Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Teach for America, Inc. getting $55K for each teacher and a $4K-$5K 'Finder Fee'?

From John Curry, December 21, 2011
Teach for America, Inc. will collect $55,000 for each Ohio teacher
By Greg On December 21, 2011
The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote on Friday that Teach for America will receive more than $2 million to bring their corps members to Northeast Ohio schools next fall. The funding will come from the Cleveland, George Gund, Nord and Stocker foundations, along with a contribution from the Lennon Trust, and will pay for the national program to recruit and train college graduates who majored in subjects other than education and help them move to the area.
According to Teach for America vice president Mike Wang who is working to bring the program to the region, the money will help bring at least 30 teachers to school districts and charter schools in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties.
We exposed the flawed logic behind the Governor’s and GOP’s push to bring Teach for America to Ohio back in March, and despite the passage of laws enabling the program to expand to Ohio, neither the facts nor our stance have changed:
House Bill 21 & Senate Bill 81 lower the quality of teaching for future children by lowering these current standards for teacher preparation. Teach for America is touted as bringing the best and the brightest to the classroom, but we have always done so in Ohio through existing state law requiring universities to provide rigorous teacher preparation programs.
House Bill 21 & Senate Bill 81 would require the Ohio Department of Education to issue a Resident Educator license to all TFA participants, including those who have never set foot in an Ohio classroom.
In that particular post, we only addressed the erroneous thinking of the legislators who claimed the law was necessary from an educational reform perspective. We didn’t speak to the flawed economics that prop up the Teach for America program and undermine any stated rationale for certifying the program in Ohio.
While Teach for America only requires 50 hours of cooperative teaching during a summer school program, Ohio state law requires that prospective teachers complete a minimum of 460 hours of field experience, including 12 weeks of teaching, with typically 6 of those weeks being full days of independent instruction, under the supervision of a university professor. These programs come at a huge price to students who make significant personal and financial investments in pursuing a career in the field of education at Ohio’s universities.
Did we mention the $4,000-$5,000 “finder’s fee” that school districts pay to Teach for America for every corps member hired?
Let’s do some quick calculations about this report of TFA’s emergence in NE Ohio.
  • Private funds totaling $2 million
  • Hiring at least 30 TFA members [we'll generously round it to 40]
$2,000,000 / 40 members = $50,000 per TFA corps member brought to Ohio. That’s right around the average salary of an existing teacher in Ohio and well above the average starting salary. But this money isn’t for those new teachers. Instead, this money goes directly to TFA to cover the brief summer training session and mentoring.
Okay, that’s not true, the funding doesn’t cover all of the training and mentoring.
Check out this final sentence of the Plain Dealer article that is crucial in understanding the economics of the TFA program:
The grants will not cover teacher salaries, which will be paid by the schools. Schools will also contribute toward the training.
That’s right, the $50,000 per member isn’t even enough to cover the five-week training. Schools will have to chip in for that, too. And the “education reformers,” especially those in Ohio’s legislature and their private donors, are griping amount providing adequate funding to schools? And here we have foundations doling out checks to pay for training that costs $10,000 per person per week? Does anyone want to guess what the Plain Dealer or Dispatch would write if a public school district sent a group of teachers to a five-week summer institute at a cost of $50,000 each?
Even more, can you imagine the type of professional development a teacher could receive if a district was allocated $50,000 per year? School districts would drool over even 1/10th of that amount if they were able to involve their career educators in such development work.
But alas, the GOP and private corporations have the misguided belief that we’re all somehow better off throwing enormous sums of money at temporary educators instead of making an investment in individuals who have dedicated their lives to teaching children. Individuals who have spent years in both college and PK-12 classrooms learning how to become professionals in an underappreciated career field. Individuals who have willingly committed to give up their evenings and weekends forever, and have spent an incalculable amount of their personal income on their students knowing they will never be submitting an expense report to their boss for reimbursement.
No, let’s just write a check to a large organization to find short-term educational hitmen, then let that organization charge schools an additional fee on top of that amount. The GOP wouldn’t DREAM of shelling out $55,000 for a top graduate from an accredited university’s college of education, but if they’ve got middle-of-the-pack credentials in some other field of study (minimum 2.5 GPA – no slackers!), open up the pocketbook, because the money is begging to be spent. Throw that money at a five-week summer class with minimal student exposure on the basics of being in a classroom, then charge the districts an extra fee for the right to put the graduate of that 5-week training, now a “licensed teacher,” in front of a room full of high-need students and cross your fingers that they last more than a week.
That’s reality.
In a nutshell, the entire situation with TFA in Ohio demonstrates the lack of respect that is given the teaching profession in our country. Whether we are talking about a young adult exploring the career of teaching through a high school program or a teacher with 30+ years of experiencing in meeting the needs of hundreds of unique children, TFA supporters don’t care — they think you’re not worthy.
And to revisit some basic math that is too complicated for Governor Kasich and the GOP leadership, using the TFA-type of privately funding process to replace classically-trained teachers will result in a dramatic leap in required educational funding. Given that Ohio currently replaces approximately 4,000 teachers annually, the TFA price structure (2-year commitments = $27,500 per year) would require an additional $11 million per year. Once the 2-years-and-out hired guns get embedded in the process and begin rolling out of their jobs on a more regular basis then the costs would begin growing every year, with absolutely ZERO effect on salaries and no reduction to other district expenses.
Maybe such extreme numbers should be considered hyperbole. But why would the Governor speak so highly of a program, and why would foundations pay an additional $55,000 per teacher for a program if they didn’t want it to have amazing success? If this program, as the Governor has famously claimed, will bring in outsiders to save our children, wouldn’t that at least imply a commitment to funding such a process and using the model to reform teaching and teacher education in Ohio?
Kasich said Teach For America participants are “the cavalry.”
“They’re going to ride on white horses with white hats into our schools and be able to interject a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, talent, capability and real-world understanding,” the governor said.
(Columbus Dispatch, April 27, 2011)
For $2 million, Ohio’s children deserve more than 40 white hats and 40 white horses. Ohio’s children deserve well-prepared teachers who have committed their lives to becoming professional educators.
America needs to start supporting legitimate teacher education programs that are researching innovative practices and working to develop future teachers by working with career educators with years of practical classroom experience. If public schools received anywhere near the same level of support and latitude that politically-favored programs do, we could experience sustainable long-term improvements instead of the endless stream of drive-by initiatives that only serve to bind schools in a perpetual state of tumultuous transformation.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tom Curtis re: STRS Fitness Center Membership Through Aetna Medicare Advantage

From Tom Curtis, December 20, 2011
Hello STRS Retirees,
Recently, I wrote about the Free Fitness Center Membership for Aetna Medicare enrollees. Aetna has contracted with a company called Healthways to administer this benefit for Medicare age retirees.
In my prior letter, I complained about the many hours I spent on the phone over a 3-day period attempting to get approval for a fitness center I was told was not on the approved list. I was told this by various people at Aetna and by one lady at STRS. I tried to reach Healthways, but after being placed on hold for the next available customer care person, no one ever answered their phone any of the 3 times I called them. Consequently, I was unable to verify the information with them.
Greg Nickell from STRS called me last week because he had read my prior letter on Kathie Bracy’s Blog and was highly concerned about what I had to say. He realized just how frustrated I had become. He offered to review the process and to check the next day with the North Canton YMCA to see if he could be of any assistance in getting this facility onto the listing of providers. Greg has always been very kind and considerate concerning any issue I have talked with him about.
The next day I went to the YMCA fitness center and handed them my Aetna card. They processed it with Healthways and offered me a free membership. They told me they had been approved for sometime now, but that due to the presence of a large hospital in my area (Mercy), they are never listed as a provider for this service. This is probably because Mercy Hospital offers a fitness membership at their facilities and Mercy tries to eliminate all of their competition. Their facilities have minimal equipment and facility usage compared to any other I visited.
I called Greg back the next day to pass along the above information and to let him know that most YMCA’s of Stark and Summit County accept Aetna’s fitness offering through Healthways.
I am ecstatic that I was able to receive a membership at the North Canton YMCA, which has about 3 times the offerings of equipment and facility as does any fitness program in this area. It is located 5 minutes from my home.
What I am very unhappy about is the amount of time I spend on the phone each week educating service providers like Aetna, STRS and Healthways about the services they provide. Employees are paid well and receive wonderful benefits to do their job, but often do not do their job for their customer. I do not get paid to do their job for them, but I am forced to do so to receive the benefits I am entitled to by utilizing their service. I face this problem day in and day out with many of the service providers I utilize (banks, doctor’s offices, government offices, etc.). This is sickening to me! If the customer doesn’t fight for the benefits they are supposed to receive, the company’s profit line improves and the customer goes without.
In today’s world, the customer is not being considered very well. We are often given misinformation by customer care representatives that are not knowledgeable about the services their company provides and are not willing to research the situation for the proper information. These representatives tell the customer what they believe to be the answer, or transfer the customer to another person that does not know the information either. This even happens when a supervisor is asked for and responds to a question. So, in the end, the customer has to become dogged to receive some of the benefits that are available to them. I am sure many retirees are not willing to do this. So the provider wins.
In closing, if you have been told a fitness center in your area is not on the approved list, do not believe it until you take your Aetna insurance card to that facility and ask them to see if they are accepted by Healthways. You, as I, may find that they will offer you a free fitness center membership.
Continuing to be a disgruntled retiree,
Tom Curtis

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Joe says, "Coal" to Huffman.....

From John Curry, December 18, 2011
Legislature's map makers should get coal in their stockings

Joe Hallett

Columbus Dispatch, December 18, 2011
By Joe Hallett

Credit (or blame) state Rep. Matt Huffman for uttering the year’s most cynical statement.

On Wednesday, the Lima Republican called a bill that lays out new congressional districts “a little bit of a Christmas gift to the folks of Ohio.”

No fair-minded Santa would ever deliver it.

This gift virtually ensures that Huffman’s party will control 12 of Ohio’s 16 districts through this decade.

This gift mocks the goal of keeping together communities of interest. The new 15 {+t}{+h} district, for example, combines big swaths of Appalachia with Upper Arlington and Downtown Columbus.

This gift makes hash out of redistricting principles such as compactness and contiguousness. Summit County is ridiculously spliced into four districts. The new 9 {+t}{+h} district, stretching along a sliver of Lake Erie shoreline from Toledo to Cleveland, needs a bridge to be connected and is drawn solely to pit incumbent Democrats Marcy Kaptur and Dennis J. Kucinich against each other.

This gift eliminates the need for general elections in congressional races. Many primaries will be coronations for extremists, rendering to the wilderness the desires of Ohio’s vast political center.

This gift protects incumbents by allowing them to choose their voters.

This gift is the worst possible Christmas present for Ohioans, relegating them to another decade of bad government.

This gift was wrapped by Republicans controlling the Statehouse. Make no mistake, if Democrats were in charge, you’d be receiving the same gift, wrapped in blue instead of red.

The only worthwhile gift surrounding the decennial process of creating new congressional districts is the one by a courageous watchdog group exposing the sordid and secretive — and maybe even illegal — ways in which it was done.

The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting — 25 good-government organizations, including the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Ohio Citizen Action — used public records to pull back the cover on a process whose aim was “to gain maximum political advantage” for the GOP, the group reported.

“The result was the approval of new districts that will provide for largely predetermined elections where we will know which party will win before we even know who the candidates are.”

A glance at the partisan indexes of the 16 districts proves that point: The most “competitive”is the new 6th District sprawling along the Ohio River, where Republicans have only a 7.7 percentage-point advantage.

The redistricting map enacted in September — with minor alterations approved last week — was drawn out of public view in a Downtown hotel room that Republicans called the “bunker” and paid for with $10,000 of your money. Two GOP legislative veterans, Ray DiRossi and Heather Mann, concocted the contorted maps, each earning $105,000 in about three months — also your money.

The shots were being called by Tom Whatman, a top political aide to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of West Chester, whose aim is to gerrymander a national map to improve GOP chances of becoming a permanent House majority. Accommodations to maximize fundraising were made to include the Timken Co. in Rep. Jim Renacci’s Canton-area district (he’s already received $210,000 from company officials) and to include Downtown Columbus in Rep. Steve Stivers’ 15 {+t}{+h} district.

Clark County was removed from the 15 {+t}{+h} because it might make it slightly more competitive than the current 13-point GOP advantage. A last-minute change was made to split Mercer County into three congressional districts so state Sen. Keith Faber’s home could be moved into the 4 {+t}{+h} District in case he might want that seat.

“This is not a map that is about the voters of Ohio,” said Catherine Turcer of Citizen Action.

Redistricting never will be about the voters unless they take the process away from the politicians. That would be a perfect Christmas gift.

Joe Hallett is senior editor at The Dispatch.

Another one of those Christmas cards featuring Santa

From John Curry, December 18, 2011
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
web page counter
Vermont Teddy Bear Company