me that this accountability is what makes all the difference between the two systems.
It is true that Canada's system is not the same as the U.S. system. It's designed to deliver a somewhat different product, to a population that has somewhat different expectations. But the end result is that the vast majority of Canadians get the vast majority of what they need the vast majority of the time. It'll be a good day when when Americans can hold their heads high and proudly make that same declaration.
[Thanks to June Hughes for this article]
"Delegation by trustees to experts is allowed: abdication by trustees is not"
.....~ Board Governance and Responsibility, STRS Board Retreat 2008


RH Jones: Palatial environment a most desirable workplace

From RH Jones, February 5, 2008
Subject: What's it like being an STRS retiree? What is the misconception about CORE members' feelings toward the STRS staff?
John, Lloyd, & Wayne.
My thinking is that all three of you are right on target. However, in these hard times, the STRS associates, and all who are employed at our STRS, are very lucky to even be employed. The STRS is a system that offers employees both good pay, benefits, and security not often found in any alternate jobs. And, in stark contrast to the school buildings that I taught in, their work environment is most certainly desirably palatial and secure for them personally and for their automobiles.
If I were younger, and lived in or near Columbus, I would be delighted to be employed by this OUTSTANDING retired public school teacher organization. And If any associate's morale is so low as to have an effect on his/her job performance, perhaps it would be best for them, and us, if they should seek employment elsewhere. I am reasonably sure that there would by many excellent applicants for their vacated positions.
That's my opinion,
RHJones, a STRS retired member

Molly Janczyk to STRS Board: Stop blaming and start reaching out to all

From Molly Janczyk, February 4, 2008
Subject: Comments: Report to OEA-R On Recent STRS Board Activities
Regarding the report below:
I spoke with some attendees and Board members at the Retreat.
John Lazares, for one, said he spoke up to the presenter pointing out this was over-reaction. He said, "We will still need our checks and balances which some call micromanaging." He felt the presenters were getting their info from some Board members.
John tries to be fair to all and unbiased. He was a big help in moving along the vote on Legal Fees stating: "We are very close; what do we need to do to get this done?" He asked for wording all could agree upon.
Craig Brooks also was a motivating source to pass the Severance Option stating clearly #1 states such and #2 states such.
I think both these men are good examples of where the Board should be: Questions, discussion, then what will it take to get this done?
It is not for a union to decide what is big and what is small in members' minds. I agree time should not be wasted and facilitation to move items along with questions and statements above should be used to clarify and vote on issues.
ALL must come with open minds having researched properly according to the Stanford Principles knowledgeable enough to understand needed areas of concern vs. simply ready to follow majority. I do not believe in unity for the sake of unity if something is clearly wrong. That is how we got into this trouble.
I believe that any highly experienced and qualified Exec. Direc. has had experience with working Boards vs. simply agreeable ones. I do think ALL should make efforts to engage, respect, hear and work with each other while debating and following their well researched high standards of learning on each topic in order to make determinations.
Inquire, monitor, discuss, listen, and leave personal feelings out of it because they have NO place when deciding what is in the best interest of membership IF Board members are there for the ORC: ALL are there solely for membership benefit and must always ask only that of themselves. None of us is right all the time and all of us must find ways to resolve issues. Put out solutions, policies, rework and redefine until all can agree. Stop blaming and start reaching out to all. It is a must as this is what you see across from you is what you have to work with and what you must use to make inroads for STRS membership.
This is the DUTY of every Board member regardless of personal slant or affiliation. Union has NO place on the Board. Making decisions based on union experience has NO place on the Board. Only clear, open minds ready to learn all they can about an issue and how it impacts membership-nothing else according to 3307:15.
I hope to see more of the facilitation I saw from Lazares and Brooks at the retreat. It got to the point following discussion and moved to resolve in a timely manner. Bring what you need to the table to move productively. You ALL have so little time really in the big picture to effect change. This is it! It is not a dress rehearsal.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 04, 2008

Duane Tron responds to the writer from STRS Ohio

From Duane Tron, February 4, 2008
Not a single retiree I know has ever questioned the value and hard work on the part of ALL associates serving at STRS. I have never witnessed a single incident where I felt that any STRS associate provided anything less than outstanding service to ALL retirees. Our dissatisfaction has been, and for me, is still about senior management at STRS and the OEA-controlled STRS Board.
Many like myself have been negatively affected by poor decision making on the part of a few and to the detriment of many. My views in no way reflect adversely on STRS associates. I know that the overwhelming majority of retirees feel the same as me. As an STRS associate put yourself in our place. I retired at a much lower rate in 1998. Then four years later I was informed that the spousal subsidy for health insurance was being done away with and we would be required to pay 100% of the cost of health insurance for our spouses ($10,600.00 for us). My wife and I have been married for 43 years; dropping health insurance for my wife is not even a consideration even though she told me to drop her.
My best years as a member of STRS were never even close to what many associates earn at STRS. As of January 1, 2008, I am paying in excess of $17,000.00 annually for health insurance, co-pays, deductibles, and prescription costs. This is taking away roughly one half of my annual compensation because of these unnecessary changes that were dumped on us by the OEA-controlled board; a board that lacks any vision and compassion for the people they represent. This board has undermined thousands of retirees and for no other reason than they lack the qualifications and skills to lead a multi-billion dollar business. Place yourself in my shoes and try and empathize with what thousands of us are now having to deal with.
None of this was brought about because of the STRS associates and your service to us. This wasn't caused by the rank and file working at STRS. My anger and disgust in no way has ever been directed at those serving us throughout STRS. My anger has been, and continues to be at those who have abused so many, and done so with little hesitation and no conscience. If there are associates who feel that we are targeting you please note that you are sadly misinformed and I am very sorry! Herb Dyer generated a great deal of ill will and bad feelings among retirees and none of it was ever directed at STRS associates. If the STRS executive director and a few STRS board members responded to the needs of retirees with the same compassion and level of conscience as STRS associates there wouldn't be any serious issues or concerns within the system for retirees and CORE wouldn't exist. Sadly this has not been the case!
Duane E. Tron
St. Paris, OH 43072

Labels: , , , ,

Lloyd Knudsen responds to STRS Ohio writer

From Lloyd Knudsen, February 4, 2008
Subject: Re: STRS Associates are just regular people
Dear [xxx]...
My name is Lloyd Knudsen. I was the speechmaker that you referenced in Kathie B's blog. Kathie forwarded your e-mail to me so I thought I would respond to your comments.
The overall theme of your e-mail asserts that CORE has criticized and not respected the "normal associates" that work for STRS. Nothing could be further from the truth. CORE has always respected AND praised the efforts of the rank-and-file STRS staff. If you look back at my quoted words from your e-mail I said, "our STRS staff (that day in and day out does an excellent job)" is an indication of the regard CORE has for the STRS staff.
As for the criticism comment, CORE members have never criticized the regular STRS staff. We value their daily efforts on our behalf. But we have leveled considerable criticism at the senior STRS staff, past STRS Boards and their combined decisions. In my opinion, that criticism has been completely justified.
To me the most disturbing comment you made in your e-mail was that "The associates have had low morale and a sometimes general dislike for their jobs since CORE has become involved with the practices at STRS." If I link that comment with an earlier claim in your e-mail that "The general staff has had so many things taken away..." I assume you're blaming all those losses on CORE, also? Let me put you in the shoes of an STRS retiree and see if you might get a different perspective.
The months and years following 9/11 were bad economic times for STRS. STRS estimated they had "lost" 25-30% of their value during the resulting stock market decline. However, at STRS, business proceeded as usual. No big layoffs, bonuses still being paid, childcare was still being fully subsidized, adoption bonuses paid, etc, etc. Why did the STRS brass AND STRS Board not panic? Because according to their in-house financial experts this 25-30% loss was only a "paper loss" and they would surely earn it back. No big deal--not to worry.
But what that economic downturn did do was to immediately affect the retired and active teacher. The 13th check (the retiree's version of the STRS employee bonus plan) was stopped after years and years of being paid out. Active teachers had their STRS withholding deduction increased to 10% in July, 2003. With the loss in STRS value, the system now began allocating fewer dollars to the health care fund. Something or someone had to help offset that shortfall. That job fell to retirees. Retiree health care premiums increased dramatically. Coverage declined appreciably. Premiums for spouses and dependents were no longer subsidized. Talk about having some things taken away and lowering your morale. Retirees have been there.
Retirees were being asked to sacrifice. Teachers in their profession are used to sacrificing. How many occupations do employees spend their own money to help them do their job? Very few. In schools when money is tight teachers expect layoffs. They expect to teach more classes and have more students often with little or no raise. But teachers also knew that the parents were paying more for their children's books. School bus transportation was often stopped. Sports, clubs and extras were eliminated. But the saving grace was that it was a "shared sacrifice" for both teachers, kids and parents.
Retirees didn't see STRS sharing the sacrifice in its hard financial times. STRS was asking a lot from its actives and retirees but little from itself! It was business as usual at STRS. Thus, CORE was formed. In May, 2003 Dr. Dennis Leone presented the STRS Board with a list of changes STRS could make that would share the sacrifice. Yes, it bothered many retirees to see the STRS staff have numerous perks that they never imagined in their jobs. But CORE was NOT formed to take things away from the STRS staff. It was formed to bring back a sense of fairness to the sacrifices every member of the STRS system needed to make. That included active teachers, retired teachers, STRS staff members and the STRS Board.
In conclusion, I know this is more information than you needed. I know employee morale has suffered but understand retirees know that feeling also. I hope the truth is that STRS is somewhere between the "excellent" employer I called it in my speech and just a "decent" job in your words. CORE believes in the importance of the STRS staff's work and the value they add to this organization. Thanks for listening.
Lloyd Knudsen
A former STRS consultant called STRS the "Cadillac" of public pension funds. I suspect partly because of the excellent employee package available to the STRS staff.

Labels: , , ,

Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
web page counter
Vermont Teddy Bear Company