State news roundup for May 26, 2012
New York – At the Capitol, grassroots lobbyist make the case for teacher privacy
When asked why teacher evaluations should be kept from the media, Glenn Cotler, Greenburgh 11 Federation of Teachers, did not hesitate.
“Because we know one of the teachers who was shamed in New York City because her students did not do well on tests,” Cotler told Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer (pictured above). “The newspapers reported her failing grade but they did not report that kids in the class were absent for 40 days or more.”
Patricia Van Duser of the Newburgh Teachers Association followed up with the Yonkers Democrat. “You can only teach the student in front of you. Attendance matters.”
Mayer, and a number of other lawmakers visited by NYSUT grassroots lobbyists, agreed, saying a law is needed to shield the evaluations of teachers, as well as their students, from exploitation by the public and news media.
Visit NYSUT.org to get the full story.
Pennsylvania – Corbett plan for financially distressed schools attacks collective bargaining rights
A proposal backed by Gov. Tom Corbett to place Harrisburg bureaucrats in control of financially distressed districts will put school employees’ collective bargaining rights at risk, and do nothing to address the financial situations facing these districts.
PSEA President Mike Crossey said that as implications of Gov. Corbett’s budget cuts continue to grow, along with the number of financially distressed school districts, legislators should be seeking real solutions for these struggling school districts and properly funding them.
He urged legislators to vote “no” on House Bill 1307, which now includes Gov. Corbett’s distressed school district proposal. The bill was voted out of the Senate Education Committee on May 22.
“There is a serious funding crisis in a growing number of our schools,” Crossey said. “But this bill isn’t a solution. The problem was manufactured largely by state underfunding in the first place. This bill is a bureaucratic power grab masquerading as a fix, and it leaves these struggling schools guessing about how to balance their budgets and educate their students.”
Crossey pointed out that nearly $1 billion in state funding cuts have contributed significantly to the funding crisis in Pennsylvania’s schools. Across the state, the crisis is growing worse, as school districts deplete their reserve funds and continue to cut staff and programs that work for their students.
“If their state funding hadn’t been cut, these school districts wouldn’t be in crisis,” Crossey added. “Restoring these funding cuts is the solution. Putting state bureaucrats in charge isn’t.”
Illinois – Pension update May 24, call now to protect your pension
Nothing is definitive about what might be voted on. While no bill has been introduced as yet, the legislative leaders are writing, re-writing and circulating draft language constantly. Various groups have sent out pieces of information. Some proposals that have been floated are serious ideas from the leaders. Some are not. Rumors can distract us from areas that we need to be focused on, so we will pass along all information that we consider credible.
Among the ideas that we have heard about, and which could appear in a bill, would be a change in law that would bar districts from paying any portion of the members’ contribution to their pension system.
Visit IEANEA.org to read the complete article and find out how you can contact your legislators and protect your pension.
Ohio – Senate passes pension reform legislation
On Wednesday, May 16, 2012, the Ohio Senate passed a number of pension reform bills on a bipartisan basis. There are separate bills dealing with each retirement system. Each of the bills is jointly sponsored by Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) and Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney (D-Cincinnati). Senate Bill 341 pertains to SERS and passed 33-0. Senate Bill 342 pertains to STRS and passed 31-2. Senate Bill 343 pertains to OPERS and passed 33-0. The Senators voting “no” on SB 342 were Keith Faber (R-Celina) and Tom Patton (R-Strongsville).
OEA supports the passage of this legislation and applauds the Senate for acting quickly to help secure the long-term solvency of the pension and health care benefits that our members will rely on in retirement. The legislation is drafted based on the most recent plans passed by the STRS, SERS and OPERS Boards. Each of the bills includes difficult changes that impact our members, particularly with STRS. However, the funding situation with STRS is critical. The funding period (the amount of time needed to pay off the unfunded liabilities of the plan) is infinite. Simply put, without changes of this magnitude, STRS will eventually run out of money to provide benefits. The proposed changes are likely to only get more costly with the passage of time.
While the Senate has now passed legislation, leaders in the Ohio House have indicated they will not act on pension legislation until after a study commissioned by the Ohio Retirement Study Council. That study is not anticipated to be completed until July which may move final action on this legislation until after the November election.
Check out OEA’s “Legislative Watch” [ed note: pdf link] to get the full story on what these bills will mean for your retirement.
This week we talk about retired Connecticut educators fighting for teachers’ health insurance, a collective bargaining attack that was beaten back in Utah, union activists and students joining forces in New York to fight for higher education and feature video of the Wisconsin State Superintendent calling on Gov Walker to stop his attacks on public education. Read More