Saturday, June 11, 2011

Separation of church and state?

From John Curry, June 11, 2011
School choice battle

Click image to enlarge.
Beth L. Jokinen
LIMA — Since enrolling six children into Temple Christian School four years ago, Paul and Mary Engle have struggled.
The family, which now has another in the school and another to enroll in a few years, hasn't taken any family vacations. Mom baby-sits and cuts coupons. Dad, a corrections officer, picks up extra hours and works side jobs. Their children's college fund is drained.
“We have cut everything we possibly could cut,” Paul Engle said. “We have sacrificed all we can. With rising costs in food and gas, it is even harder. I am running out of things to cut.”

Bill Moyers, Welcome to the Plutocracy Video

From Tom Curtis, June 11, 2011

Here is the link for the speech if you are interested.

John & Kathie,

I beg of you to please put this out on your information blogs. I believe it is from 2009, but continues to be so very poignant today. It is 2 hrs in length, but in my opinion, should be watched by every peron in the country. I will ask that everyone pass this along to all on their email chain.

John Kasich is the new messenger for the very rich within the state of Ohio to start a renewed effort by the very rich to bring about another era of wage supression.

Tom Curtis

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

STRS Board to meet June 15-16
Details here

STRS Board to meet June 15-16, 2011

From STRS, June 8, 2011
The State Teachers Retirement Board and Committee meetings currently scheduled at the STRS Ohio offices, 275 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, are as follows:
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
...10 a.m. Disability Review Panel (Executive Session)
Thursday, June 16, 2011
...9 a.m. Retirement Board Meeting
The Retirement Board meeting will come to order on Thursday, June 16, 2011, and begin with a Report From the Investment Department, followed by the Executive Director's Report, public participation, a Report From the Member Benefits Department - Health Care, Enterprise Risk Management - Information Technology Services, a Report From the Member Benefits Department - Pension Benefits, a Report From the Finance Department, routine matters, old business, new business or any other matters requiring attention.

Monday, June 06, 2011

CORE meeting scheduled for June 16
Details here.

CORE to meet June 16, 2011

From CORE, June 6, 2011
CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators) will hold its June meeting on Thursday, June 16, at the STRS building, 275 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH. Parking is available (free) in the STRS parking garage located in the rear of the building, off E. Capital Street.
You are also encouraged to attend the STRS Retirement Board meeting on the same day. It usually begins around 9:00 a.m. in the Board Room on the 6th floor, though the time may vary from month to month. Frequently the meetings have been held most of the day on the following Friday as well as on Thursday. For this reason, we suggest you check the STRS website ( to confirm the time.
CORE meeting attendees usually leave the board meeting around 11:30 a.m. to go to the second floor cafeteria to get lunch. We eat in the small room adjacent to the cafeteria, behind the Sublett Room, where the CORE meeting begins promptly at 11:45.
A meeting agenda will be sent out via e-mail before May 19th. If you have additional suggestions for the agenda, please send them to John Curry at curryjo@watchtv,net.

Colorado COLA lawsuit scheduled for court trial in Feb. 2012

From John Curry, June 6, 2011
PERA lawsuit moves forward; court date set
Marianne Goodland
The Colorado Statesman

A Feb. 6, 2012 trial date has been set for the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of SB 10-001, the General Assembly’s effort to put the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) on solid financial footing.

Denver District Court Judge Robert S. Hyatt also set aside three weeks for the trial, known as Justus et al v. the state of Colorado. Hyatt is still reviewing the plaintiffs’ request for class-action status, but a decision on that motion isn’t likely before the end of the summer.

The lawsuit charged that SB 1 is unconstitutional “because it impairs the retirees’ contractual rights to receive pension benefits at the level promised” when employees retired or were eligible to do so. The lawsuit initially attempted to block PERA from eliminating the COLA in 2010-11 but after that wants to stop PERA from implementing lower adjustments in future years. The lawsuit affects those who retired with PERA benefits between 1994 and February, 2010.

Under SB 1, the 2010-11 adjustment that would have gone into effect on March 1 was instead cancelled. Beginning in 2011, the COLA will drop to the lower of 2 percent, or indexed based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W). The COLA also could drop to zero if PERA experiences a negative investment return year, as was the case in 2008.

The case has taken an odd turn: in February, PERA demanded every plaintiff disclose any communications with third-party organizations and assumed class members concerning the solicitation of funds and payment of costs and expenses related to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs disclosed they had already given their attorneys a $25,000 retainer but otherwise refused all other documents, citing attorney-client privilege and a First Amendment right of association. In April, PERA asked the courts again to compel the plaintiffs to produce the documents, noting that the association right applies only “where a party can establish that the disclosure of documents would have a chilling affect on associational rights.”

Calls to PERA were not returned.

Two other lawsuits challenging a legislature’s authority to reduce retiree benefits also are continuing to move through the process. In the Minnesota case, Swanson, et al v. State of Minnesota, et al, Ramsey County District Court Judge Gregg Johnson held a hearing during the spring on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. Following that hearing, the judge asked both sides to submit proposed orders for his consideration by May 13. A ruling on those orders is expected within 90 days of that date.

Public pension retirees also are suing the state of South Dakota over changes to their retirement benefits. The case of Tice et al v. South Dakota is still in discovery, according to attorney Stephen Pincus of Stember, Feinstein, Doyle & Payne, which is representing the plaintiffs in all three cases.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Batchelder's glasses aren't thick enough, are they?

From John Curry, June 5, 2011
But his head sure is!
Doing the Math: Batchelder Wants Add'l $330 Million for Education
By Greg On June 4, 2011
Ohio's Republican leadership continues to demonstrate a complete lack of understanding about the education provisions that are in Senate Bill 5 and that were recently removed from the budget bill. Senator Peggy Lehner, referred to as the Senate’s “point person on education issues” (the author must not know what “point person” actually means), expressed her desire to discreetly slide these provisions back in while House Speaker Batchelder tweeted made it clear that he will make every effort to restore the provisions in conference committee if the Senate doesn’t correct their crazy mistake.

When they try and force through the performance pay and evaluation language that is dependent on student growth as measured by assessments, Batchelder, et al., continue to make two fatal assumptions:

  1. Statistically valid student assessments are easy to create
  2. These changes can be implemented with no increased expense (see Executive Budget, p. D-191)

Whether referring to teacher performance pay or the evaluation process, the bills both rely on state assessments and value-added data. At the present time, those tests are limited to math and reading for grades 3-8 and five tests at grade 10 (math, reading, science, social studies, writing). For those subjects without a state test, the Ohio Department of Education and/or the local school board are directed to adopt assessments (fatal assumption #1).

If teachers are to be equitably measured across all subjects, then these assessments must be statistically valid. That process can and should take years to develop, and if intended to provide consistency statewide (why else is it being adopted into state law), then these additional measures should be created at the state level in the same manner that the current Ohio Achievement Assessments and Ohio Graduation Tests were developed.

What would something like that cost? In 2003, a financial analysis was prepared for the Ohio Department of Education to explore the cost of implementing the No Child Left Behind Act in Ohio. That study estimated that it would cost $9.1 million to develop the eight new required assessments, a cost of $13 per pupil and $1.13 million per assessment (fatal assumption #2).

Let’s consider what new assessments would need to be created under the GOP proposals. With apologies to every subject that is omitted, for this simple projection, we’ll limit to easily identified basics. Students at each grade should expect to be taking at least seven assessments every year:

  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Writing
  • 2 out of 3: Art, Music, Physical Education

Students will certainly be taking different combinations of these, especially as they reach high school, but it is reasonable to expect at least seven assessments per year.

Including kindergarten, this would result in a total of 91 state assessments (7 per year x 13 years). Subtract out the 17 existing assessments and we’re left with a total of 74 new assessments that the state will need to develop to implement the new law.

In 2003, the development of those tests would have cost the state $83.6 million. Look for that amount in Kasich’s or Batchelder’s budget — you won’t find it. This would be the kind of thing we might use one-time money on, if only that was something that was appropriate to do in a budget.

And that amount is chump change compared to the annual cost of administering the assessments. The current allocation to implement those 17 existing tests is approximately $56 million, an amount equal to approximately $25 per student – the amount charged to a district for a replacement test.

If you’ve started to calculate how that adds up, you’ll need to know the number of students taking these tests — 1,744,969 in 2009-2010. Now we can start calculating the total cost:

1,744,969 students x $25 per test x 7 tests = $305,369,575

Awesome, isn’t it? Our illustrious Ohio Republican leadership is pitching a fit over this legislation that will increase the annual cost of state assessments from the FY2011 budgeted amount of $56,703,265 to a staggering $305,369,575. Will that also be spun to be the fault of the teacher unions and local district mismanagement?

These people are just brilliant. Why do we even try to argue educational philosophy when they can’t even comprehend the basic financial implications of this legislation?

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