Teachers Union "Early Retirement" Reward Passes House

Yesterday was the deadline for getting all our signatures for the tax rollback petition to the city and town clerks across the state -- except for ONLY the City of Boston.

We have until 5:00 PM this coming Monday to collect and turn in signatures of registered voters in the City of Boston, which gives us this weekend in Boston to keep plugging away to insure our success.

Please remember: Do NOT go back for any petitions you delivered to city and town clerks. Mail us your receipt (to the address at the top of this message) and our volunteer drivers will pick them ALL up in our clean-up sweep.

If you fail to follow these directions, your petitions may be lost in the mail or arrive to us too late to be counted.

As expected, yesterday the teachers union received its reward for investing millions of dollars of its members' dues battling our tax rollback, its long-awaited payback. The "heroes" of Bacon Hill voted 144-5 to override Governor Cellucci's veto of the greedy teachers union's outrageous money-grab. The House of Reprehensibles caved in as usual to the powerful special interest right on schedule.

The only true heroes were the five lonely representatives -- one Democrat and only four true Republicans -- who had the courage and integrity to stand up to the selfish teachers union:

Michael Ruane  (D-Salem)
Fran Marini  (R-Hanson)
Kevin Finnegan  (R-Newburyport)
Ron Gauch  (R-Shrewsbury)
Brian Cresta  (R-Wakefield)

I hope you'll remember when the rest of the craven cabal crowd comes around looking for your vote in the fall, Democrats and pseudo-Republicans alike. They won't be looking to represent you, as they've just demonstrated. They'll be trying to sucker you into another vote for more special interest spending scams. The rest of the "public service" sector is hammering at the gate now to pick our pockets for their "fair share" of the booty.

Yesterday the teachers union got theirs. Remember in November, when it'll finally be time for us to get ours the only way we can: by taking it back ourselves!

"The sky is falling, we can't afford a tax cut"? The way they're squandering our tax over-payment on Bacon Hill, obviously of course we can! And by god, we'd better take it back while there's still some left!

Chip Ford

"It comes as no surprise that the House has put special interests ahead of the best interests of children. This ill-advised measure would devastate education reform and set back our efforts to provide each student with the quality education they deserve.

"This vote highlights the fact that Beacon Hill and the Legislature are captives of special interests. There will be a day of reckoning. When education reform is set back, when the quality of education in our schools is devastated by this measure, then parents will know where the blame lies."

John Birtwell
Cellucci Administration press secretary

The Boston Herald
Thursday, June 22, 2000

House OKs teacher retirement proposal
by Cosmo Macero Jr.

Thousands of Bay State teachers took one giant step closer to early retirement yesterday after lawmakers overrode Gov. Paul Cellucci's veto of a controversial plan the governor warns could create a critical shortage of educators.

As many as 8,000 of the state's 75,000 teachers could take the early retirement option if the Senate follows suit as expected and approves the measure today.

Public Service Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Casey (D-Winchester), who joined 143 other House members in overriding Cellucci, called the measure "both timely and fair."

Final approval of the $50 million retirement plan -- which allows teachers to collect full pensions beginning at age 55 -- would be the latest high-profile political defeat for Cellucci at the hands of his House and Senate rivals.

"This vote highlights the fact that Beacon Hill and the Legislature are captives of special interests," said Cellucci press secretary John Birtwell. "There will be a day of reckoning. When education reform is set back, when the quality of education in our schools is devastated by this measure, then parents will know where the blame lies."

Cellucci mobilized his entire administration to fight the retirement plan, issuing dire warnings that as many as 23,000 educators -- one third of the state's teaching force -- will bolt from Bay State classrooms over the next five years.

But Massachusetts Teachers Association president Stephen Gorrie said, "This is a good step in the direction of enhancing economic packages to attract and retain (new) teachers ... and also allow teachers who have been working long to retire with some dignity.

"The figures the governor is using are the absolute outside of whoever is eligible. And it's not a matter of if (teachers) will retire, but when. Forty percent of the teaching force is going to retire in the next eight years," Gorrie said.

The MTA estimates that about 17,000 certified teachers are already in the pipeline to step into the breach when eager retirees begin flowing out the doors of Massachusetts schools.

Even the governor's GOP colleagues in the Legislature had trouble buying Cellucci's argument.

House Minority Leader Francis Marini (R-Hanson), one of just five lawmakers who voted to uphold Cellucci's veto, said the governor only won his support last Monday during a GOP caucus.

"He reiterated how strongly he felt that this would result in a teacher shortage," Marini said of Cellucci. "I did not fully agree with that. But I decided if I was going to make an error, I was going to make an error on the side of the governor's judgment."

Marini also rejected criticism that lawmakers are beholden to teacher unions.

"Despite what you read, teachers are respected professionals," he said. "Do they have influence? Yeah. But that's not just the teachers union. That's the teachers themselves."

A little-known measure in the bill will allow teachers who retire early to re-enter the state's education system after collecting a pension for two years.

That has prompted critics to call it the "double-dip" provision, since teachers who return to the classroom would collect both their pensions and a full salary.

The Cellucci administration points out that other states with similar early-exit benefits for teachers have experienced problems.

School officials in northern Virginia blamed a sharp increase in teacher retirements last year on a newly approved early retirement incentive. And the governor of Hawaii, faced with a teacher shortage in 1997, began rehiring retired teachers.

Jaime DeLeon contributed to this report.

The Boston Globe
Thursday, June 22, 2000

House OK's hike in teacher pensions, more charter schools
Cellucci rebuffed on benefits veto
By Michael Crowley, Globe Staff

In two actions with long-term implications for public education in Massachusetts, House lawmakers yesterday voted to more than double the number of charter schools allowed in the state and easily counteracted a veto of a controversial early retirement plan for teachers.

Because Governor Paul Cellucci supported a similar Senate-approved charter school measure, the expansion is likely to reach final approval this year, raising the state's cap on charter schools from 50 to 120 over the next five years.

Meanwhile, despite the governor's vehement denunciations of the teacher retirement bill, the House overwhelmingly rebuffed his veto without debate, 144-5. Even most GOP lawmakers ignored the governor's pleas to oppose the bill, and the Senate is expected to follow suit today.

Cellucci has taken an unusually hard stand on the measure, calling it an "abandonment of education reform" and warning it will cause a mass exodus of thousands of veteran teachers from classrooms statewide.

"It comes as no surprise that the House has put special interests ahead of the best interests of children," said Cellucci press secretary John Birtwell. "This ill-advised measure would devastate education reform and set back our efforts to provide each student with the quality education they deserve."

The bill is also opposed by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which represents city and town officials, and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which has slammed its estimated $50 million annual cost.

Supporters of the new retirement plan -- which lets teachers retire after 30 years of service with boosted pension benefits -- say it will help recruit and retain talented young teachers. They say that critics have exaggerated its impact.

The measure has long been a top priority of the state's politically powerful teachers' unions, and some critics of the bill said the overwhelming House vote displayed lawmakers' reluctance to defy the unions.

But the House acted against the unions' strong wishes with its vote on charter schools.

The measure passed the House by a 101-50 vote after a sometimes contentious debate. Opponents of the charter school expansion argued that the schools are still too experimental and unproven, and complained that they siphon scarce education dollars from already struggling public schools.

"This is precisely the opposite of what we should be doing," said Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton), warning that a charter school expansion could "cripple the public schools."

But backers of the bill, which echoes a version already passed by the Senate and supported by the governor, say the schools provide more choice and innovation in the public school system.

First created in Massachusetts in 1993, charter schools are public schools operated by private groups or companies with taxpayer dollars. They are not subject to school board and union rules.

Some 12,700 students now attend the 39 charter schools operating in Massachusetts. Another 9,400 are on waiting lists to attend those schools, according to the state Department of Education.

The measure passed by the House yesterday would allow the creation of 14 new charter schools per year. Seven of those must be "Horace Mann" schools, a slightly less independent form of charter school overseen by the state Department of Education.

House Education chairwoman Lida E. Harkins (D-Needham) argued yesterday that the goal of charter schools is "to improve the quality of traditional public schools in the Commonwealth."

The House measure would require that most of the new charter schools, which must be approved by the state, be created in school districts where students performed below average on the MCAS standardized test.

But Massachusetts Teachers Association president Stephen Gorrie said charter schools "still haven't proven themselves." He added that many educators are concerned that some charter schools are operated by for-profit companies.

Yet Gorrie was happy with the House's override of the early retirement measure and disputed Cellucci's assertion that more than 20,000 teachers could leave classrooms over the next five years. He noted that not all teachers will choose to join the new system, which will be optional for current employees.

"The alarms that these vast numbers of people are going to leave are based on those who would be eligible," said Gorrie, not on those who will actually leave.

The retirement plan, mandatory for teachers hired after July 1, 2001, would require higher employee contributions, but allow some teachers to retire with pension increases of $10,000 or more per year.

The House yesterday did not take up another proposed new retirement plan for public safety officials that had been approved Tuesday by its Ways and Means Committee.

The plan would have allowed police, firefighters, and other workers to retire after 25 years of service with pensions totalling 75 percent of their salary.

But union leaders said yesterday the bill would excessively raise employee contributions to the pension system, and lobbied against a vote.

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