Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hey, Governor, Martin wants to know......

....why you left out the FOP and the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters placards at your table setting....SB 5 affects them also? Did you intentionally forget about that because you realized that you bit off more than you could chew and you knew that Ohio's firefighters and cops vs. you would not make a winning picture?
Chillicothe Gazette, August 27, 2011
Editor, the Gazette:
On Aug. 19, Gov. John Kasich stood in a room with Senate President Tom Niehaus, House Speaker William G. Batchelder and a lot of reporters.
The three Republicans representing our state government who had originally opined on Aug. 18 that they did not want to get into a position of "negotiating in the press," began negotiating in the press on Aug. 19.
The stage was set; the room had six seats with fancy placards denoting the Ohio Education Association, the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU and others. Of course, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters had no seats or fancy placards because that wasn't part of the script for this particular commercial.
Basically, the room looked like the statehouse did back in February when the governor locked the doors so the citizenry couldn't enter to state their case.
This little vignette, staged by the state's leaders, is now going to be used, as planned, in commercials to portray teachers, prison workers and the very people guarding Gov. Kasich himself as unyielding and mean.
William Pitt said, "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
Prepare yourselves to hear numerous pleas of necessity from Gov. Kasich and wealthy interests from outside of Ohio that he represents this coming fall, with this very setting used as the backdrop.
Martin Smith, Chillicothe

Hey, teachers, are you on "The List?"

From John Curry, August 27, 2011
You know, the "Governor's List?" Plunderbund (via Greg Mild) will tell you very soon if you are and will also tell you how some will make big $$$ off your retresting thanks to a sweet deal....a very sweet deal!
And so that brings us to this point. Thanks to the wise counsel offered to Governor Kasich in constructing the budget, and thanks to the “expert” testimony of the State Superintendent, and a big thanks to the inaction of Ohio’s legislators when provided convincing evidence that contradicted all of these claims. Because of these events, we now have a list of over 5,900 teachers from 349 schools who will be required to “register for and take all written examinations prescribed by the state board of education for licensure to teach that core subject area and the grade level to which the teacher is assigned.
[Exclusive] Teachers on ODE's List for "Retesting"
By On August 27, 2011
The Ohio Department of Education has released the State Report Cards for schools and districts (though school report cards have incorrect state data that has yet to be corrected) and that means the names of the teachers who will be required to take the Praxis exams is also available. I’ll be posting the list of 349 schools and over 5,900 teachers on Plunderbund later today.

To help catch you up, here is some light reading about the “Retesting Teachers” provision in House Bill 153 (Budget Bill):

As prepared by the Legislative Service Commission:

Retesting Teachers
RC 3319.58

Requires ODE annually to rank order all city, exempted village, and local school buildings, community schools and STEM schools into percentiles according to performance index score.

Requires each building in the lowest 10 percentiles to require its core subject area teachers to retake any written tests prescribed by the State Board for licensure in the teacher’s subject area and grade level. (“Core subject areas” are: reading and English language arts, math, science, foreign language, government, economics, fine arts, history, and geography, as defined by state and federal law for determining “highly qualified teacher” status.)

Plunderbund has been following the evolution of the Retesting Teachers provision from the original version in Kasich’s budget:

April 13, 2011 - Kasich’s budget forces tens of thousands of teachers to pay $6 Million in retesting costs

…the lowest-performing 10% of school districts employ 24,655 teachers. Approximately 18,864, or 76%, teach in a core subject area. Each teacher would be required to “take all written examinations prescribed by the state board of education for licensure to teach that core subject area and the grade level.”

Depending on the subjects and grade levels, teachers will be required to take between 2-5 exams each. Averaging this by grade level results in a total of 56,592 total written examinations.

At what cost – literally? Educational Testing Service ( charges an annual fee of $50 and each exam costs $90 for a grand total of $6,036,480 flowing out of the hands of Ohio’s teachers.

We then exposed the ignorant and outdated rationale behind Kasich’s inclusion of this component:

April 20, 2011 – Kasich’s “New” Teacher Testing Program: Straight out of 1987!

Why this change is important

Massachusetts successfully implemented a teacher-testing program that significantly improved student results. Teachers were tested on the content they were assigned to teach.
Struggling schools need to be sure teachers are competent and fully capable of teaching their assigned curriculum. Testing teachers to be sure they know their content and basic pedagogy is a key step in this process.
Testing will make sure teachers are competent in the subjects they are teaching. Limiting this provision to poor-performing schools will minimize costs and avoid unnecessary burdens on quality schools.

Ohio isn’t doing what Massachusetts is doing because Ohio moved BEYOND that process when revisions adopted in 1992 went into effect in 1998, the same year that Massachusetts was just starting on their current model.

In late May, we exposed ODE Interim Superintendent Stan Heffner’s key role in getting this legislation passed into law and his appalling conflict of interest with ETS, sole provider of the Praxis II exams:

May 29, 2011 – Interim Superintendent of Schools Hides Personal Interest, Deceives Senate

Stan Heffner, Interim Superintendent for Ohio, provided testimony to the Senate expressly supporting a provision that would direct over 2.2 million dollars annually to ETS, the company that announced his hiring just three weeks earlier. He provided opinions that contradict previously published documents from the Ohio Department of Education . . . he has used his position as Superintendent to represent himself as an expert in this area. Nowhere in his testimony did he declare his existing financial relationship with ETS.

After the Budget Bill was signed into law with the provision still included, we filed a formal ethics complaint about Stan Heffner with the Ohio Ethics Commission (the State Board of Education took a different approach and hired him as the full-time superintendent the next day).

July 11, 2011 - Plunderbund files ethics complaint against schools superintendent

What we do know is that as a result of Mr. Heffner’s blatant misrepresentation of factual evidence that will result in personal gain, taxpayers will suffer. That’s correct, taxpayers. The final version of this bill does not place the expense of these tests, $2.2 million annually, on the teachers taking them. Instead, the cost of these tests will be paid for by the schools themselves using taxpayer dollars, another unfunded mandate by the legislature, another multi-million dollar payout for someone’s special interest.

In this case, however, it’s not some behind-the-scenes entity, it’s ETS, the soon-to-be employer of Ohio’s interim Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mr. Stan W. Heffner.

And so that brings us to this point. Thanks to the wise counsel offered to Governor Kasich in constructing the budget, and thanks to the “expert” testimony of the State Superintendent, and a big thanks to the inaction of Ohio’s legislators when provided convincing evidence that contradicted all of these claims. Because of these events, we now have a list of over 5,900 teachers from 349 schools who will be required to “register for and take all written examinations prescribed by the state board of education for licensure to teach that core subject area and the grade level to which the teacher is assigned.

Note that the law specifies not just the subject tests, but the applicable “Principles of Learning and Teaching” for the grade level, too.

Plunderbund doesn’t think you should have to wait to find out if you are on the Ohio Department of Education’s “List” until they eventually get around to it so, based on the strictest interpretation of the law, we are completing the the work and will release the lists later today.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ralph Roshong: A report on the August 11, 2011 STRS board meeting

From Ralph Roshong, August 18, 2011

Here are my observations and comments at STRS Board August meeting last Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011:

I have attached the 2011 Fiscal Year end financial report and the 2012 Fiscal Year July 31, 2011 month end report. I hope you can open them.

GASB rule and test case
Mr. Nehf informed the Board about a new GASB auditing regulation for which STRS will be a test location. This brilliant concept goes this way. STRS must account for their underfunding of the pension fund, which is currently in the $30B range as I believe I heard. The spectacular results of this new process devised by GASB standards will prorate the underfunding of the pension fund back against the participating school districts and universities, 1100 plus of them. I responded to the STRS Board last Thursday that this was the most incredibly illogical regulation I have heard of yet. None of these 1100 participating employers has one iota of input concerning the operation of STRS other than sending in their 14% and the employee’s 10%. The STRS Board and staff along with the Legislature are 100% in charge of the spending and investing of the pension funds. How in the world can an accounting board (GASB), all of a sudden say that these employers are responsible for the faults of the operating groups, STRS Board and the Legislature, who make and implement the rules.

Mr. Mitchel reported that the 2011 fiscal year was a good year with our investments making 22%. However, so far in 2012, July was down 1% and all of you know where August is going.
A note of interest:
For the previous six months, the STRS investment department has voted proxies, following STRS Board guidelines on 5000 ballots, which included 31,000 proposals. They vote 80% of the time with the recommendations of the company’s board of directors.

Mr. Nehf reported on the ORSC (Ohio Retirement Study Council) meeting that was held last Tuesday, August 9. This is a body established by the Legislature to oversee the operations of Ohio’s five pensions funds. I told the Board on Thursday that I thought they have failed miserably in the last fifteen years after the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars the five systems pay them to oversee their operations on behalf of the Legislators. Their oversight has seen the five funds get themselves in very poor financial condition. Six Legislators sit on the council for "oversight" of the staff. The council has now virtually stalled the entire two and a half year process of pension fund revision recommendations that have been presented to them by the five pension fund’s staff. It appears from my perspective that there will not be any implementation of any improvement measures to help stabilize the pension funds until into 2013. Meanwhile, the pension funds continue to operate in their same manner and the financial underfunding of the pension funds will continue and/or grow.

Remember, each of us has the opportunity to review our healthcare coverages and make changes if we desire in October and November. No matter what our choices, the rates for the various coverages will change, most likely increase. I highly recommend your locating one of the informational meetings this fall nearest you and attend to gain clarifications and ask questions. You can find them on the STRS website. There are usually vendors present also, so you can ask specific questions of them.

[Charts posted below; click to enlarge.]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Minutes for the August 11, 2011 CORE Meeting

President Dave Parshall opened the August meeting of the Concerned Ohio Retired Educators (CORE) at 12:35 in the Sublett Room of the STRS Building in Columbus. After greeting the 13 in attendance, the president reminded them that the June minutes had been sent out, but copies were available in the room. Alice Faryna then moved to approve them; Jill Fetters seconded it. The minutes were approved by the membership.
The next item of business was President Parshall’s reading of the resignation letter of our treasurer, Carole DePaola. Since Dave Parshall’s name is still on the account, he will be able to function as treasurer. Carole’s resignation led into several comments from our president about CORE’s future.
As President Dave currently sees it, once the pension reform issue is complete, CORE can become inactive, reconstituted as needed in the future. (More than likely this will not happen before the summer.) In light of the group eventually becoming dormant, no more dues will be collected. We certainly will add names to our roster, but we’ll return any money sent in from this point on. (Right now we do have enough in the treasury to help with costs of postage and our web page, which is still good for a couple of years.) Also, in light of the eventual dissolution, CORE will have no fall election.
In other news, President Dave informed the members that the SB5 petitions had been accepted and counted and that the language on the ballot is okay. He also let the retirees know that the CORE letter in support of Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Protection Bureau had been sent. (Many look at him as a guardian of the Ohio pension systems due to his work on our behalf!)
President Parshall once again reminded retirees to be politically smart. He made a reference to a recent letter which attacked STRS and the financial team. He strongly urged retirees not to be critical of STRS, especially at this time.
Prior to our adjournment, Parshall suggested that some of us should meet again in the fall with STRS Executive Director Mike Nehf. From Dave’s point of view, this as a very important gathering as the pension fight gears up.
Our meeting adjourned at 1:20 so that some of the group could return upstairs to the afternoon session of the STRS Board Meeting.
Respectfully submitted,
Marie M. Fetters
CORE Secretary
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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