Friday, November 25, 2011

It's that time of year again!

From John Curry, November 25, 2011
Yes, it's that time of the year once again. Santa's shop is open to suggestions as to your recommendations on who to nominate this Christmas to receive an award of either a candy cane or....coal for those who have acted selfishly, stupidly, incompetently, greedily or...for simply performing "no-brainers." Please email me [] so that I can make a master list that will be released shortly before Christmas Eve. Please be sure to tell me which award (Cane or Coal) each entry is eligible for, who the proud person or group is to receive this distinguished award, and what they did to win this prestigious honor.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

STRS Board to meet December 7-8, 2011
Details here
There will be no CORE meeting in December.
CORE will meet in January.

Top 5 FOX myths to debunk this Thanksgiving

MYTH #1: The congressional Super Committee failed because both sides refuse to compromise.

REALITY: The Super Committee failed because Republicans' number one, non-negotiable priority is to protect millionaires and billionaires from paying even one more penny in taxes.1 Democrats repeatedly offered to make deep spending cuts—far deeper than most progressives would like—in exchange for raising taxes on the wealthy and closing corporate loopholes, only to be refused again and again.2 So even though the vast majority of Americans say they want to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, and raise taxes on the rich and corporations,3 that won't happen until Republicans put aside their extremist stance.

MYTH #2: Nobody knows what Occupy Wall Street is about.

REALITY: Occupy Wall Street may not have a formal list of demands, but anyone who's been paying attention understands the core problems that occupiers are protesting—that corporations have far too much power in our political system, that Wall Street banks crashed our economy but were never held accountable, and that the richest 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans—156 million people—combined.4

MYTH #3: Occupiers should stop protesting and just get a job.

REALITY: As anybody who's looked for a job in the last few years knows, there just aren't jobs out there. That's a big part of why occupiers are protesting. In September, there were four times as many unemployed people as job openings.5 And for those who are lucky enough to find a job, median wages today are lower than they were a decade ago.6

MYTH #4: Occupy Wall Street is intent on provoking violence, especially against banks and the police.

REALITY: Occupations across the country have committed themselves to nonviolent protest, in the greatest traditions of protest movements. Some of their protests have been met with acts of police violence—tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets7—but in many cases, protesters have reminded police that the police officers are part of the 99%, too.8 And in the few cases when people have shown up at Occupy demonstrations and committed acts of vandalism, other protesters have even repaired their acts of vandalism.9

MYTH #5: The biggest crisis facing our country is out of control government spending.

REALITY: The two biggest drivers of our deficit—by far—are the economic crash and the Bush tax cuts.10 We have millions of people out of work, corporations hoarding cash, and factories sitting idle. If we put all those people back to work—rebuilding infrastructure, educating our children, and researching new technologies—it'll shrink the deficit and make our economy stronger for the long haul. And we can easily afford it if we make sure the rich—who are taking home a larger percentage of income than any time since 191711—pay their fair share.


1. "No, 'both sides' aren't equally to blame for supercommittee failure," The Washington Post, November 21, 2011

2. "Wonkbook: In supercommittee, Dems moved right and Republicans moved righter," The Washington Post, November 22, 2011

3. "CNN Poll: What The Super Committee Produced Is...Exactly What We Don't Want," Talking Points Memo, November 21, 2011

"Medicare, Social Security & The Deficit," National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, September 2011

4. "Michael Moore says 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined," Politifact Wisconsin, March 10, 2011

5. "Fact: 4 job seekers per opening in U.S.," CNN, September 12, 2011

6. "Median household income," Wikipedia, Accessed November 22, 2011

7. "Occupy movement: police reaction in pictures," The Guardian, November 21, 2011

8. "Occupy Demonstrators Mark Two Months of Protests," NPR, November 17, 2011

9. "Occupy Oakland protesters assist in cleanup efforts," News 10 ABC, November 3, 2011

10. "Economic Downturn and Bush Policies Continue to Drive Large Projected Deficits," Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, May 10, 2011

11. "Income Inequality Is At An All-Time High: STUDY," The Huffington Post, September 14, 2009

From John Curry, November 23, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Are you paying attention, Lynn Wachtmann and Matt Huffman?

From John Curry, November 23, 2011
You are about to get an education in Public Education Funding 101 from a Superintendent in your own area! Let's hope your supporters also read this letter.........
Kalaida superindendent says: Public schools could be as efficient as private schools
Jared Denman
Staff Writer
November 23, 2011
KALAIDA - During the legislative report at last Wednesday's regular Kalida school board meeting, Superintendent Don Horstman publicly criticized H.B. 136 and State Representative Lynn Wachtmann's co-sponsorship of the bill. "I'll take exception, Representative Wachtmann is just flat out wrong. Rep. Wachtmann is not apologetic for the fact that he does not consider himself a fan of public education. If you look at H.B. 136 and how it works, they want to tout the efficiencies of private education. It'd be really easy to be as efficient as private education if we could follow the rules that private education does. It's very frustrating when Rep. Wachtmann and other members of the legislature refuse to put things in place to force those people [private schools] to follow the same rules we do. If it's such a great plan we have, make them follow our rules. And if our rules are so bad, that it's keeping us from operating efficiently, then let us do what they're doing."
Horstman went on to illustrate where public schools bear the cost of providing services to private schools such as LCC: "I have shared with the board a letter from LCC that their cost to educate a kid in 2009 going into 2010 was roughly $7,400. If you go back to 2009-2010, half of the districts in this county were within $500 a kid of LCC. Let us operate the way LCC does. Shawnee provides all of their busing, their guidance counselor, a math teacher who's on extended time. Two years ago we bought an $80,000 bus. If we don't have to buy an $80,000 bus because we're going to be able to force some other school district to bus our kids, we're going to save a lot of money. It's easy to be efficient when you don't have to operate under the rules the state puts in place. You're not given the freedom to operate the way the schools that supposedly are the most efficient which are your parochials. It would be an interesting if you took our spending per pupil and you wiped out all our bus expenses, our special education expenses and the cost of one of our math teachers and our guidance counselor. We can do it for almost the same amount of money as LCC and we pay our people better. So are you really more efficient?"
However, comparing LCC which resides in a city of 38,711 and outnumbers the entire population of Putnam County which comes in at 34,499 according to the 2010 Census, is comparing apples and oranges. A closer comparison would be to look at the per pupil cost of Sts. Peter and Paul in Ottawa which, according to their business manager, is $4,450 with the church subsidizing 50 percent of that cost with an additional $65,000 to $85,000 coming from an endowment.
According to Ohio Department of Education numbers, for the 2009-2010 school year, it cost $9,238 to educate a pupil in the Kalida school district. Building operations expenditures contributed $1,205 of that per pupil cost. Even subtracting this from the per pupil cost, which yields $8,033, it's still $3,583 more than what it costs at a comparable private school. If each school age child in Putnam County (7,126 children K-12 according to Census Bureau figures) were to receive the maximum scholarship amount of $4,626, it would save the county an estimated $5,353,056-$19,333,120.
When asked in a follow-up interview about families who decide to send their children to private schools paying for a service they do not use, Horstman's first point was that private schools don't share the cost of getting levies on the ballot and secondly that we pay for many services through taxes that no longer benefit us. "What did that private school have invested in collecting those tax dollars and running a levy?
There's also a cost associated with that. So once again, they're receiving the benefit of a public tax levy that they didn't have to do any of the work to get to pass. And as far as the argument I'm paying the taxes but I'm not using the service, I pay taxes and I've never been to Hocking Hills State Park in my whole life. It doesn't mean it's not a valuable service to provide. I have elderly relatives. They pay taxes and they don't drive anymore. Their taxes are still going to pay for snow removal and things like that. I think you've got to be careful about saying I'm not using the service I shouldn't have to pay the tax because then your school levies are only going to be taxed to people to have kids in school. You could make that argument. I no longer have a kid in school so I'm not going to pay my portion of the property tax that goes to the school district. As a society, we've made some decisions over the last 250 plus years that we need some level of taxes to provide some basic services that everyone's going to benefit from."
However, a school levy involves property taxes on all owners in a given school district and is enforced by local and state government. Not only is the cost burden of public education born by all in the school district, if you fail to pay property taxes fines could be leveled or you could be taken to court. Families that send their children to private schools on the other hand, bear the complete cost burden of educating children by the tuition they pay and the subsidies of private organizations.
Park lands like Hocking Hills are not entirely funded by tax monies. They make profit with entrance fees and site rentals like cabins and picnic shelters. Roads are largely paid for by the tax on gasoline and even if an individual no longer drives, they benefit from the transportation of goods along these roads. Services such as busing and special education provided by public school districts are already paid for via property taxes families have paid.
"It would be easy to compete against Rep. Wachtmann's water company, Culligan Water, if he had to provide all of the shipping costs for my company. If he's forced to provide a service to me through shipping all of my product that I don't have to pay, and then I can claim that I'm more efficient and therefore I have a better product. I think he'd have a problem with that," stated Horstman in closing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Laura, you hit the public education nail right on the head!

From John Curry, November 22, 2011
The debt we owe to public education
By Laura Ofobike
Beacon Journal chief editorial writer
November 21, 2011
A couple of weeks after Election Day, the giddiness — or the dyspepsia, depending on which side of the Issue 2 fault line you lined up — likely is fading. Behind us, I hope, are the raw emotions, the overblown rhetoric and ads. But still staring us in the face are some stark facts we need to absorb, both as individuals and as communities, if we are serious in Ohio about maintaining a public school system that can carry the weight of the future.
The majority of new school levies on the Nov. 8 ballot failed. That hardly passes as news anymore. A floundering economy has left masses of shell-shocked taxpayers who appear to be in no mood to vote for new property taxes for schools.
But that is not all the reason local schools have been coming up short so many times on financial support. In many districts, the percentage of residents who have children in the public school system is very low. (About 20 percent of Akron residents have children enrolled in the Akron Public Schools, for instance.) The declining number is not simply because private and charter schools and home-schoolers are drawing away households that otherwise would be part of the public system. Without question, state legislative policies in recent years certainly make that a factor. More important, though, is that current demographic trends are not always on the side of schools. Add a graying population to the fact that younger people are having fewer children, and you have a situation where fewer households have a direct and immediate interest in issues relating to schools.
Economists tell us we are fairly rational beings who make pocketbook decisions on the basis of how much we expect to benefit, sooner or later, from a transaction. In other words, we calculate how much of our assets to put on the line, how much skin to put in the game, based on what we expect to gain in return. In that sense, we play a pocketbook-versus-expectations game in which, unfortunately, levies for public education are coming out at the short end much too frequently.
[Read entire article here.]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Flashback to January 18, 2010: Message to CORE members from Dave Parshall

From Dave Parshall, January 18, 2010
To CORE members
Dear CORE members,
Please find below a letter for you to use to send to the media or any interested group you wish. This letter was board approved and is the product of the CORE Media Committee. You can use it as whole or any part you wish. It is time to start to get our side of the pension issues to the public. Also, we need to be politically smart. There are groups out there that wish to do us harm for a host of reasons. While the legislature is deciding what to do with Ohio Public pensions, we need to stop the public attacks on STRS. CORE will still bring up some of the STRS issues we have with Mr. Nehf in February. All educators need to stand together during these difficult times. We can’t afford to hurt our own cause.
Yours truly,
Dave Parshall, President of CORE
You Asked the Wrong Question!
Recent attacks by the media on public employees and their pensions were asking the wrong question. The real question the private sector should demand an answer for is, “What has happened to my pension?” Retirement was meant to be a three-legged stool: Social Security, an employer provided pension, and personal savings. 401k plans were never intended to be the foundation of anyone’s retirement, yet they have become so today. Corporations have been allowed to undermine pensions and depress salaries to increase their bottom lines, enrich investors, and inflate CEO’s golden parachutes at the expense of workers. It is simply the product of corporate and Wall Street greed that has taken pensions and helped drive this country into the ditch.
Recent research published by the National Institute on Retirement Security, entitled “More Bang for the Buck,” points out that a defined benefit pension is the best retirement plan for all Americans. U.S. News and World Report, August 2008, states “401k plans save employers money because workers fund a portion of the plan. But a new analysis says 401ks are an inefficient way to finance a secure retirement.” The Financial News, August 2009, points out that “defined contribution schemes such as 401k plans are more expensive for employers to implement even as companies shift toward them and away from defined benefit schemes.” Time Magazine, Oct 2009, tells us, “Why it is Time to Retire the 401k...the ugly truth is that the 401k is a lousy idea, a financial flop, and a rotten repository for our retirement reserves.” And that is the real problem.
Public employees have a “defined benefit pension”--more accurately a deferred contribution pension--and so should you. However, there are some truths about public pensions and State Teacher’s Retirement System (STRS) in particular that the corporate-dominated press will never tell you.
In the first place, by state law teachers fund their own pensions. Their pensions are deferred compensation acquired through negotiations. The moment teachers sign a contract to teach, their contributions to STRS become part of their salary. The school board’s contribution to STRS is part of that contract. The school board’s 14% contribution to STRS has not changed since 1984. Over the same time period, an individual teachers’ contribution rate has increased 42.9 % to the current 10% of salary. The truth is teachers fund their own retirements. Switching public pensions to defined contribution plans is just a bad idea and will cost the state more.
Ohio teachers’ pension system was designed to replace Social Security and provide a decent retirement. To this day, teachers don’t pay into or receive Social Security. (Those teachers who worked enough quarters in the private sector get a greatly reduced payment. Social Security has a true compounded COLA, cost of living adjustment, based on the Consumer Price Index.) The STRS COLA is not compounded and is based on final salary average and never increases during a retiree’s life time. Teachers’ salaries are still low compared to similar degreed professionals. The media loves to quote the salaries of large urban school districts like many in Franklin County. What they don’t tell you is that about half of the teaching force works in rural districts and are paid far less. In many districts in southern Ohio, after a 35 year career a teacher is lucky to earn $40,000. Currently, 37,000 30-year retirees have pensions of $30,000 or less, and 62,000 retirees receive a pension less than $39,000. With Social Security, a company pension, and a 401 K or IRA plan, professionals in the private sector still fare much better during their career and into their retirement.
Until recently active teachers did not have the option of paying into Medicare. Consequently, about 10,000 retired teachers do not get Medicare Part A. STRS retirees have no spousal subsidy for health care. A retiree couple pays well over $1000 a month for health care. This is a big hit to a small monthly pension. STRS retirees fund 95 % of their health care and yet the fund is running dry. It will be the crisis for Ohio’s taxpayers if nearly 170,000 older retirees are added to the state’s Medicaid and Welfare roles.
Teachers and their leaders continue to work to find ways to solve the shortfall generated by the current market drop. Some changes have already been made. It is understandable that the public is upset with their own lot, and the feeling that they have lost control of their own retirement, but public pensions are not the problem.
The question needs to be redirected. The real revolt will come when those 30 or 40 year old workers finally realize that with a 401k foundation they will never be able to retire. Perhaps the media attack on public pensions was an attempt to redirect attention away from what has happened to private pensions and the unconstitutional funding of Ohio schools. It is time to finally ask the right questions so we all will be on the same side. Corporations and Wall Street will be on the other side where they have always been.
A proud member of CORE: Concerned Ohio Retired Educators.

Minutes for the November 17, 2011 CORE Meeting

From CORE, November 21, 2011
After a rather lengthy morning STRS Board Meeting session, President Dave Parshall opened the November meeting of the Concerned Ohio Retired Educators (CORE) at 1:15 p.m. As president he welcomed new retiree Tom Batdorf and then had the other ten CORE members present introduce themselves as well.
The first item of official business was to accept the October minutes. Mary Ellen Angeletti moved that they be accepted; Richard Stearns seconded it. The minutes were accepted as written.
The president, who is also acting treasurer, announced that our treasury currently is fine.
President Parshall congratulated all who worked on the defeat of Senate Bill 5/Issue 2. He warned that we all must be wary and extra vigilant about what might lie ahead, however. The president also noted that ORTA did finally vote to oppose Issue 2 although it wasn’t a unanimous vote. In fact, it’s unclear if perhaps it was a narrow vote. Mary Ellen volunteered to make inquiries about the vote since it should be public knowledge (or at least knowledge to ORTA members).
The president spent the remainder of the meeting talking about GASB – and how it’s a potential problem for STRS, based on what was said at the board meeting earlier in the day – and the COLA, which is not a true “cost of living” adjustment. He concluded his comments by directing retirees to the “You asked the wrong question” paper, which is available on-line through Kathie Bracy’s Blog or on the CORE website.
Our brief meeting adjourned at 1:30 in order for members to return to the afternoon session of the STRS Board Meeting set to resume at 1:30. As we were leaving, President Dave reminded us that there would be no CORE meeting the month of December; our next meeting will be on January 19, 2012.
Respectfully submitted,
Marie M. Fetters
CORE secretary

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dr. Alice calls this to our attention...and a comment from Rich DeColibus

From John Curry, November 19, 2011
Reader Alice Faryna is a retired MD. She knows what she speaks of. Please note what she says.
From Alice Faryna, November 19, 2011
Subject: Last STRS report
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry over this section:
Can't they see that if all retirees were on a Medicare like program it would solve a lot of problems? This infatuation with the marketplace is insane.
• The Health Care Stabilization Fund is only expected to remain solvent until 2024.

• Sixty-nine percent of benefit recipients enrolled in the STRS Ohio Health Care Program are also receiving Medicare benefits, while 31% are non-Medicare.

Subsidies for non-Medicare retirees account for 62% of all subsidies.
With this in mind, staff proposed a vision for the future that would establish the Medicare program as the cornerstone for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program, to help the largest number of retirees for the longest period of time. This plan would increase out-of-pocket expenses to reduce premium increases and merges the Medical Mutual Plus and Basic plans into one plan by 2016. The most significant changes would affect the non-Medicare program. These changes would more closely align costs with the marketplace.
From Rich DeColibus, November 20, 2011
Subject: Re: Status and Future Outlook of STRS Health Care PLan
Doesn't STRS understand the only thing that permits retirement before age 65 is the ability of STRS to provide reasonably affordable health care? Of course pre-Medicare retirees account for a disproportionate share of health care costs, but that's why STRS exists: to make retirement before age 65 possible. STRS sometimes forgets it exists only to serve its retirement population, not as a corporate entity which exists for itself.
The essence of insurance is to spread the risk over a wide population, thus making premiums affordable. Increasing out-of-pocket costs reverses that idea, and makes it harder on impacted individuals; it is right-wing thinking along the lines of "Why should I have to pay higher premiums for those other sick people." The answer is "Because all of us sharing risks makes all of us safer."

STRS Asset Value

From Mario Iacone, November 20, 2011
CURRENT ASSET VALUE as of 10/31/2011
62.9 Billion
ASSET VALUE as of LAST MONTH 9/30/2011
59.4 Billion
approx 80 Billion
LOW ASSET VALUE...early 2009
approx 47 Billion
approx 17 Billion BELOW HIGH and
approx 16 Billion ABOVE LOW
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