Saturday, April 16, 2011

RH Jones: Inflation and the STRS April 2011 report

From RH Jones, April 16, 2011

To all:
When Martin Essex was the Akron Superintendent, he liked to give us “across the board” $250 per year raises. In this case, a new teacher got the same raise as the highest paid veteran educator. That was unfair distribution of teacher salary. The STRS, April 2011, plan for HC/Rx is an “across the board” cut for retired annuitant members! A cut without a fair computation, places an unfair financial burden on retirees with to lowest pension income.
Across the board cuts may be easy to compute for the STRS officials, but it is nonetheless unreasonable. Using the fair computer calculation of the formula in the STRS supplemental benefit fund (13th check) would be a better way to award surpluses as well as shortfalls such as the HC/Rx; and, by the way, this was promised to us at the time we teachers decided on retirement. Also, of note, is that: as our 33 1/3% simple COLA reduction is being considered, inflation is on the rise. The Beacon reports today, 04/16/2011, “The Consumer Price Index rose 0.5 percent in March, the Labor Department said Friday. That matched the February increase.” …
By our STRS concentrating on solving the 30-year amortization, the officials in reducing retiree HC/Rx in the past few years for retired teachers, have created financial problems for us. And now they want to do it with future periodic yearly reductions. (See the STRS April Board News) Besides these proposed reductions, even Medicare is reducing their payments.
It is bad enough that the GOP ultra-right wing politicians are trying to Grab Our Pension and gut it even further, to have the STRS board and employed officials, which we gave a paycheck to over the number of years we worked, is, to me, “beyond the pale”. They, the STRS board and employees, know full well that employers, over the last 25-inflationary years, failed to increase their fair share of STRS contributions (active teachers had two), and with the overly generous 35yr./88+% final average award for recent retired educators, the uncalled for overly generous bonuses, and some STRS investment snafus, has placed the STRS in a financial predicament. Granted the STRS executives have cut employee, and operation costs, and that has helped some; but, to put the largest burden especially on retirees who retired before the 35/88+ award is not right and should be corrected immediately.
Further, we have retiree representation by a milquetoast ORTA who have not been effective in representing us in staving off the reductions in our pension mentioned above. Without CORE, retired educators would be nearly voiceless at our STRS and in our Ohio statehouse. Is it not time that the burden is shifted away from retired pensioners to others who can better afford the downward adjustments in their income? For retired teachers, enough is enough, already. This is the personal opinion of:
RHJones, a proud member of CORE

Teachers to Republican Legislators re: Merit Pay

From Debbie Lack, April 16, 2011

Dear State of Ohio Republican Legislators,
We are taxpayers and voters in this state. Oh yes, we are also teachers.
As such we are trying to understand the provisions of SB5 that will so deeply affect our lives. While we are puzzled why you are trying to balance the budget on the backs of dedicated public servants instead of those who brought this economic calamity upon all of us, we are particularly mystified by the Merit Pay provision you’ve included since no one, including you, has ever defined or explained it. As teachers we’d like to give you a little quiz on Merit Pay to assess your understanding of this provision (I’m sure you’d be glad to comply as you are such proponents of the merits of standardized testing).
ESSAY Question #1: Please define and/or describe fully Merit Pay, using specific logical examples to back up your answer.
Too hard? No specifics coming to mind? No statistics to prove Merit Pay can or has ever worked?
Then let us help you with a study guide of questions because, as conscientious teachers, we want our students to succeed rather than entrapping them in a test of “gotcha.”
  1. Merit Pay based on standardized test results: Will the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) success rate be used for individual teachers? Since the test is given in 10th grade in Reading, Writing, Social Studies, Math, and Science, will only 10th grade teachers receive Merit Pay? What happens to Spanish teachers, Art teachers, Physical Education teachers, Business teachers?….well, you get the picture. Does the 10th grade teacher with honors students get the same Merit Pay scale as the 10th grade teacher with 16 separate Individualized Education (IEP) students included in his/her class? Do teachers get to pick the students in their classes, as bankers get to pick to whom they give a loan? Will teachers get less Merit Pay if their students newly arrived from other countries score low, or can they just turn them over to Immigration and Naturalization for deportation, legal or not, and will that earn Merit Pay? Will public school districts get to choose the students who will attend their schools, as private schools do, so they can eliminate low scorers before they can be counted in their OGT results?
  2. Merit Pay based on student evaluations: Will teachers be rated by their students when they demand the best from them and thus make students work hard, often causing students to complain (low rating predicted here)? Will teachers be rated by students 1 or 2 or 5 years down the road, when their students email or call or write and thank them for teaching them work habits that are paying off in college or their jobs? Will those scores be averaged, or will the better score wipe out the worse score?
  3. Merit Pay based on parent evaluations: Will parents spend all day every day in the classroom to observe the teachers’ techniques, read all the lesson plans, witness the individualized attention given to each student? (Of course the rooms will get rather crowded since class sizes are rising as schools cut teachers.)Will teachers who hold their students to a high standard lose Merit Pay when a parent complains his daughter cannot play soccer or her son won’t get into his first choice college because of the C the teacher “gave” ?
  4. Merit Pay based on extra-contractual work: I know this area of study surprises you because you didn’t know it would be on the quiz since you didn’t realize teachers work above and beyond their contracts every single day. Will the teacher who spends between $100 to $500 yearly on classroom supplies, at times food and clothes for his or her students, receive reimbursement for this money as well as Merit Pay, or will Merit Pay count as reimbursement? How many letters of recommendation or scholarship letters will a teacher have to write on his/ her own time to count for Merit Pay – 10, 20, 40+ as many teachers of seniors willingly do? Will teachers need to wear a monitoring device, so their extra hours before and after school in their classrooms grading or working with students, or weekends spent on lesson plans, grading, and the aforementioned letters of recommendation count for Merit Pay? Or will a simple affidavit from their spouses and children testifying to their absence from family functions be sufficient?
  5. Combat Pay: You’ll need to know that this is another term for Merit Pay in some schools or in some classrooms. How many times will a teacher need to be stabbed by a pair of scissors or sworn at to warrant Merit Pay? Will more Merit Pay be awarded if a teacher’s tires are slashed or his car keyed?
There will be an extra credit question, so think hard: when will a teacher be so good and earn so much Merit Pay that a district will let him or her go rather than pay that much?
We hope this study guide will enable you to answer our question about what Merit Pay looks like, as you enact legislation including this provision. We’re certain you would want to make your high school government teachers proud of the jobs you are doing serving the citizens of the state of Ohio.
As we await your answer, we’ll go back to doing what we do best: teaching the future generations of voters to preserve democracy in America.

Annie Brust, high school English teacher
Nicole Costigan, high school English teacher
Jeanette DiBernardo, high school English teacher
Joy Gray, high school English teacher
Emily Hope, high school English teacher
Anissa Smith, high school social studies teacher

P.S. Since Merit Pay is such a good idea, we know you’ll want to institute it for yourselves immediately as a cost saving measure for Ohio as well as a way to improve the quality of legislation since we the taxpayers pay YOUR salaries. We suggest you use the formula used to rank schools, as presented on the Ohio Department of Education’s website: “Ohio’s Value-added system uses an advanced methodology (Education Value-added Assessment System – EVAAS)… This helps assure the validity and usefulness of the resulting measures as they are used in high stakes applications. In addition to the value-added (school and district effects) measures derived from this methodology, Ohio uses EVAAS to compute its federally approved Growth Model (student level projections for AYP).” Confused? Sound like gibberish? Don’t worry – that’s for next week’s quiz.

Ralph Roshong's comments to STRS Board, April 14, 2011

Good afternoon STRS Board Members:
I am Ralph Roshong, a 1991 retiree and I thank you for allowing each of us to address you with our comments.
I would like you to know all of us, the retirees, thank you for the work you put forth in our behalf for our retirement program. I would like to offer a very WELL DONE to all the members of the staff in the three major departments, investments, benefits, and finance.
My comments today are directed primarily to the situation our state government created when they inserted the 12/12 article into the budget bill. Their idea to reduce the school board's participation rate to STRS from 14 to 12 % and increase the employee's rate from 10 to 12%, as you well know, has created chaos. The school board rate of 14% and the teacher's rate of 10% have been a standard for a very long time.
This smoke and mirror proposal, has all the earmarkings of what they did to the lottery profits many years ago. The original profits were provided to schools on a per student basis as additional funds to provide services outside staff costs. The Legislature promptly offset those monies as general fund foundation payments to the schools and reduced their original foundation payments. This is another example of looking as if they are reducing a local school board's cost, but taking it back plus more from future foundation payments.
The Legislature, two years ago, charged the five pension systems to come up with a financial plan to return our pension fund to a 30 year funding level. You have struggled to complete this task which was nearing completion and now this 12/12 debacle. My advice on this issue is to maintain your course toward your original goal of the school board's share to end up at 14% and the teacher's share to be at 13%. If the 12/12 plan is adopted by the Legislature, then the STRS plan must change to raise the school board's rate by 2 points to get back to 14 and raise the employee's rate by 1 point to get to 13, the STRS Board's original proposed goals.
I have heard some whispers that if the 12/12 stays in the budget, the COLA might have to be re-visited and as a retiree I don't like the sound of that idea. I supported the 1 point reduction very strongly, but would not support a 2 point reduction. In the unlikely situation of that occurring, I feel you must change the STRS proposals and call for the immediate implementation of all your proposed changes on new retirees and no 15 year or so implementation timeline. I have felt all along those criteria should be implemented as soon as possible.
I would again comment on the Performance Based Incentive Program, "BONUSES", which you just adopted. I feel the investment department should have a bonus program, but it should not take 19 pages to justify or explain it, and the differential percentages, 17-90, are totally unjustified. You already differentiate the staff's salary by responsibility criteria. The further geometric differentiation by these large percentages is, in my opinion, totally unwarranted. If the investment team has done a great job, the STRS Board should assign an appropriate bonus percentage to be applied uniformly to each of their salaries.
Thank you once again for listening to our comments.

Mansfield News Journal slams Kasich's education policy in an editorial.........

From John Curry, April 16, 2011
"It's easy to blame schools for our community's problems. Let's not make that state policy."
OUR OPINION: Don't blame schools for problems
Apr 16, 2011 | If there's one consistent trait of Ohio's governors, it's their desire to leave a personal mark on the state's education system.
Former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland wanted a longer school year, tougher standards and greater college access in his multi-faceted plan that never got off the ground thanks to politics and the state's budget crunch.
Now, his successor Republican John Kasich wants to change the game with his own ambitious ideas, including:
» Publicly ranking Ohio schools and rewarding those in the top 10 percent, while punishing those in the bottom 5.
» Creating "innovation" schools that, with staff and school board agreement, could get rid of most rules and create their own, possibly including longer class time.
» Doubling the number of school choice vouchers for students in failing districts and lifting Ohio's cap on charter schools.
» Encouraging schools to share services, but not consider consolidation of the state's 613 districts as some believe is necessary.
Kasich's ideas undoubtedly sound compelling to many Ohioans frustrated by the bureaucracy and cost of public education and, in some areas, the poor results we see in state report cards.
We're certainly supportive of removing burdensome unfunded mandates that so many school officials complain about consistently. We're all for making school districts as efficient as possible by consolidating administrative, transportation and other services where savings can be achieved to keep teachers in classrooms.
And we don't mind giving parents more choices, especially if schools are truly failing, as long as charter schools are properly operated.
But we fear Kasich's ambitions ignore one clear reality.
Schools don't always "fail" because the teachers and administrators can't get the job done. They more frequently struggle because educators can't get parents and guardians to make the necessary investments in time and effort to seize the opportunities provided by a public education, even in a district with scarce resources.
Consider that the Ohio Department of Education has found students are far more likely to graduate if they spend three consecutive years in a district, rather than moving constantly. Unfortunately, the trend is for urban students to move more often likely due to economic challenges many families face.
So the idea of "punishing" under-performing districts could prove to be quite unfair unless the criteria clearly consider a multitude of factors, including resources taxpayers provide to schools and parental support.
It takes much more than just good schools and teachers to help kids succeed in class and life. It takes a community willing to invest in its children, demand they graduate from high school and push them to attend college.
It's easy to blame schools for our community's problems. Let's not make that state policy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm Sorry I Became a Teacher....not really

By Alan Haskvitz
Alan Haskvitz is a member of the National Teachers Hall of Fame and has been recognized many times as one of the nation’s most successful and innovative teachers. Accounts of his students’ accomplishments have been featured in books, periodicals, and on national radio and television. He is a classroom teacher with experience at every grade level and every major subject area.
For over 45 years I have enjoyed making a living teaching. It hasn’t been easy or lucrative, but it had its rewards, one of which was a secure retirement plan.
Now, after reading the recent California Little Hoover Commission Report that recommends that public school retirements be reduced, even for those who are already retired, and the actions of the Wisconsin Republican Party in accusing teachers and their pensions and bargaining rights as mainly responsible for that state’s financial situation – I am sorry I became a teacher. I honestly didn’t mean to place so many states in danger of going bankrupt.
I also realize now that I am sorry to have chosen education as a career for other reasons. I am sorry that my wife may have to work until she is well beyond 70, enduring the rigors of 12 hour shifts as a nurse. I am sorry that I may become a burden to my children because my retirement income won’t cover the cost of extended care. I am sorry for those students I encouraged to become teachers, and for having told them to ignore the glow of the better paying professions.
I am sorry that the government is punishing me for being a civil servant by taking away over 60 percent of the Social Security benefits I had paid for during years of part-time work in the private sector to help put two children through college. I am sorry that, if I outlive my wife, I won’t be eligible for her Social Security benefits because I am a public servant.
I am sorry that the vast conservative media has chosen teachers as a target of loathing and hatred.
I am sorry that the right-wing politicians and conservative think tanks work to convince the public that education would work better if all schools were private.
I am sorry that the producers of Waiting for Superman didn’t travel a few miles farther to see my school and talk to the parents and students. I am sorry that the writers of the movie didn’t get a chance to see what is really happening in America’s schools. The bullying of educators, using misleading facts, is rampant. Most recently, Wisconsin teachers, fighting merely for the right to negotiate as a union, were accused of causing over seven million dollars of damages to the state capital building and grounds. The media spread that lie and never followed up with the fact that the damages never were properly assessed. Sorry to say, but this is just one example of the media’s bullying of teachers. When is the last time the public learned that 145,100 public school teachers were physically attacked and that 276,000 were threatened with injury? And they say the press is liberal?
I am also sorry that, as a teacher, I did such a poor job of teaching students to think for themselves, allowing the fear mongers to drug their critical thinking skills. I worry that I have done a poor job of teaching my students not to ask for proof when an organization says it offers fair and balanced news reporting.
Until today I never stopped to look at what my decision to become a teacher had cost. I wrote a letter to one of the commissioners on the Little Hoover Commission expressing how my decision to become a teacher had cost my family dearly and telling them that their findings made me sorry I had become a teacher.
The response was hardly unexpected. The secretary of the commissioner I wrote to responded by writing that teaching is a valued profession. But it’s apparently not valued enough for the commission to advise the California legislature not to leave the teacher retirement plan alone. After all, the budget has to be balanced and God-forbid there is a tax increase. Sorry to say, their recommendations, if followed, would result in extensive court battles, legal costs, and the possibility that teachers would continue to be the scapegoats whenever the economy is troubled. By the way, sorry to say, not one member of the Little Hoover Commission is a teacher or educator, and the commission is dominated by big business members. The findings of the Little Hoover Commission are not unexpected given President Hoover’s legacy.
I left the financial world after tiring of the constant manipulation of the general public in order to add to the company’s bottom line. I am sorry I didn’t fight my temptation to help others and instead stay in the corporate world with a secretary, parking spot, executive dining room, paid-for college courses, free health care, my own office, and a chance to continue to hobnob with the movers and shakers of the world, from Richard Nixon and king maker Asa Call, to Ronald Reagan. At age 22 I had my own upscale apartment in Los Angeles and a racing Cobra. Life was good and the pension plan was lucrative. I paid nothing into it. The company was going to move to a beach community and I would have been a made man. All I had to do was ignore my desire to help others.
Sorry, but I couldn’t resist; I entered a teaching college and, now, over 45 years later, I have a lot of apologies to hand out.
I know that my fellow teachers have spent decades teaching our students about the evils of bullying and to not tolerate it. The theme “Don’t be a Bystander” is one of our major lesson plans. And yet, I am sorry to say, we are now the ones being bullied. Perhaps it is time for us to join together and write letters, make phone calls, and express ourselves to our elected officials to let them know that there are millions of teachers who vote, and we won’t want them to be sorry.
Thanks to Don Gatchell for submitting this article.

STRS report on April 2011 Board meeting

From STRS, April 15, 2011
This week, the State Teachers Retirement Board held its monthly meeting. Following the regularly scheduled meetings, a report titled "Board News" is posted on the STRS Ohio Web site, as well as mailed to a number of members and education organization representatives who have requested it. As a member of STRS Ohio with an e-mail address on file, you will also receive this report each month. The April report follows.


On Feb. 1, House Bill 69, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, and Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. Keith Faber, were introduced as the vehicles to carry the changes being proposed by the five statewide public pension plans (including STRS Ohio) to strengthen the solvency of their respective pension funds. H.B. 69 was assigned to the Health and Aging Subcommittee on Retirement and Pensions, which is chaired by Rep. Kirk Schuring. The committee held a number of hearings; however, the last four scheduled meetings were cancelled in late March and early April. Schuring, Rep. Lynn Wachtmann and Sen. Keith Faber are working on language for a substitute pension reform bill. STRS Ohio will let members know when this revised bill is presented.

Other recent events at the Statehouse include the following:

- On April 7, Sen. Bill Seitz was replaced as the chair of the Senate's Government Oversight and Reform Committee, which had been hearing testimony on S.B. 3. Sen. Keith Faber is now leading the committee.

- On April 13, Rep. Richard Hollington introduced House Bill 202. This bill includes provisions dealing with reemployed public employees. Basically, it would require anyone who is receiving retirement benefits from one of the Ohio systems, including STRS Ohio, to forfeit $1 of their retirement benefit for each $2 earned above an annual threshold amount of $14,160. This threshold amount, or "excess earnings base" as it is referred to in the bill, would be adjusted each year by the actual average increase, if any, in the consumer price index (CPI).

Here's an example of how a reemployed retiree's pension could be reduced: Assume a retiree is receiving a yearly pension of $38,000. This individual returns to work in a public position covered by one of the Ohio retirement systems and receives an annual salary of $35,000. This salary exceeds the threshold amount of $14,160 by $20,840. The retiree's pension would be reduced by $10,420 (one-half of the excess amount). The bill's language does not detail how this new rule would be implemented, monitored or enforced.

- On April 13, Executive Director Michael Nehf submitted testimony to the House Finance and Appropriations Committee on House Bill 153, which is the state budget bill. His written remarks focused on the language in the bill that would limit the contributions for employers and employees to 12% from each. Nehf noted this change would result in the Retirement Board's proposed plan no longer meeting the 30-year funding requirement. The board's plan maintains the current level of employer contributions at 14% and increases member contributions by 3%, from the current level of 10% to a total of 13%. The resulting decrease in revenue from the contribution scenario contained in the budget bill would require additional cuts in benefits for STRS Ohio's active members and retirees and/or even more in contributions from members. As a result, Nehf requested removal of the 12-and-12 contribution language from H.B. 153. Complete text of the testimony can be found on the STRS Ohio Web site at:

At its April meeting, the Retirement Board received its first look at the proposed system budgets for fiscal year 2012 (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012). The proposed operating budget totals $89,732,800, a slight decrease from the current year's budgeted amount of $89,773,600. The current head count of 592 full- and part-time associates is not being increased in the coming year. The budget does include a 3% merit increase for eligible STRS Ohio associates, which, if approved, would end the three-year salary freeze that has been in effect for most associates since July 1, 2008. The budget also provides funds for several new initiatives, including an information technology controls audit and an asset/liability study of the investment funds. The proposed capital budget for fiscal year 2012 totals $2,277,100. The board will be asked to approve the budgets at its June meeting.

Throughout the fiscal year, the Retirement Board reviews each month's expenditures and year-to-date expenditure totals as part of its regular meetings. This information is also posted on STRS Ohio's Web site for members to view at:

The board took several actions during its April meeting affecting the calendar year 2012 STRS Ohio Health Care Program. The first action was to approve changing the premium subsidy received by benefit recipients by reducing the "years of service" multiplier to 2.1% from the current 2.5%. To help members adjust to the change, it will be phased in at a rate of 0.1% per year, beginning in 2012 and continuing through 2015. For 2012, the multiplier will be 2.4%. As an example: a benefit recipient with 30 or more years of service currently pays 25% of the premium cost; STRS Ohio pays 75% (30 years x 2.5% = 75%). Under a 2.4% multiplier, STRS Ohio will pay 72% of the premium cost in 2012 (30 years x 2.4% = 72%) and the benefit recipient's portion will be 28%. By 2015, a benefit recipient with 30 or more years of service will pay 37% of the premium cost.

The second action by the board affects future premiums for the AultCare, Kaiser and Paramount health care plans. This change will standardize the basis for the subsidy calculation across all plans. Beginning in 2012, the subsidies applied to these premiums will be further reduced based on the respective plan's full cost. This will result in a lower premium subsidy for the approximately 6,600 benefit recipients enrolled in these plans. Monthly premiums for 2012 for all health care plans will be available this summer.

These two changes should preserve an additional $22 million in the health care fund in 2012 and more than $85 million annually once fully implemented. However, it was noted that further significant changes to the health care program will be needed in the future to prevent the health care fund from becoming insolvent. Currently, the projected life of the health care program extends to 2024. This fall, the board will continue its work on a strategic plan for health care that will examine the potential for major changes in coverage features, program eligibility and/or premium subsidies, while evaluating the impact of changes that may occur at the federal and state levels regarding health care.

During this segment of the meeting, the board also approved continuation of the 2011 premium reimbursement amounts for Medicare Part B in 2012. The maximum reimbursement amount from STRS Ohio remains at $52.83 per month for the 30-year retiree; the minimum amount of reimbursement is $29.90 per month. Also, the Health Care Assistance Program will continue in 2012 with the same coverage level, eligibility requirements and $0 monthly premium.

The Retirement Board approved 165 active members and 108 inactive members for service retirement benefits.

The Member Education staff will begin offering weekly webcasts to help members who are retiring this summer. The live webcast - Retirement Countdown 2011 - will be offered every Wednesday from 4:30-5:30 p.m. from May 11 through June 29. Scheduling begins on April 18, with 100 logins available for each meeting. This webcast is targeted for members who have already met with a benefits counselor and have current retirement estimates, but need help completing the necessary paperwork or have questions about the various choices a member must make at retirement. Viewers will be able to submit questions at the end of the presentation, which will then be answered "on-air" during the webcast or in an e-mail following the broadcast's conclusion.

Call volume in STRS Ohio's Member Services Center increased by 10% or 3,000 calls in March 2011 compared to March 2010. The volume is about 400 more calls per day than in 2009. There has been a considerable increase in calls regarding service retirement. The center mailed out 786 service retirement packets this March compared to 283 in March 2010.

Concurrently, the volume of service retirement applications is also increasing. Each year, March brings a significant increase in submitted applications. This past March was no different, but the numbers were higher compared to the previous year. In March 2011, 1,529 service retirement applications were received, which is an increase of 260 over March 2010. Of the applications received, 1,370 were for summer retirement dates (June - 611, July - 723, August - 36). STRS Ohio received about 370 more applications from January through March compared to the same period in 2010.

The April Board News can also be viewed as a PDF by clicking the following link:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Vanishing Work Of Heart
In a sun baked, shabby classroom that's been made cozy yearly,
stands an icon to a soon vanishing work of heart.
Chasing dreams to split seams of reluctant young minds
and fill them with the joy of what teaching imparts.

In the scald of late summer, and through mid-winters gloom,
she can be found there daily from August till June,
whether pulling bus duty with the kids by the curb
or sharing witty blurbs to quell the boredom of verbs.

Leaving high school at sixteen and hungry for knowledge
she started teaching at twenty fresh faced out of college.
And not for the money it was a mere pittance then,
but for the sheer joy of sharing her education.

Helping struggling students on ways to be prudent
and praising them often when they showed great improvement.

For thirty-five years going on thirty-six,
she has taught both the honors as well as kids with conflicts.
bent over our kitchen table when school days were done
she's spent hours grading essays often reading me one.

Great works from some youthful exuberance spent,
testimonies to some of the talents she'd lent
then delighted she'd mark it 100%.

Often staying after school to work on backloads,
or for discipline meetings, bullying and dress codes.
working even on crutches, and through miserable colds.

Blamed for greed in the union that protected her rights,
her true union's with her students every day, many nights.

Don't pretend you can govern what teachers go through,
till you stand years in a classroom and do what they do.
all good teachers with tenure should be cherished most dearly,
they help guide younger teachers from hard lessons learned yearly.

They've handled what worst case scenarios brought
hands on, in their classrooms, in ways that can't be taught,
I could tell you some stories of the glory and grief,
that would start up a recall and change your belief.

But she'll still show up daily regardless of costs,
cause she knows it's the students who will suffer the loss,
She's cried many nights because soon she'll retire,
it's so hard to leave when you've still got the fire,

it's the kids she will miss, it's that bond that is made,
that is severed forever to go sit in the shade.
When her last class are seniors she'll be a senior too,
still holding great love for what she used to do.

Pat the back of a teacher, don't belittle the job,
cause truth is, in the end it's the kids who'll be robbed,
how many young souls do you think will apply
for a teacher's certificate as time goes by,
if they whittle away at school budgets and pay,
makes me wonder who'll be teaching my grandkids someday.

This poem is my tribute, cause I'm proud of my wife
she's reached hundreds of kids, sharing lessons for life.

ArtWhimsically Yours Studio
MFB III Productions -(C)-2011
Written by the husband of an Ohio teacher who must continue working beyond 35 years because he does not currently have a full time job and STRS spousal HC is out of sight. They still have a son in high school.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Joseph says what many are thinking.......
As predicted, Governor Kasich turns out to be one serious SOB
By Joseph On April 12, 2011 ·

As Brian discussed a few days ago Senator Seitz has been kicked off the government oversight committee, which he chaired, for disagreeing with Governor Kasich on SB5.

While Senate President Niehaus has taken responsibility for Seitz’s removal as committee chair, everyone knows Kasich was the motivating force behind the decision, and everyone knows the reason why, including Seitz:

“I will not speak to the motivation behind it because it was not my decision,” Seitz said. “But having been removed from one committee weeks ago and now being removed from another, it brings to mind res ipsa loquitur, which in Latin means ‘the thing speaks for itself.’”

Kasich punishing people who oppose him shouldn’t surprise anyone. Plunderbund spent the entire campaign highlighting example upon example of Kasich acting like a gigantic ass. And since he’s become Governor things have only gotten worse.

A police officer gives Kasich a ticket and two years later he’s still ranting to anyone who will listen about what “an idiot” the officer was.

The teachers’ unions opposed Kasich during the last election and he promises to break their backs if they don’t take out a full page ad apologizing.

An EPA employee talks to the press about one of Kasich’s lies and he forces the entire staff of the agency to come to Columbus so he can berate them.

Of course, that wasn’t enough for Angry John so then proceeded to push a legislative agenda that completely screws teachers, police officers and every state worker.

We’ve seen it time and time again: If you cross John Kasich, you WILL feel his wrath. If you cross John Kasich, he will not forget. He’s like a big, angry, vindictive, awesome-memory-having elephant who has suddenly found himself in a position of power; a pissed-off pachyderm with pointy tusks running through town gouging out the hearts of anyone who ever looked at him the wrong way.

First-hand accounts from multiple sources show that even more nasty behavior is happening behind the scenes.

For example, one of the first things Kasich did when he was elected Governor was to send his lackeys around the state to send a warning to Ohio’s lobbying firms: if you hire Strickland staffers will get ignored by the new administration.

He did the same thing with some of Ohio’s industry associations, going so far as to insist they fire people they had already hired if they wanted a seat at the table.

He has even hunted down and fired state employees who were hired by Governor Strickland. Going so far as the reclassify the positions they held to enable him to fire them. And he’s threatened long-serving classified employees in order to get them to reveal the names of Strickland appointees during his witch hunt.

And the angry and vindictive behavior isn’t constrained by party lines. I’ve also heard Kasich threatened legislators from his own party to get them to vote for SB5 and now he’s punishing the ones who didn’t heed his warning.

We tried to warn you. We really did. And we weren’t the only ones. Example after example of Kasich’s dickish behavior was revealed during the campaign, including a long list in an article by Lyndsey Teeter of the Other Paper who asked her readers:Does Ohio need an SOB as Governor?

Not surprisingly, this is exactly what we ended up with.

Mario responds to Nancy Hamant

From Mario Iacone, April 13, 2011

Nancy is correct with respect to #1 as it stands alone.

I apologize as I did not intend for #1 to stand alone, but, be considered in conjunction with #6. I should have more directly stated so.

The amended version follows.

ONE TWO PERCENT (2%) REDUCTION in BOARD / EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTIONS as part of the Kasich Budget Package. Kasich claims that schools will save 229 million which means that the pension system(s) stand to LOSE 229 MILLION OR MORE IN CONTRIBUTIONS, YEARLY because STRS, as a result of the Kasich budget change, will probably not get the 3% increase in teacher contributions for which they asked. SEE #6. .................................................................
SIX STRS MAY LOSE THE 3% EMPLOYEE CONTRIBUTIONS INCREASE CURRENTLY NEEDED TO OBTAIN THE 30 YEAR FUNDING PERIOD because the Kasich budget already increases employee contributions by 2% to offset the 2% employer decrease. State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, who proposed the bill already in the legislature....................does not think the legislature will increase employee contributions by 3 percent on top of the increase to 12 percent that Kasich proposed.


Emailing: Petitions Should be Ready By the 18th of April from your Local OEA Office

Dave Parshall to John Curry, April 13, 2011
John send this out to CORE members. Those CORE members who realize that all educators have a stake in SB 5 and what happens to our old profession and its effect on retirees, not to mention all workers and the middle class in a democratic society, may be interested in this information. CORE has taken a stand (against SB 5) to support retirees' benefits. I hope to have petitions in hand after the 18th.
Dave Parshall

More info from Dave re: circulating referendum petitions

From Dave Parshall, April 13, 2011
Petitions Should be Ready By the 18th of April from you Local OEA Office. Call ahead because there may be some delay by the Secretary of State.
Important Information I learned from We Are Ohio/OEA training about SB 5 Petition Circulating.
1. A circulator must be a U.S. Citizen.
2. A circulator cannot have a felony conviction for which they are still on probation.
3. A circulator shall be: 18 year of age or older, be an Ohio Citizen.
4. A circulator does not need to be a registered voter.
5. A circulator must complete the Solicitor Form and you must:
1. Print your name and sign the form at the bottom.
2. Count all lines that are signed as complete even if a person crosses their name off the petition.
3. Leave blank the space on the Solicitor form that ask---Employed for Compensation.
4. Each Petition is for only one County and all that sign must be residents of that County.
5. You must witness each signature personally.
6. Signers must both sign (in cursive) and print their names legibly.
7. Signature must be in Blue or Black ink.
8. Ditto marks are not allowed on the petitions
9. Do not photocopy or disassemble a petition or Solicitor forms. They must be the original.
10. Do not allow anyone to sign for another person.
11. Any violation found on the petition will disqualify the whole petition.
Dave Parshall Trainee, now a Trainer.

[I might add: separate petitions for different counties; in other words, people from different counties cannot sign the same sheet; signers must also be registered voters. KBB]

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


From RH Jones, April 12, 2011
To Mario Iacone, ORTA Director Hanning and ORTA President Butts:
How can ORTA not be involved in such harmful legislation as Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Shannon Jones (R), that will cause our retired teacher moderate standard of living to plummet? Is OTRA so unenlightened as not to know of the consequences that their uninvolvement certainly has, and will cause? And, how about active teachers, and our STRs to pressure ORTA to move on this. They both have a stake in the outcome of SB 5. Is only a few of us contacting ORTA? We do need help to convince them of the importance of "kill the bill".
Thanks Mario. I am proud to forward this to those that will get involved.
RHJones, a sad Life Member of ORTA and a proud member of CORE


From Nancy Hamant, April 12, 2011

I don't believe #1 is accurate, all the rest are correct in their assumptions. In #1 Kasich has said reduction of 2% of the current 14% that districts pay for pensions will amount to $229 million. However, teachers will have their STRS pension contributions will raise from 10% to 12%. Even though the shift is 2% for both districts and teachers, the end result for the pension is not a "wash" or no change. All kinds of interactions, such as some teachers leaving the profession and consequently withdrawing their 12% from the Pension Fund will cause reductions to the Pension Fund. An actuary would have to determine all of the parameters than calculate the projected impact on the Pension Fund, but there will be a loss to the Pension Fund.

Association of American Educators?

Teachers FOR SB 5? (Not so fast...)
By ModernEsquire
April 12, 2011

Over at ThirdBasePolitics, I saw a post boasting about a “teachers’ organization” that is publicly in support of SB 5. The organization is called “Association of American Educators,” who had an issued statement in favor of SB 5 that was included in a report by WEWS Channel 5 in Cleveland last week.

Since I thought I was aware of most major players in education, I was surprised to hear of this teachers’ organization that supported SB 5. When I went to their website, I realized why I hadn’t heard about them: they’re located in California. And while they have State chapters in nine States, Ohio isn’t one of them.

What’s also surprising is that their statement in support of SB 5 omits any indication of how many, if any, members they have are from Ohio, which is remarkable since they’re being quoted in a news story as attitudes about the referendum on SB 5 in Ohio. I contacted the AAE to ask how many of their “300,000” teachers nationwide are from Ohio. If they return my call, I’ll update my story with the number. What is telling is that so far the AAE has never featured an Ohio member in its statement’s about SB 5.

What’s even more remarkable is that you can join AAE and have no background in teaching at all. Yes, this is a non-union organization that claims to represent teachers that doesn’t restrict its membership to teachers or former teachers. And this doesn’t just apply to membership. The organization was founded in 1994 and is still lead by Gary Beckner, who has no experience as an educator, nor does its Associate Director or its Director of National Projects (who came over from the Heritage Foundation).

And AAE is not “just interested in the kids” as TBP pretends. It’s main drive is to oppose unions in education. Again just look at this Dispatch column by Mr. Beckner. The AAE is an astroturfing organization that is designed to promote charter schools and “right-to-work” laws in education. That’s why it’s no surprise to see the organization regularly team up with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation to oppose public school unions.

And it makes sense given that both the AAE’s Foundation gets donations from conservative donors like:

Many of whom also donate to anti-union, so-called “Right to Work” organizations like the NRWLDF, FreedomWorks, and Americans for Prosperity.

But that’s not all the AAE’s undisclosed conflicts, as this AAE hit piece on the NEA demonstrates, they’re interesting in replacing the NEA as the premiere “teachers” organization on public education policy matters. The AAE doesn’t just want the NEA to lose the ability to collect dues; the AAE wants to pick them up from the NEA. So no, AAE isn’t in it “just for the kids.” Hardly. They support SB 5 because they view the NEA and other teacher unions as competitors to their efforts to collect dues and sell insurance policies to their members.

So what we’ve got is a conservative, anti-union astroturfing organization that is supporting the legislative agenda of Americans for Prosperity, which shares some of the same major institutional donors. Americans for Prosperity who is also training the Tea Party organizations to serve as “grass roots” organizations that support SB 5 as well. It’s the conservative circle of astroturfing.

Don’t forget Third Base Politics is no stranger to astroturfing. All last year it served as an astroturfing outfit for the Kasich campaign while its main writer, an out-0f-state resident, was getting paid over $11k by the Ohio GOP to attack Strickland on the Internet. Now, it’s throwing up California-made astroturf and declaring it grassroots support for SB 5. Maybe after awhile that plastic grass really does start to look real. It sure seemed to fool the media.

Sen. Jones, former trooper have heated exchange!

From Ryan Holderman, April 12, 2011
Sen. Jones, former trooper have heated exchange about S.B. 5
By Ed Richter, Staff Writer
The Western Star, April 12, 2011
LEBANON — Meetings of the Lebanon Tea Party usually inspire spirited debate about current issues, but Monday’s meeting featured a shouting match between a state senator and a retired state trooper.
State Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Springboro, was speaking to about 75 people at the Warren County Fairgrounds about what’s next for Senate Bill 5, the new law that would weaken public workers’ collective bargaining rights. It was the second time Jones has spoken about the legislation she sponsored since Gov. John Kasich signed it into law.
Jones said if a referendum is placed on the ballot, the new law set to become effective July 1 would not take effect until voters decide its fate in November.
“I think it’s incredibly important that our councils and school boards have the flexibility to operate when there are declining revenues,” she said, noting that the state cannot continue a system where seniority is the main factor that allows annual salary increases.
As Jones took questions, Dennis Gorski, a retired state trooper and a past president of the Ohio State Troopers Association, said, “there’s so much misinformation out there. You’ve never worked with unions.”
Jones said Gorski didn’t know who she has met or consulted with.
“I think Senate Bill 5 stinks,” he said.
“When did police officers, firemen and teachers become the bad guys?” Gorski asked as some in the audience began shouting him down.
Jones said, “We’re out of money. We have to give management the flexibility... This system protects the worst teachers in the system.”
Gorski, a Lebanon resident who said he has three children who are teachers and a son-in-law who is a principal, left after making his comments.
Gorski said he spent 30 years in law enforcement and served eight years on the OSP’s retirement system board. He retired from the OSP four years ago.

Monday, April 11, 2011


From Mario Iacone, April 11, 2011
TWO PERCENT (2%) REDUCTION in BOARD / EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTIONS as part of the Kasich Budget Package. Kasich claims that schools will save 229 million which means that the pension system(s) stand to LOSE 229 MILLION OR MORE IN CONTRIBUTIONS, YEARLY because STRS, as a result of the Kasich budget change, will probably not get the 3% increase in teacher contributions for which they asked. SEE #6.
FEWER ACTIVE TEACHERS CONTRIBUTING TO STRS DUE TO LAYOFFS. Substantial reductions in teaching staff are occurring throughout the state.
FOUR PERCENT (4%) PAYROLL GROWTH HIGHLY UNLIKELY. Future STRS benefits are based on a 4% payroll growth. If such growth does not occur, pension benefits will have to be adjusted to make up for the loss. SB 5 may really accelerate the end of payroll growth and probably cause decreases because it will enable the layoffs of veteran teachers and does away with the step increases.
EIGHT PERCENT INVESTMENT RETURN NEEDED TO MAINTAIN BENEFITS. All we can do about this is hope that there is no significant downturn in the stock market for many years.
NO NEW MEMBERS ADDED TO DEFINED BENEFIT PLAN. This would happen if our Defined Benefit plan is changed to a Defined Contribution plan (401K type plan). Presently, highly unlikely, but, some very conservative legislators keep bringing it up.
STRS MAY LOSE THE 3% EMPLOYEE CONTRIBUTIONS INCREASE CURRENTLY NEEDED TO OBTAIN THE 30 YEAR FUNDING PERIOD because the Kasich budget already increases employee contributions by 2% to offset the 2% employer decrease. State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, who proposed the bill already in the legislature....................does not think the legislature will increase employee contributions by 3 percent on top of the increase to 12 percent that Kasich proposed.

Mike really do have a dog in this fight, don't you?

The state legislature was already considering increasing employee contributions to keep struggling pension plans afloat. Under those proposals, teachers and administrators would have their contributions to STRS rise from 10 percent to 13 percent, while keeping the district share at 14 percent.

On Friday, Michael Nehf, executive director of STRS, called for Kasich to drop his plan because it would ruin the earlier proposal.

State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, who proposed the bill already in the legislature, said lawmakers will have to sort out the different plans. He said he does not think the legislature will increase employee contributions by 3 percent on top of the increase to 12 percent that Kasich proposed.

Ohio school districts would save $229 million from shift in pension payments proposed by Gov. John Kasich
Click image to enlarge.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 9, 2011
By Patrick O'Donnell
The Plain DealerCleveland schools, which recently announced plans to lay off more than 600 teachers and close seven schools, would turn a nearly $1.8 million aid cut next school year into just short of a $7 million gain if Gov. John Kasich's proposal on pensions is approved.

Gov. John Kasich's plan to have public employees pay more into their retirement plans while their employers pay less would save school districts $229 million a year, according to the Ohio Office of Budget and Management.

In all, that would save Ohio school districts more than half the $400 million in the state aid that Kasich would cut by 2013. But the actual amounts realized by individual school systems can vary widely.

Ten school districts in Northeast Ohio would see their pension costs fall by more than $1 million a year, with Cleveland saving $8.7 million, Akron almost $3.9 million and the Parma schools nearly $1.7 million, should the state legislature approve the plan.

For Cleveland, that would turn a nearly $1.8 million aid cut next school year into just short of a $7 million gain. Euclid schools would see their aid reduced by about $555,000 but would save $993,000 in pension costs. A small number of districts, like East Cleveland, would gain more aid and save on pensions.

Yet, in other Cuyahoga County districts, like Brooklyn, Chagrin Falls and Westlake, the pension savings would cover only a fraction of the aid cuts.

Tim Keen, director of the OBM, stressed the pension changes make up much of the losses in aid, particularly for the poorer districts.

"We're trying to ensure that the districts that have trouble raising money locally and depend on state aid are protected," he said.

Kasich spokesman Scott Milburn said changes in aid to districts should have been anticipated.

"We're also giving schools powerful tools to cope with them," he said. "One of those is reducing personnel costs."

Kasich's plan calls for school districts and employees to pay equally for the employees' retirement plan. School employees -- teachers, bus drivers, custodians, aides and administrators -- now pay 10 percent of their salary into the State Teachers Retirement Plan or School Employees Retirement System while districts pay 14 percent.

Kasich would have both sides pay 12 percent.

The savings estimate is based on payments to STRS and SERS for the employees' share in the 2009-10 school year. Actual savings to each district -- and cost to teachers, bus drivers, janitors and administrators -- will vary depending on number of employees, future salary amounts and how much of the employee share that districts pay for employees.

Kasich's proposal is not popular with unions representing the employees.

"It's a 2 percent pay cut for Ohio's public employees," said Michelle Prater, spokeswoman for the Ohio Education Association teachers union.

Van Keating, director of management services for the Ohio School Board Association, said the change would not make up for lost state aid in most districts. And, he said he expected employees will want their losses offset by higher salaries.

"If the employees have to pay it, they will be looking for schools to make it up," Keating said.

The state legislature was already considering increasing employee contributions to keep struggling pension plans afloat. Under those proposals, teachers and administrators would have their contributions to STRS rise from 10 percent to 13 percent, while keeping the district share at 14 percent.

On Friday, Michael Nehf, executive director of STRS, called for Kasich to drop his plan because it would ruin the earlier proposal.

State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, who proposed the bill already in the legislature, said lawmakers will have to sort out the different plans. He said he does not think the legislature will increase employee contributions by 3 percent on top of the increase to 12 percent that Kasich proposed.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4818

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