Stark Countians have witnessed how many U.S workers have worked a lifetime to have retirement benefits only to loose them when companies go into bankruptcy.
Could the same thing happen to the professional class in America?
When Enron went belly up a number of years ago, the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) lost millions of dollars. Some of us wanted to pointed the finger at the then state Representative Kirk Schuring (Republican - 51st) chairman of the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) for not putting in safeguards in place to prevent the losses.
Yours truly has never seen Schuring madder.
At a meeting at the North Canton Community Christian Church to explain to Stark County's teachers what responsibility he bore for the oversight malfunction of STRS investors; the red faced, angered Schuring vehemently denied any neglect.
Mad or not, the SCPR believes that Schuring and his fellows on the ORSC were asleep then and, perhaps, the slumber continues.
Today, the SCPR received an e-mail from STRS that indicated that a statutorily mandated requirement that it be able to fund teacher pensions out 30 years had slipped to 41.2 years as of July, 2008 and now in 2009 to - get this - INFINITY!
Here's the quote from the e-mail:
Even with these changes, the funding period for the pension fund stood at 41.2 years on July 1, 2008. This means that based on the value of investment assets at that time, we expected to pay off all unfunded liabilities over the next 41 years by achieving an 8% annual rate of return and meeting all other actuarial assumptions. However, due to the recession, the market value of our investment assets declined by about $24 billion over the past two fiscal years. As a result, STRS Ohio's unfunded liability almost doubled in just one year and the funding period now stands at "infinity." (emphasis added)
It wasn't until May, 2009 that Schuring and his fellows at the ORSC caught on.
In May according to the STRS e-mail:[T]he Ohio Retirement Study Council, which is the legislative oversight body for Ohio's five public pension systems, instructed each system in May to present board-approved plans for achieving or maintaining a 30-year funding period at the ORSC's Sept. 9 meeting.What are the options that the ORSC will be considering for STRS?
Here they are:
- Increasing contributions from the current 10% from active teachers and/or 14% from employers.
- Instituting a minimum retirement age or years of service for retirement.
- Increasing the number of years used to calculate final average salary to five from three.
- Changing the formula for calculating pensions.
- Changing the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
No action is expected by the Ohio Retirement Study Council until its October, 2009 meeting. Even if ORSC acts in October, it could take months before corrective legislative action can be taken and enacted into law (getting the governor's signature) before the "infinity" timetable has a finite number put on it.
What will the finite number be? 50 years? 60 years? 70 years?
Kirk Schuring and Scott Oelslager (who likes to invoke his teacher parents as proof he looks out for teacher interests) have been roundly criticized by yours truly primarily because they violate the "spirit" of Ohio's term limits (switching back and forth between the 29th (Ohio Senate) and the 51st (Ohio House).
But there are other reasons why this duo need to be via election term limited by Stark Countians.
Of course, there is Schuring and his "failure to protect" the retirement of Stark County's teachers.
And, there is the failure to be in the lead in fixing the funding of Ohio's public schools ruled unconstitutional four times by the Ohio Supreme Court (DeRolfe) What is particularly galling about this pair is that they were members of the majority party (supermajority - veto proof) with a sitting Republican governor for a good portion of their time in the Legislature.
Moreover, the larger picture is that only thing that this duo has produced of consequence over their years in the Ohio General Assembly is Oelslager's work on open records.
Does anyone remember Schuring's "I'm going to fix the public schools funding problem" by way of constitutional amendment that never got off the ground? It was a pipe dream from the beginning. Even if it had gotten through the Ohio General Assembly, Governor Strickland was going to veto the provision because he had to protect his "I love him like a brother" protege John Boccieri.
The SCPR believes that Schuring was never serious about the effort. It was designed to get free ink for the impending campaign against Boccieri; nothing more.
Schuring's and Oelslager's legislative record is pathetic and if Stark Countians continue to send them back to Columbus, then we Stark Countians, are part of our own problem.
One out for the voters is that the Stark County Democratic Party has put sacrificial lamb after sacrificial lamb up against these two election after election after election.
Will current Stark Democratic Party chair Randy Gonzalez do better than the recently resigned Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.?
For the SCPR, this will be a litmus test as to whether or not Gonzalez is going to pay more attention to the electability and the quality of the party's candidates than Maier did during his tenure.
From the looks of how Schuring and Oelslager have not looked after education-in-general and educators-in-particular; those with a vested interest in STRS ought to be demanding that Gonzalez and the Democrats over a serious alternative come November, 2009.
But will they?
Probably not. That would mean educators getting their hands dirty in the messy world of politics.
That "above-it-all-attitude," even when self-interest compels action, is exactly what Schuring and Oelslager rely on.