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Voice The Nebraska State Education Association ď ś October 2010

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On the Cover: Right off the bat, Marjorie Nelson knew that the early retirement offer from her school district was wrong. She called NSEA and the issue was resolved to her satisfaction in short order. For the story, see

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VOICE Nebraska State Education Association 605 S. 14th Street, Suite 200 Lincoln, NE 68508-2742 · (402) 475-7611 · (800) 742-0047

Volume 64, No. 2 ISSN Number: 1085-0783 USPS Number: 000-369 Executive Director Assoc. Executive Director Director of Public Affairs Assistant Comm. Director

Craig R. Christiansen Neal Clayburn Karen Kilgarin Al Koontz

NSEA Board of Directors President Jess Wolf, Hartington Nancy Fulton, Wilber-Clatonia Vice President NEA Director Mark Shively, Omaha Leann Widhalm, Norfolk NEA Director

Official publication of the Nebraska State Education Association, Suite 200, 605 South 14th Street, Lincoln, NE 68508-2742. Periodical postage paid at Lincoln, NE, and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: send address changes to NSEA Voice, Suite 200, 605 S. 14th Street, Lincoln, NE 68508-2742. Published 10 times yearly according to this schedule: September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May and August. Payment of annual NSEA membership dues entitles Nebraska educators to receive The Voice. Total cost of producing 10 monthly issues of The Voice each year is about $4.84 per member. Advertising rates of The Voice are available from the assistant communications director. All advertisements and advertisers are screened prior to publication. Appearance of an advertisement in The Voice does not necessarily imply NSEA endorsement of either the product being advertised or the views being expressed.

Great Public Schools For Every Child

Vernon Miller is NIEA Teacher of the Year Vernon Miller, a business teacher for the Omaha Nation Public Schools, has been named the Teacher of the Year by the National Indian Education Association (NIEA). Miller, an active member of the NSEA and the vice chair of NSEA’s Ethnic and Minority Affairs Committee, will receive the award at the NIEA’s Miller 41st annual meeting in San Diego on Oct. 9. The award is presented annually to an American Indian, Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian member who has made outstanding contributions to Native education. Nominees must show exceptional achievement or performance in providing quality instruction to students. “This is a huge honor for my students, school and my tribal community,” said Miller. “I praise my family, friends, co-workers and especially my students, who have allowed my educational experience to be an enjoyable

and memorable adventure thus far.” At Omaha Nation, Miller sponsors the Student Council and the Indian Club. He is the head coach for junior high volleyball, and the assistant coach for varsity girls’ basketball. For the past three summers, he has served as a counselor for the National Native American Youth Initiative for the Association of American Indian Physicians. Under Miller’s leadership and guidance, the Omaha Nation Student Council has been recognized as one of Nebraska’s Most Outstanding Student Councils – Gold Level – in each year since 2005. The Student Council played host to the 2010 Nebraska Student Council Convention, making it the first all-native student council to be chosen for that honor. Miller is also the advisor for the Nebraska Association of Student Councils District IV, which includes schools in northeast and north central Nebraska. Miller, part of the Thunder Clan from the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, is a Lincoln Northeast and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate.

Celebrate American Education Week! Use NEA’s Tools to Mark the Event NEA’s American Education Week (AEW) spotlights the importance of providing every child in America with a quality public education from kindergarten through college, and the need for everyone to do his or her part in making public schools great. The event’s annual tagline, Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility, reflects the Association’s calling upon America to provide students with quality public schools so that they can grow, prosper, and achieve in the 21st century. In 2010, the 89th annual American Education Week will take place November 14– 20. Each day during the week will spotlight a different aspect of school life: n Monday, Nov. 15, will be Open House Day, with national commemorations to local events. n Tuesday, Nov. 16, is Parents Day. Schools are urged to invite parents into the classroom for a hands-on experience of what the day is like for their child. n Wednesday, Nov. 17, is Education Support Professionals Day. Individuals who provide invaluable services to schools are recognized for their outstanding work. n Thursday, Nov. 18, is Educator for a Day, where community leaders are invited to serve as educators to get a glimpse at a day in the life of a school employee. n Friday, Nov. 19, is Substitute Educators Day, honoring the educators who are called upon to replace regularly employed teachers. NSEA members can use the NEA’s online tools to plan a local celebration. The 2010 artwork and materials will be available in October at this web site:

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From the President

The $10 Loan

NSEA President Jess Wolf

...I do

know that the generous gesture made by my parents left a lasting impression on me.

There are stories in everyone’s life that leave profound, lasting impressions. A $10 loan made by my father had just such an impact on me, and I believe it relates well to a major issue being bandied about in the media and in the hallways of legislatures and Congress: taxes. In the early 1960s, when I was a child, my family was not well to do. I remember on one occasion that my father’s cousin arrived at our farm in south central South Dakota. The cousin rarely stopped by, but did so if he was in the area. On this particular visit, the cousin asked my dad for a $10 loan – I think it ultimately became a gift – to purchase gasoline to get back to his home. If my father had had the $10 in cash in his pocket, he would have gladly given it. But he didn’t have the cash, so he asked my mom how much money we had in the family checking account. The balance sheet showed $11. My dad wrote out a check for $10 dollars, and handed it over to his cousin. I don’t know how we got by on the remaining dollar that week, nor do I remember how soon additional money was expected. What I do know is that the generous gesture made by my parents left a lasting impression on me. “Nice story, Jess,” you might say. “But how does that relate to taxes and the common good?” Raucous Calls Though there are inklings of an economic upturn, spending has been reigned in all around, particularly when it comes to the budgets of public entities like state, county and local governments. There are constant and raucous calls by various groups to reduce services so taxes can be cut – with those calls often vocalized by those most able to pay the taxes. I thought it might be a good idea to consider what our collective dollars provide before we acquiesce to such calls too easily. The bottom line is this: which of the following resources could you do without if the tax revenue that provides those services dried up? Carrying Our Own Water Is public education something we can do without? At any one time, only 20 percent of the general population is benefitting from a formal, public education. Maybe those stu-

dents could put off their education, maybe just wait a few years until times get better. Could we do without community services like water and sewer service, or police and fire protection? Could we forego judicial services? We could all go back to carrying our own water from the well or stream, and what harm would it do to have outhouses dotting the landscape of our towns and cities? Lock the Doors! Each of us could lock our doors and protect ourselves from crooks and criminals. We could each become experts in monitoring cybercrime and credit card crime, so as to protect our online transactions and bank accounts. And everyone grew up wanting to be a fireman, right? Now is the time to learn the ‘fireman carry!’ And who needs road maintenance? Our state’s roads system was recently cited as the fifth best in the country. We ought to be able to let the roads go a little bit, just enough to drop back to 25th best – the mid-point in the country. That’s the satisfactory ranking we’ve always hoped Nebraska teachers would attain in salary rankings, so surely that would keep our highway proponents happy. A Reasonable Price We all know those options are not very realistic. For instance, a six-year-old gets one chance – and one chance only – to benefit from first grade. Public education has to be there, now, for that six-year-old. My hope is that all those scenarios sound ridiculous, as well. A wise man, Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr., once said that “taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” I hope Nebraskans realize the true value of the services – and the economic boost – their taxes provide. My further hope is that citizens and elected officials realize that, in an effort to be frugal, services can only be cut to a certain point before a serious erosion of service begins to diminish Nebraska’s good life. That said, perhaps it’s time to consider the benefits of modest tax increases. I’m certainly willing to pay a bit more to keep the worthwhile services our taxes provide. It seems a reasonable price to me, but then I was always taught to be generous.

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NSEA Rejects Move to Rescind Heineman Recommendation Board Sticks with Governor Despite Medicaid vs. Education Flap Members of the Nebraska State Education Association Board of Directors expressed concern about Gov. Dave Heineman’s letter asking education organizations to support repeal of federal health care reform. But the Board rejected a move to rescind an earlier recommendation of the governor for re-election, noting that Heineman has consistently called funding for education his priority. At a Sept. 18 meeting, Board members discussed an Aug. 25, 2010, letter in which Heineman called on the NSEA, along with the Nebraska Council of School Administrators (NCSA) and the Nebraska Association of School Boards (NASB), to support repeal of federal health care reform legislation or face possible funding cuts to education. A number of Board members said they were troubled by the tone of the governor’s letter. In the letter, the governor noted that increased funding for Medicaid is likely to result in less funding for education. “I am writing today to encourage you and your board to support the repeal of this federal health care law,” wrote Heineman. “If you sit silently by, I am going to assume that your lack of action is tacit support for increased Medicaid funding and the likely reduction in funding for education.”

Posing with the governor: Gov. Dave Heineman is making good on a promise to promote the involvement of parents in the education of their children. Here, during a visit to Lincoln’s Lux Middle School parent-teacher conferences, Heineman poses for a photo with Vicki and John Depenbusch and their son, Jacob. Christy Champoux is Jacob’s lead teacher.

education,” said Christiansen. “They understand that the most at-risk students are getting help from Medicaid. This choice between education and health care is a false choice for them.” Omaha Board member Carolyn “He has used his position Grice said that the education vs. health as governor to get legislation care choice will affect learning. “We’re through that we simply would not happy with the position he’s put us in in Omaha. We have low-income chilnot have gotten otherwise.” — Craig R. Christiansen, dren – and this affects them and us in the classroom,” she said.

Stern Approach Executive directors of the NASB and NCSA, as well as NSEA President Jess Wolf, jointly sent a Sept. 7 reply to Heineman indicating that while the education of Nebraska children is a constiNSEA Executive tutional responsibility, the health of citiDirector zens is also vital. In that reply, NSEA, Words vs. Actions NASB and NCSA leaders pledged to On the other hand, Christiansen work with the governor and Nebraska pointed out that in addition to supportLegislature to find ways to meet both obligations. ing strong state aid to public schools, Heineman has come Some NSEA members, however, sought a more stern through for education on other issues. approach. “He has used his position as governor to get legislation The NSEA Board rejected a request by the Omaha Eduthrough that we simply would not have gotten otherwise,” cation Association Board of Directors to rescind the NSEA said Christiansen, citing retirement and tuition reimburserecommendation of Heineman for re-election. Instead, the ment legislation that passed in 2010. NSEA Board approved a motion directing Association In its action, the board also asked Association leaders to leaders to meet with Heineman to discuss the board’s conexpress “that the Governor’s words of support for educacerns about the tone of the Aug. 25 letter. tion are not in support with his actions and his comments regarding individual school districts and educators.” Past Understandable Concern comments by Heineman regarding efforts to close the NSEA Executive Director Craig R. Christiansen said achievement gap in Omaha have offended teachers and the concern expressed by members was understandable. education leaders in Omaha. “Our members are very socially aware, as the nurturing Wolf said a meeting with Heineman has tentatively been educators they are, of the link between good health and set for Wednesday, Oct. 6. October 2010 n The NSEA Voice n Page 5

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A Happy Ending Told She Was ‘Too Old’ to Take Early Retirement, Wausa’s Nelson Stands Her Ground, Earns Settlement As Marge Nelson considered retirement this past March, she inquired about her school district’s voluntary early retirement incentive policy. She learned that to qualify, a teacher had to be at least 61 at the end of the school year, and have 10 years of service with the district. “I felt I fit that,” said Nelson, 66 at the time and nearing completion of 33 years teaching upper elementary for the Wausa Public Schools. Early retirement incentives like Wausa’s save the school district twice as much or more in just a few short years, as the district hires new teachers at lower salaries. Yet what Nelson was told by her administrator defied logic: She was too old to qualify for early retirement. Nelson is an even-tempered, nononsense, neat-as-a-pin grandmother. Even with those traits, her response was understated. “I wasn’t happy about that,” she said. She had very good reason to be displeased. Two of her Wausa colleagues, not yet 65, were also considering retirement under the district policy, and would each receive a $20,000 incentive, paid over four years. Two years earlier, another teacher who had passed a 65th birthday had received a similar early retirement package. Yet Nelson was told that since she was not retiring early, she would receive $3,300 – $100 for each year of service at Wausa – paid over two years. “I was told that I was ‘Medicare age’ – that I’d get Medicare, and that the early retirement buyout was to help other, younger teachers bridge the gap until they reached their Medicare years,” said Nelson. “But even at Medicare age, I’d have to buy a supplemental policy,” she said.

Marge Nelson’s story raises questions that any NSEA member considering retiring in the next few years should consider. Is there a voluntary early retirement plan offered in your district? Are there deadlines or provisions in that plan that must be met? Does the plan cover all certificated staff? Trish Guinan, NSEA’s director of Member Rights, says there are three things every NSEA member should know about such policies: n Each school district’s policy will be different. n Such policies cannot discriminate by indicating that a staff member is too old to qualify. n Every staff member should have access to a copy of their district’s early retirement policy. Questions? Call your NSEA UniServ director at 1-800-742-0047.

Immediate Action Nelson may have been unhappy, but she was far from helpless. She’s as determined as she is even-tempered, and she knows right from wrong.

“I felt it wasn’t right that just because I stayed longer and taught longer that I was being discriminated against,” she said.

Enjoying retirement: Now-retired Wausa teacher Marge Nelson was unhappy with her district’s early retirement offer. She called NSEA and got results.

What This Means for You

She also knows that her Association works for her. Nelson immediately called UniServ Director Duane Obermier. He put her October 2010 n The NSEA Voice n Page 7

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in quick contact with Trish Guinan, NSEA’s director of Member Rights, who brought NSEA Attorney Scott Norby into the discussion. “We e-mailed back and forth, and talked a couple of times. Trish said it was a clear and simple case of discrimination,” said Nelson. Sadly, Nelson was informed that such action against older teachers is common. She was also told that she could make a stand. Guinan advised Nelson to ask for a copy of the early retirement policy, and to apply for the early retirement package, understanding that her application was likely to be denied. Nelson requested an application, and was told by the superintendent that she would not get the retirement incentive. She touched base with Guinan – who consulted with attorney Norby again – and Guinan asked whether Nelson wanted the issue to go to court, or whether she felt comfortable proposing a settlement. “Trish said ‘give them a number you can live with,’” said Nelson. “I did, and they took it. So I got my number and the district got a new fifth

grade teacher – a wonderful teacher, I think. I’m impressed.” Nelson accepted a settlement for half what her retiring colleagues received. “Their number was different than mine, but that was OK with me,” she said.

NEA Western Leadership Set at Salt Lake City

‘Don’t Think Twice’ Today, Nelson is enjoying retirement, looking forward to a new grandchild. Looking back, she’s grateful for the support her Association provided in her time of need. “Trish was such a strong advocate that it carried over to me. She gave me the strength to get this done,” said Nelson. “The NSEA backing really means something. I talked to a friend recently who questioned the price of membership. I explained what happened to me and said ‘don’t even think twice about joining’ – and she did,” said Nelson. “Anytime I’ve ever contacted NSEA, they’ve been great help. Sometimes it’s been a simple question, other times a bigger issue. “I always knew I had NSEA with me,” she said.

The 2011 NEA Western Region Leadership Conference has been set for Jan. 12-14 in Salt Lake City. Conference registration will be online, at this web site, which will be live in mid-October: Scheduled to be held in conjunction with the Western Leadership Conference will be NEA’s Women’s Leadership Training. Registration will be incorporated in the WRLC registration template. For details, contact Pamela Rios Mobley at 202822-7727, or at: In addition, the NEA Minority Leadership Training Conference will be held at the same time and place. For details, contact Edwin Horsley at 202-822-7713, or at:

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Court Favors Central City EA Lengthy Impasse Comes to an End Supreme Court Ruling Installs Language on Continuing Contract The Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Central City Education Association in a long-running impasse with the Central City Board of Education. The Supreme Court’s ruling, handed down in June, gave closure to the CCEA’s contract for the 2008-09 school year. The court’s decision came about after the district appealed an earlier ruling by the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR). At issue were two points: whether to include continuation language in the contract; and the district’s proposal to arbitrarily remove contract language requiring payment to teachers for unused sick and personal leave. There was, however, more to the story. When contract talks reached impasse in late 2008, the district attempted to unilaterally implement the school board’s final offer. Instead, the CCEA presented evidence in the CIR trial that contract continuation language was prevalent in a CIR-approved array of similar schools, and that continuation language is a mandatory subject of negotiations. Continuation language carries the provisions of a contract over from one year to the next when a new contract has not yet been finalized.

Case closed in Central City: Among the Central City Education Association leaders and members who worked diligently on contract negotiatons were Nancy Tvrdy-Gathje, left, and Siobhana McEwen.

public sector collective bargaining agreements statewide.” Leveling the Playing Field “The propriety of ordering contract continuation lanMandatory issue guage as a term and condition of employment is really only In December 2008, when negotiations for the 2008-09 what appeared on the surface of this case,” said NSEA atcontract reached impasse, the CCEA filed for relief with torney Mark McGuire. “What this is really about was barthe CIR. In April 2009, the CIR issued an answer: the congaining power and leveling the playing field for our bartract continuation language was prevalent in similarly-sized gainers. That result was achieved by this decision.” schools in the region, and would be included in the contract. What it means, said McGuire, is that The CIR found, however, that pay local education associations can and for unused sick and personal leave should negotiate continuation language “What this is really about was was not prevalent, and could be deletinto their contracts if they don’t have it, ed. At the CCEA’s request, however, bargaining power and leveling the and hold onto it if they do. the CIR reconsidered that portion of playing field for our bargainers. “Continuation language is not only the ruling, and on May 3, 2009, issued That result was achieved by this good for the teachers, providing stability a “Final Order,” finding that such landecision.” and predictability if negotiations are not guage was prevalent and should recompleted prior to the start of school, — Mark McGuire, main in the contract. it is also good for the community, as it The district appealed, arguing that NSEA Attorney avoids divisive actions that disrupt the the contract continuation clause is not education of children,” said McGuire. a topic of mandatory bargaining, but “It’s even good for school boards and rather an issue that may be bargained. administrators as budgets are prepared and teachers hired Thus, the district argued, the CIR exceeded its authority in for the new school year. It is truly a win-win-win result.” ordering that continuation language be included in the conSaid Larry Scherer, NSEA’s director of Bargaining and tract. The district also asserted that the CIR ruling caused a Research: “This ruling upholds the rights of teachers and violation of state statute, forcing the district into a contract other public sector employees to organize for purposes of of indefinite duration. collective bargaining, and reinforces that collective bargainThe Supreme Court, however, concluded that such a ing should be conducted in good faith between the parties. provision is a mandatorily bargainable issue. The court This local victory will have monumental ripple effects for cited public sector and private sector cases supporting that October 2010 n The NSEA Voice n Page 9

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determination. The court also said: “We conclude that the District misunderstands the effect of the contract continuation law. Such a clause neither orders the district to enter into a contract nor acts as a contract for an indefinite term. Instead, the effect of the clause is to set forth the terms of the parties’ agreement until a new agreement can be reached.” Error Asserted Regarding unused leave, the district asserted that the CIR erred, contending that such a provision was not prevalent in other, similar districts. The court found that at least 10 of 14 schools in the Central City array hold some sort of provision requiring payment to certified staff for unused sick and personal leave. The court agreed with the CIR that the “inclusion of a provision providing for pay for unused leave is prevalent within the array, and to that extent, we affirm the CIR’s order.” But, the court said, rates of pay for unused days, and the number of days paid differed. The court ordered the CIR to consider the appropriate terms of the pay for unused leave to be included in the CCEA contract with the district. Prior to another hearing before the CIR, the parties were able to settle the unused leave issue. The unused leave provision was retained, but modified to apply to teachers with 10 years or more experience at a reduced rate. The benefit continues to be at or near the top of the array schools which offer a similar benefit.

NSEA Bargaining Confab Will Look at Road Ahead Performance Pay Strategies on Agenda The 2010 version of NSEA’s annual bargaining conference will focus on looking into the future – well into the future. Revenue from energy leases on state-owned school land will begin flowing to Nebraska school districts in 2016-17 – but only if 75 percent of the state’s school districts have a locally negotiated performance pay plan in place by that time. Thus, the conference theme is Bargaining for Success: The Road Ahead. The conference focus will be on inclusion and implementation of performance compensation in contract language. Higher Ed Bargaining As a bonus, U.S. Sen. Ben NelSet for February son will keynote at the Saturday, Nov. 6, luncheon. Nelson is an arNote to NSEA members working in highdent supporter of public schools, er education: Save Feb. 11-12, 2011, on your and is the third statewide official to calendars. Those dates are reserved for an NSEA bargaining conference for higher eduaddress the conference in the past cation locals. The conference will be held at three years, following Commisthe University of Nebraska at Kearney. Other sioner of Education Roger Breed details are still in the planning stages. Watch and Gov. Dave Heineman. The Voice and the NSEA web site for details. The performance focus is the result of legislation passed by the Nebraska Legislature earlier this year. LB1014 earmarks wind and solar energy lease revenue from state-owned school land, and allocates that revenue strictly for locally negotiated performance pay. Under LB1014, the teacher performance pay will supplement the salary schedule provided by local collective bargaining agreements. Teacher performance pay measurements, criteria and payout amounts are mandatory topics of collective bargaining. When the revenue from the energy leases begins to flow to school districts in 2016-17, those revenues will be used in each district only for the performance pay amounts provided for in locally negotiated contracts. Further, the funds generated by the leases will be available only to districts with performance-based plans in place. The conference will be held at the Midtown Holiday Inn at Grand Island Nov. 5-6. For details, call NSEA at 1-800-742-0047, or go to the NSEA web site at:

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‘Nothing Like Merit Pay’ State’s Performance Pay Plan Will be Negotiated Locally When it comes to performance pay in Nebraska, time will definitely mean money for Nebraska educators. Earlier this year, The Nebraska Legislature passed LB1014, which will begin immediately to stockpile revenues from solar and wind power leases on state school lands. Those revenues are dedicated to improving teacher salaries. But, as might be expected, those revenues also come with a couple of strings attached: First, proceeds from the solar and wind power leases will not be distributed until the 2016-17 school year. And they will only benefit teacher salaries if at least 75 percent of Nebraska K-12 school districts have a performance pay plan in place. There is no top-down, state-imposed plan mandated by LB1014; each school district and local association is left to develop a local plan. But the 2016-17 deadline means there is work to be done sooner, rather than later. Serfass To that end, NSEA is working to develop language that can be adapted and taken to the contract negotiations table by local associations. NSEA’s Alternative Compensation Committee is chaired by Dr. Cindy Serfass, a former NSEA board member and a director of the Freshman Study Center at Westside High School in Omaha. Also on the committee: members from across the state, as well as NSEA governance representatives (see sidebar). “Local associations need to start thinking about this, especially those districts that typically negotiate two-year agreements. Those districts have just two contract cycles to come up with agreements,” said Serfass. Earmarked Revenues Some will link ‘performance pay’ to merit pay, but Serfass and NSEA President Jess Wolf say Nebraska’s locally-controlled versions of performance pay will be much different. First, LB1014 puts the details on how performance pay will be awarded into the hands of the contract negotiations process in each school district. Under LB1014, teacher performance pay is a supplement to each school district’s salary schedule. Performance pay measurements, criteria and payout amounts all become mandatory topics of collective bargaining under LB1014. Thus, each of Nebraska’ 250-plus school districts could have different performance pay models. Further, each school district shall use the lease revenues earmarked for teacher performance pay solely for the performance pay amounts provided for in the locally negotiated contract. Finally, the performance pay is to be in addition to salary schedules negotiated at the local level. Those districts without performance pay contract provisions will receive no lease revenues. No Link to Test Scores Wolf said LB1014 has become law, and the job of local associations now is to influence the performance pay provisions at the local level through contract negotiations. “There will not be, and should not be, a link between per-

State-Owned Land Dates Back to State’s Founding

Under LB1014, the state is able to lease state-owned land for wind and solar energy generation, with the proceeds earmarked for locally negotiated performance pay. The state land includes about 1.3 million acres contributed to the state in 1867 by the federal government “for the support of the common schools” of the state, according to the Nebraska Board of Educational Lands and Funds. The original allocation of nearly 2.8 million acres consisted of sections 16 and 36 in each township, or lands in lieu of those sections. During the 2006-08 biennium, income to the school trust fund totaled about $64 million.That income benefits public schools, as will the income generated as wind and solar power generation develops.

Members Leading Discussion

These NSEA members have been appointed by President Jess Wolf to serve on the Association’s Alternative Compensation Committee: n Dr. Cindy Serfass, Westside Public Schools. n Robin Ankrom, Falls City Public Schools. n Linda Collins, Tri County Public Schools. n Linda Freye, Lincoln Public Schools. n Tracia Blom, South Sioux City Public Schools. n Eugene Hamman, Winnebago Public Schools. n Molly Erickson, Millard Public Schools. n Jane Leadabrand, Ralston Public Schools. n Deb Pauley, Omaha Public Schools. n Tom Whisinnand, Millard Public Schools. n Leonard Hartman, Alliance Public Schools. n Don Clark, Kearney Public Schools. n Dr. Patti Blundell, Chadron State College. n Joy Schott, Burwell Public Schools. Also serving on the committee are members of the NSEA Executive Committee: President Jess Wolf, Hartington; Vice President Nancy Fulton, Wilber-Clatonia; and Nebraska NEA Directors Mark Shively, Omaha, and Leann Widhalm, Norfolk.

formance pay and student test scores,” said Wolf. “Nor should local performance pay provisions allow for arbitrary or capricious salary decisions by administrators.” Serfass envisions a plan that might reward added graduate hours, endorsements or job duties. Or it might provide incentive pay to teachers who write – and meet – a self-improvement plan that includes indicators, a timeline, goals and strategies. “When they reach those goals, then there would be some incentive pay attached,” she said. Serfass said the committee hopes to have some best practices available for members in Spring 2011, so that districts can begin moving toward performance pay discussions at the negotiating table for the 2011-12 contract year. “We don’t assume that very many districts will get very far this year, but if it’s out there, some will get it done,” she said. That’s important, because the clock is ticking. October 2010 n The NSEA Voice n Page 11

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The Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations is under attack. Yet any reasonable review of the history of the CIR easily justifies both the commission and the process it uses to determine outcomes in public sector wage disputes. This is the second in a series that relates how the CIR affects Nebraska educators. Editor’s Note: In the September 2010 issue of The Voice, the historical background of the Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR) was discussed and the concept of comparability was introduced. This article by NSEA Attorney Mark McGuire will deal more specifically with the “nuts and bolts” of an NSEA local association engaging in, or considering, pursuing a CIR solution to a collective bargaining impasse. The singular most critical piece of information in this process is the comparability analysis and study. By Mark McGuire A “comp study” is the process of placing a school district’s teachers on the salary schedules of the list of schools constituting the array of compared-to school districts. To repeat details from the previous installment of this series, the array is selected by finding schools in close geographical proximity to the

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subject school and schools similar in size, which is based upon enrollments of no more than twice as large nor half as small. Your NSEA UniServ director can assist in the array selection process by accessing NSEA’s array picker program. Array selection is a significant component of a comp study, as it determines how much money is available for total compensation. Detailed Work The second step in this process is the placing of the subject schools’ teachers and non-administrative certificated employees on the salary schedules of the array schools and their benefits table. This process requires attention to detail and accuracy. Again, your UniServ director can be of assistance to you if you are unfamiliar or uncertain of the comparability analysis. This process determines the midpoint of total teacher compensation (salaries and benefits) generated by the array selected. The result of this analysis is an objective determination of whether the subject school’s teachers and non-administrative employees are being compensated above or below the comparable mid-point level of the array schools. If the subject school’s midpoint of compensation is less than what the array generates, then the CIR may offer a solution. All Aspects Scrutinized The next step in the process is for the subject school’s association to request that the NSEA consider filing a wage case with the CIR. Because the CIR can lower compensation as well as increase compensation, the collective bargaining and research staff engages in a detailed analysis of whether the CIR option is a viable solution. The NSEA will not endorse and support CIR litigation if there is significant risk of an adverse result. The NSEA staff conducting this detailed analysis include Larry Scherer, director of Bargaining and Research; Tory Tuhey, paralegal and expert CIR witness; the specific local’s UniServ director; and myself. All aspects of a possible CIR case are carefully scrutinized. The areas receiving the most attention are the comp study, which Tuhey dissects and thoroughly examines and evaluates. The analysis, however, is not lim-

ited to salary schedules, numbers and comparability figures. Contract language is examined from both an offensive perspective and defensive position. This is true even if contract language was not negotiated in current bargaining efforts, nor made an issue at impasse. The school districts involved in CIR cases are, as a matter of course, instructed by their labor law attorneys to raise nonprevalent contract language claims in retaliation for the teachers exercising their rights by filing a CIR wage case.

“A CIR case is not about proving right or wrong, but about establishing rates of pay and conditions of employment, which are comparable to the prevalent.” — Mark McGuire, Attorney Continuation Language Contract language was a primary issue in a recent CIR case involving the Central City Education Association. The CCEA had negotiated for a number of years to get contract continuation language into the Association’s agreement with the school district. Meanwhile, the school district adamantly refused that request. The CIR found, and the Nebraska Supreme Court later affirmed, that the continuing contract clause was a mandatory term and condition of employment and was a prevalent term and condition of employment. Both rulings thus ordered continuation language to be included as a term and condition of employment. The final order in the Central City case said “This agreement shall continue in full force and effect until a successor agreement is adopted which is then retroactive to the beginning of that school year.” Prevalency was established for Central City because 10 of the 14 schools in the array had continuing contract language. However, this also shows the defensive end of the field. If the number of schools with contract continuation language was decreased to six in the Central City array, then the district could have moved to have contract continuation language elimi-

nated as a contractual term. Thus there is a vital importance in keeping contract continuation language in place if it is currently in an agreement, or going after it vigorously if it is not a current term and condition of employment. The NSEA occasionally receives requests from frustrated local affiliates that have been bargaining for some time and have not made adequate progress. Occasionally heard is the emotional plea that a local would rather take whatever the CIR orders – even if it is less than the school board’s last offer – because Association negotiators are tired of dealing with the school board’s bargaining behavior. However, NSEA’s practice is to file only when we think there is a reasonable likelihood of increasing compensation or to gain prevalent contract language for our members. Emotional reaction is removed from the equation. A CIR case is not about proving right or wrong, but about establishing rates of pay and conditions of employment, which are comparable to the prevalent. No Guarantees While we cannot guarantee a result, each successful CIR wage case will have a “trickle down” impact on other schools in an adjoining array. This is but one of the rewards a CIR case brings. Perhaps the greatest benefit, other than increasing compensation, is that in the next round of negotiations a more level playing field will exist, and there will most likely be fewer array issues as the result of the most recent CIR case. The NSEA collective bargaining team works closely with the local association at the pre-filing stage, covering all contingencies to avoid surprises in the CIR’s final order. All of this process and work takes time. Local association negotiators and/or officers are wise to keep their colleagues informed as the case progresses. The NSEA will provide updates promptly. Thus, there should be no “traps for the unwary” because the local is wellinformed as to what to expect and the timeline involved. Next month: The CIR trial process. The phrase “going to the CIR” will go a step further, and examine what happens once one in front of the CIR. October2010 2010nnThe TheNSEA NSEAVoice VoicennPage Page13 13 October

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Back Pay Due College Profs Higher Ed Impasse Resolved at Supreme Court Level The check, as they say, is in the mail. Nearly 270 members of the NSEA’s State College Education Association (SCEA) will receive back pay for the 2009-10 school year on or about Oct. 8. The back pay is the result of an August Nebraska Supreme Court decision that resolved a nearly two-year contract dispute between SCEA and the Nebraska State College Board of Trustees. The Supreme Court decision involved professors at Chadron, Wayne and Peru state colleges – all represented by the SCEA– and is a good reminder of the power of members organized and active within the NSEA community. “For more than 30 years, NSEA membership has included higher education faculty, academic advisors, counselors, financial aid specialists, education support professionals and others,” said NSEA President Jess Wolf. “This success highlights one of the many resources the NSEA provides to members at every level.” Advice Along the Way NSEA worked with SCEA at each step of the negotiations process. When trustees stonewalled initial settlement efforts, the SCEA, with NSEA’s guidance, turned to mediation. When that approach failed, it triggered a move to a hearing before a Special Master, as diagramed in state statute.

Master ruled, faculty first offered 4 percent increases over each of two years, and later proposed a 3.5 percent increase each year for two years. Trustees, however, rejected the first offer and responded to the second proposal with a 1 percent offer for each year. “It’s on record that SCEA negotiators made fair, reasonable — and lesser — settlement offers. The State College Board arrogantly chose to ignore those offers, and the result is this order from the Supreme Court,” said Jess Wolf, NSEA’s president. “I can’t imagine what the state’s bill for legal fees might be for this issue – a dispute that could have been settled at the table a year ago.”

“It’s on record that the SCEA negotiators made fair, reasonable — and lesser — settlement offers.The State College Board arrogantly chose to ignore those offers, and the result is this order from the Supreme Court.” — Jess Wolf, NSEA President The Special Master issued an order, and the State College Board, unhappy with the Special Master’s determination, appealed to the Commission of Industrial Relations, which upheld the Special Master decision. Still dissatisfied, the trustees appealed to the Supreme Court, which concurred with the earlier rulings. What the high court affirmed was the Special Master’s order of a 7 percent increase for 2009-10, followed by a 4 percent increase for 2010-11. Back pay and interest for the 2009-10 contract year, totaling $1.1 million, will be added to early October paychecks for the 270 current and former faculty members at the three state college campuses. For 2010-11, faculty members will see an additional $600,000 increase. Reasonable Offers Ironically, SCEA negotiators at least twice offered to settle with the College Trustees for less. Before the Special

Collective Action Wolf noted that the ruling also affirmed bargaining procedures as set forth in state statute for faculty at the University of Nebraska, as well. “NSEA advised and worked with the SCEA leaders and members of each of the three state college campuses throughout the entire process,” said Wolf. “That support is not unique to SCEA. “And while a Supreme Court case is a rare situation, every day higher education leaders and members across Nebraska use resources available through NSEA and NEA. That’s the beauty and the power of collective action,” he said.

SCATA Members Due Settlement Dollars Larger-than-normal checks are also due to more than 70 members of the State Code Agency Teachers Association (SCATA) in early October. As with members of the State College Education Association (see story, above), NSEA advised SCATA members through an impasse process that started with a Special Master determination and ended with a Nebraska Supreme Court decision. SCATA members teach at state prisons and work camps, the Beatrice State Developmental Center, state regional centers and other such state agency sites.

The court’s ruling means that SCATA’s 72 members will be awarded a pay increase of 4.2 percent for 2009-10 – retroactive to July 1, 2009, – and a 3.9 percent raise for 2010-11. NSEA Director of Bargaining and Research Larry Scherer said both SCATA and SCEA negotiators made good faith offers that were rejected by the state. “We believe the thousands upon thousands of taxpayer and tuition dollars spent on litigation would have been much better spent funding adequate compensation for state college and state agency employees,” he said.

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Health Care Resolution Revised State Board Opposes Unfunded Mandates, Battens Down Budget At its Sept. 1 work session, Board member Bob Evnen asked the Nebraska State Board of Education to consider a resolution calling for the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) – the national health care reform bill approved by Congress in March. Evnen’s resolution came just more than a week after Gov. Dave Heineman asked Nebraska education interests to make a choice: pay for burgeoning Medicaid costs, or face the loss of state aid to education (see story, Page 5). Heineman asked education groups to call for the repeal of the PPACA, citing a state-requested study by Milliman Inc., which indicated an increase in Medicaid costs under the PPACA. A number of critics have questioned the Milliman findings, as the study did not consider the savings projected under the health care reform. Working with other board members, Evnen on Sept. 2 submitted a revised and more broadly written resolution that did not call for the repeal of health care reform, but did put the education of children as the state’s highest priority. The resolution also asked the governor and other policymakers to oppose unfunded mandates, while protecting resources necessary for the provision of a high-quality education for Nebraska children. The revised resolution passed on a 7-0 vote, with one member absent.

“We’ve gone through great pains to keep the reductions away from students.We’re just no longer able to do that.” — Jim Scheer, Vice President, State Board of Education Also thanking the board for revising the resolution were representatives of AARP and Bold Nebraska. A Businessman Speaks Out Rick Poore, a Lincoln businessman with “30 employees and a 9-year-old,” told the State Board of Education that he was very proud of the work of the Lincoln Public Schools. He also commended the board for removing references to health care reform from the resolution. He said the Medicare numbers cited in the Milliman Inc. study were not a “worst-case scenario, but a no-case scenario.” Milliman’s study indicated an increase in Medicaid costs to the state of about 8 percent each year. Other studies have placed the actual increase at closer to 5 percent annually. Nonetheless, Poore said the current

state of health care was unacceptable. “My business cannot afford the status quo. My business needs this law implemented. My employees need this law implemented. My community needs this law implemented,” he said. Latest Cuts Affect Students The State Board also gave approval to a budget proposal that, if enacted, would inflict deep cuts on Nebraska Department of Education programs for the 2011-13 biennium. The plan prioritizes cuts that would be made if state revenues fail to rebound. If all cuts are made, the department would lose more than 14 staff members and a variety of programs. In the face of declining revenue, the Nebraska Legislature asked all state divisions to offer budgets that were pared by 10 percent. Board Vice President Jim Scheer said that up until now, cuts have been made without affecting students. “That’s no longer the case,” he said. “We’ve gone through great pains to keep the reductions away from students. We’re just no longer able to do that.” Said Evnen: “We’re battening down the hatches, and then some.”

‘Surest Path Out of Poverty’ Representatives of several progressive groups addressed the State Board regarding Evnen’s proposed resolution. Their remarks came after the resolution had been amended to focus on all unfunded mandates, rather than just the federal health care legislation. Jennifer Carter, director of Public Policy and Health Care Access Program for the Nebraska Appleseed Center, thanked the board for the revised version, and told board members that a sound education is “one of the surest paths out of poverty. “We want to make sure you know there isn’t a choice,” said Carter. “Kids should be able to be healthy and be able to learn.” October 2010 n The NSEA Voice n Page 15

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News You Can Use Fulbright Opportunities for K-12 Teachers Two Fulbright programs designed for K-12 teachers from the United States and other countries offer unique professional development opportunities. The Fulbright Classroom Teacher Exchange Program is a one-to-one exchange program for K-12 teachers for one semester or one academic year. Participants exchange classroom teaching and related duties with an international teacher. The 2011-12 participating countries are the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, India, Mexico, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Applications are due by Oct. 15. The Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program is a three- to six-month professional development opportunity. During the grant period, teachers will complete an action-based research project, take classes and work with teachers and students in a local school. The 201112 participating countries are Argentina, Finland, India, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, Singapore, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Applications are due Dec. 15. For more details, go to the web site at:

‘Places We Live’ Creates Bond with Community All communities — urban, suburban, small town, rural — experience growth and change, which has an effect on each community’s environment. A workshop entitled Places We Live is a form of place-based education that helps educators create a bond between young citizens and their communities. Students explore current and future community environmental issues, enabling them to make informed decisions about those issues. Place-based education (PBE) immerses students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, using these as a foundation for the study of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum. PBE emphasizes learning

Register Now, Vote Early!

The Nov. 2 General Election is near, and teachers , as a general rule, set great examples for their students by participating in the election process. If you haven’t registered to vote, you can find a voter registration form on the web site of your county election commissioner or the secretary of state’s office.Those forms must arrive at your county election commissioner’s office no later than Friday, Oct. 15. Or you can visit your county courthouse and register to vote until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 27. You can also vote early by requesting a mail-in ballot. Such requests must be made by mail no later than Wednesday, Oct. 27. Citizens may also request a mail-in ballot in person at their county election commissioner’s office until 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 1. In all cases, those ballots must be returned to the county election commissioner’s office no later than 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

through participation in service projects for the local school and/or community. The free workshop is set for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19, on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. It’s sponsored by the Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Environmental Trust. To register, contact Jennifer Swerczek at 402-472-7765 or email her at: For more info visit:

‘Johnny Got His Gun’ Adaptation Free to H.S. With movie theater ticket prices going up and school district budgets going down, a Hollywood company has found a unique way to get its movie in front of student audiences: give it away! Greenwood Hill Productions is offering the educational DVD version of its movie Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun to high school libraries across the U.S. free of charge. Donations from corporations, non-profit foundations and private individuals will offset the costs. NEA teachers, librarians and school administrators who request the film for use at their school will receive a free copy of the educational video. It includes public performance rights, allowing educators to legally show the film in classrooms, free of charge, for the lifetime of the DVD. Costs for educational and institutional videos traditionally run in the hundreds of dollars. Educators can receive a free copy by sending an e-mail from either their

NEA e-mail address or via the high school’s  e-mail system to: donate@johnnygothisgunthemovie. com The following information must be included: the high school’s name; the name of the school’s (media) librarian; the name of the NEA teacher, librarian or administrator making the request; the school’s mailing address; and a main phone number. A portion of the film’s proceeds will be donated to the Fallen Patriot Fund, a non-profit organization established to help families of U.S. military personnel killed or seriously injured in Iraq.

Horace Mann Offers Lincoln Fellowships For the sixth consecutive year, Horace Mann Educators Corporation and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library have partnered to form the Horace Mann-Abraham Lincoln Fellowship. The program is designed to help educators teach children our rich historical heritage. The Fellowship program will offer 50 teachers the chance to study the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. The program includes round-trip transportation to Springfield, Ill., lodging and most meals. While all K-12 educators are eligible, the curriculum is targeted to teachers of grades 4-12. The application deadline is Jan. 3, 2011, and the 50 winning Fellows will be announced on May 1, 2011. Interested teachers should contact their local Horace Mann agent, or visit the Horace Mann home page at:

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More Locals Earn Gold Stars Contract Negotiations Efforts Lauded The best way to improve the local and state economy is to increase sales and income tax receipts. That can only be achieved by improving salaries and wages, with those dollars expended at local shops and stores across the state. So when a local association announces a newly signed contract, it’s usually reason to celebrate – especially when those contracts are above average. By mid-September, more than 100 local associations had reported the conclusion of contract negotiations for 2010-11. Listed here are some of the top settlements, deservedly called ‘Gold Star Settlements.’ They include several local affiliates that have topped, for the first time, the $30,000 level for starting salaries. Local

Base New Percent Increase Base Increase

Wahoo $1,000 Niobrara $1,000 Garden Co. $1,120 Kenesaw $1,100 Shelby $1,260 Twin River $1,000 Wilcox- $1,200 Hildreth Lincoln $1,423 Maywood $1,800

$29,500 3.51% $30,000 3.45% $29,120 4.00% $29,300 3.90% $30,235 4.35% $30,000 3.45% $29,200 4.29%

Happy Haunting! Your NSEA Membership Card Provides Monstrous Savings for Your Halloween Party Do you love celebrating Halloween with elaborate costumes, barrels of candy and a veritable haunted house full of decorations? Access members no longer need to be scared away by high prices because they can save on all this – and on much, much more. Consider these offers for the Halloween season: n Costumes: Find the perfect costume, whether you want to look cute, scary, funny or flirty. offers 10 percent off your purchase of $60 or more; Costume Craze offers 5 percent off; and offers 10 percent off hundreds of costumes of every variety. n Candy: Buy your candy in bulk and save big. You can find all the most popular fun size candy bars at bulk prices at Sweet Factory. PLUS, Access members enjoy 15 percent off every in-store purchase and online order. n Decorations: What’s a Halloween party without spooky decorations? Find all your fake cobwebs, witches cauldrons and hundreds of other gory options online at Celebrate Express ($20 off). Plus, they have costumes, pumpkin carving kits, party supplies and more. n Activities: Love scary movies? With Access, you can show classic horror flicks, as well as the latest movies, for less! Enjoy your first month free when you sign up for Blockbuster Total Access. n Food: Pizza makes any party better! Enjoy free cheesesticks with the purchase of any specialty pizza at Papa John’s Pizza. To enjoy these savings – and more – go to the NSEA web site, look for the NSEA Access membership card icon in the upper right corner of the home page, and click on ‘Click Here for Savings.’ Enter your 10-digit NSEA membership ID number found on your membership card or above your name on the mailing label of this magazine (your number starts with three zeroes), and begin saving! The NSEA web site is at:

$37,431 3.95% $28,400 6.77%

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Wellness Brings Staff Together

By Kurt Genrich, EHA Plan Advocate During the last school year, the Educators Health Alliance plan, in conjunction with Wellco and Blue Wellness, has initiated a wellness plan for schools that elected to participate in the pilot program. More than 2,350 eligible participants from 16 school districts made a decision to complete a confidential Health Risk Assessment, and join in activities at their schools to become more aware of the issues that affect their health and wellness. The Health Risk Assessment (HRA) reviewed an individual’s chance of falling ill or dying of a specific condition. It looked at the current medical condition and lifestyle of each person. In the spring, after the HRAs were completed, it was determined that the first issue to focus on was exercise for the school’s staff. The Walking Works plan had teams formed in the schools to allow staff members to help each other reach the goals set by each individual. Under the plan, each team would walk together during the day or support each individual as they worked to meet individual goals. The program went from April 1 to May 31, 2010. Within these schools, 165 walking teams were formed with more than 1,200 individuals participating, with incentives provided by EHA and partner Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. During the time period, 220 participants averaged between 6,000 and 7,999 steps (3-4 miles) each day. Another 260 participants averaged between 8,000 and 9,999 steps (4-5 miles) each day. And there were 658 individuals who averaged more than 10,000 steps (5-plus miles) each day! That’s a lot of walking! The feedback from the participants was extremely favorable. Among the comments: “This has been good for our school. We have conversation going amongst our staff about wellness, and I am thrilled about that! We are very excited about the fall and what we can do with it then.” A participant from another school said “The walking challenge is a huge success with us – we have 370 people in the challenge, which is 55 percent of our staff! Thank you

Members to Review EHA Plan

In an effort to gain more information from NSEA membership, the Educator’s Health Alliance has formed a Regional Feedback Committee of teachers who want to provide input to the EHA Board of Directors about the health care plan’s options and benefits. The committee will also help disseminate the information back to NSEA members. Serving on the committee are: Mark Gehring, Ponca; Eliene Loetscher, Winside; Larry Bower, South Sioux City; Chad Bailey, Holdrege; Kory Kitt, Sargent; Linda Clark, Lincoln Southwest; Jennifer Osten, Leigh; Tammy Blobaum, Johnson-Brock; Amy Johnson, Conestoga; Diane Coon, Gering; Dave Anderson, Chadron; Jeanette Niemann, Seward; Doug Mahoney, Malcolm; Tim McAllister, Fairbury; Jerry Layher, South Sarpy District 46;Vanessa Tanderup, Logan View; Diane Hammer, ESU No. 2; David Eledge, Metro Community College; Doug Sheppard, Fremont; Chad Ackerson, Central City; Jan Barnason, Hastings; Lori Erickson, Grand Island; and Craig Schaffer, Aurora. for doing the work to organize the challenge and also for providing the incentives.” The EHA Board of Directors is currently assessing the first year of the Wellness plan and the possibility of expanding the plan to more schools this year. What We Should Have Said We reported in the last issue that the federal health care legislation has upped the maximum age an EHA plan member’s dependent can stay on the plan. We reported that age as 27, when it is, in fact, 26. We apologize for the error. The Educators Health Alliance has contracted with Kurt Genrich to serve as the EHA Plan advocate. Genrich will work with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska plan participants to answer questions and promote the plan. The EHA Board is comprised of six NSEA representatives and three each from the Nebraska Association of School Boards and the Nebraska Council of School Administrators. NSEA Executive Director Craig R. Christiansen chairs the EHA Board of Directors. Call Genrich at 1-866-465-1342; on his cell phone at 402-217-2042; or e-mail him at:

NSEA UniServ Service Covers State: Check it at NSEA membership is about service: the service that NSEA provides to nearly 28,000 members scattered across Nebraska’s more than 77,300 square miles. To provide that service, NSEA has 18 UniServ directors, or field representatives, scattered across the state. Those UniServ directors meet with members every day, working to solve problems, answer questions and provide support as members advocate for their jobs and for the profession. The deployment of NSEA staff across the state is unique, in that NSEA members can get such personal service from no other source. There is a UniServ director assigned to every public school building and higher education campus in the state. The service they provide makes the value of NSEA membership unparalleled. To contact your NSEA UniServ director, call the NSEA’s toll-free number at 1-800-742-0047, or check the latest UniServ assignments at this web site: Page 18 n The NSEA Voice n October 2010

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Snookie’s Snippets

NEA Member Benefits is spearheading the Life Insurance Awareness Month campaign through Oct. 15. It provides members with information they need about life insurance coverage, to ensure they have adequate protection to secure their family’s financial future. At a special web site, you can: n Register or update your beneficiary for the NEA Complimentary Life plan. Krumbiegel n Learn more about the importance of life insurance. n Test your insurance IQ and register to win a $1,000 gift card. n View videos where members share their personal life insurance stories and experiences. The web site is at: NEA Academy The NEA Academy provides online learning for your life. Among other items, the web site has: n Peer-approved courses developed by educators, for educators. n Quality content that features practical, hands-on skills for real-world issues. n 24-hour availability: you determine your course schedule. n Low prices – only for members. n Graduate credit and continuing education units available. n Master’s degree programs through NEA Academy’s partner universities, which offer NEA member-only scholarships, tuition discounts and fee waivers. Learn about the NEA Academy at: A Brand New NEA Program When scholarships, federal loans and financial aid don’t quite cover your expenses, the NEA Smart Option Student Loan program by Sallie Mae can make up the difference. You can get the money you need and use the funds for tuition, fees, room and board, and other school-certified expenses. For details, call 1-866-898-5198, or go to: Snookie Krumbiegel is Nebraska’s NEA Member Benefits representative.

NEA Member Benefits

Home Affordable! New Federal Program Helps Homeowners Restructure or refinance Their Home Loans

President Obama has announced a broad national strategy aimed at helping homeowners restructure or refinance their mortgage loans to prevent foreclosures. The Administration’s comprehensive plan is known as the Making Home Affordable Program. The Making Home Affordable Program consists of two separate components: The Home Affordable Modification Program assists homeowners already behind on their mortgage payments, as well as those anticipating financial difficulty. The Home Affordable Refinance Program enables eligible homeowners to take advantage of today’s low interest rates — even if the outstanding balance of the mortgage is greater than the value of the home. The Home Affordable Refinance Program is: n Available with fixed-rate and some adjustable-rate products. n Designed to help you refinance through flexible eligibility criteria. For homeowners with mortgage loans that are held or guaranteed by

Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you should determine whether one of these programs is associated with your loan by calling: n Fannie Mae, 1-800-732-6643 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET). n Freddie Mac, 1-800-373-3343 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET). To be eligible for the Home Affordable Refinance Program, you must be current on your mortgage payments. This program is recommended for homeowners who have been unable to refinance their mortgage because their home’s value has declined, and who want to refinance their current adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), interestonly or balloon mortgage loan into a more stable fixed-rate mortgage while making full principal and interest payments each month. To learn more, call the NEA Home Financing Program at 1-800-6324968 and speak with a home mortgage consultant. Remember, the benefits of the NEA Home Financing Program are extended to parents and adult children of NEA members.

A New NEA Tool: RetirementWorks Powerful Management Tool is Offered as Exclusive to Members NEA Member Benefits is excited to offer a dynamic new tool for NEA members who are retired or within a few years of retirement: the powerful RetirementWorks II software. This comprehensive software package helps you make important financial decisions based on your unique lifestyle and personal considerations. It offers guidance on dozens of financial issues from the universal (Can you afford your current standard of living over the long haul?) to the individual (What financial strategy will best serve my special needs child?).

RetirementWorks also provides a retirement ‘Report Card.’ It rates your financial situation under both normal and adverse future circumstances, so you can prepare ahead to minimize potential financial ‘surprises.’ Before spending thousands on a personal financial advisor, you can easily access help that is comprehensive, integrated, and beneficial to your bottom line. For only $99 — that’s almost half off the regular price of $189 — you get a full year’s subscription to RetirementWorks. This is an exclusive offer for NEA members only, and the best price being offered to anyone — anywhere. Don’t let retirement manage you. Check out RetirementWorks at: October 2010 n The NSEA Voice n Page 19

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From the Executive Director

The Art of the Possible Success on Political Issues Can Takes Years of Work I had not been to the Hoover Dam for many years. It is always a wondrous sight. Finished in 1936, this magnificent structure dams the Colorado River with an architectural feat of construction, courage and foresight. When I visited a couple years ago, there was a new addition. What looked like concrete knobs protruded from each side of the rock walls of the valley. When I looked at the artist’s conception of a future bypass bridge that was posted for the tourists, it didn’t make sense to me. On a second visit some time later, a rainbow-like arch was beginning to span the valley. The engineer’s drawing made me re-frame my thoughts. The puzzling rainbow shape was the support for the bridge, not the bridge itself. It had taken five years for this to all come together. It is now a breathtaking structure that rises nearly 900 feet above the river. Someone’s vision made possible what I could not initially even imagine.

achieved through our collective efforts over many, many years.

Overcoming Differences If we had not stuck together, or stuck to our goals, or if we had let internal differences prevent us from working together and speaking with a united voice, these victories would not have been imaginable. Recommendations for political candidates, legislative strategies, coalitions of apparently disparate interests, political agreements that seem to settle for less than what we want are frustrating. After all, we know we are fighting for the right cause. Compromise is frustrating and incremental success is puzzling to understand without remembering that these actions are often like seeing a bridge being built. Each success, no matter how small, builds on the other until we achieve our goal. The success of the Nebraska State Education Association in shaping education law, Bridge Building policy and politics has Sometimes politics been the result of our is like building a bridge. collective action. As a It is often not possible group, we determine to even imagine the our goals and long-term end product. Politics is political agenda and not ideal and certainly strategy. not theoretical. It is These are not the deachieved by continual cisions of any one peraccommodation and A Work in Progress: NSEA Executive Director Craig R. Christian- son. These decisions do compromise of what is sen making sense of the new Hoover Dam Bypass. not belong to the Execupossible for that day. tive Director, the PresiSometimes it is hard to dent, individual members, local associations, districts or geoimagine the outcome. Politics is not the science of the most graphical areas. Our victories have come because we decide desirable; it is the art of the possible. on our agenda as a group, we stick together as a group for Our judgment of political acts, even political agreements, as long as it takes to achieve our goal, and we do not allow must be framed by the knowledge that political structures are singular voices or doubts of those unable to envision the final often temporary and only gradually accumulate towards a goal to keep us from acting as a collective force. broader goal. This often occurs with the major political victories of Nebraska educators. Omaha was able to create a teacher Small Packages retirement system in 1909. A statewide system would take an Yes, political success on very significant issues often additional 40 years of political action – and political accomtakes many years. And modation – before it was success often comes in achieved. Similar spans of small packages over those time describe the incremenMore on Hoover Dam, NSEA Successes years. But it will not come tal road to teacher tenure, at all if we do not stick tocollective bargaining, genNote: You can follow progress on the Hoover Dam Bygether. The political powder-neutral pay schedules, pass construction at this web site: er of the NSEA is only in and our statewide group collective action – and in health insurance plan. In Activities.htm our ability to understand fact, most of our significant Follow NSEA Legislation and Politics at this web site: the art of the possible. political successes were October 2010 n The NSEA Voice n Page 21

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NSEA-Retired Corner

Retirement System is ‘Solid’ NPERS Earns Perfect Score in Pew Center Report The Pew Center on the States Report has included Nebraska’s as one of only 16 state retirement systems with the PEW Title of ‘Solid Performer’ for demonstrating adequate funding; having a manageable unfunded liability; and consistently making actuarially required contributions. According to the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Systems August 2010 newsletter, the Pew Center report gave Nebraska a perfect score. Nationally, there is a $1 trillion shortfall that state and local governments must deal with over the next 30 years, according to the Pew report. According to the NPERS newsletter, an actuarial report is performed annually for each of the retirement plans under the NPERS umbrella. The accepted ‘threshold’ funded ratio, said the newsletter, is 80 percent, with anything lower than 80 percent considered under-funded. “As of the most recent studies (2009), the School funded ratio is 86.6 percent; the Judges 102 percent; and the State Patrol 89.8 percent,” said the NPERS report. While it is tempting to improve benefits or reduce funding during strong economic conditions, the NPERS report said Nebraska has taken a careful approach to increasing or adding benefits. “Improvements have been made over the years, but the importance of maintaining a strong funded status has always been given first priority. As a result, our plans are in a much better financial footing than many other states.” Free Annual Credit Reports By law, you are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three national reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Do NOT use the TV, as there is a fee attached. Instead, go to to sign up. This source does NOT provide your credit score; for that you have to pay or use one of the ‘free’ trials. Local Association Contacts Each year in this space, we review and update the list of local retired as-

Scholarship winners: The Lincoln Education Association-Retired Teachers awarded their annual $1,000 scholarships to future educators at a luncheon held at the Governor’s Mansion. From left are recipients Jaime Pella, Heather Schuster and Sara Wheeler; scholarship chairs Mary Lou Sandell and Barbara Hetcko; and Tammy Gebers, of Union Bank, a partner in the scholarship funding. Not pictured is scholarship recipient Michelle Sullivan.

sociation leadership. Here is the first installment in the 2010-11 listing: Lincoln Education Association-Retired President of the Lincoln group is Jan Stamper. Other officers are Janice Rowe, vice president; Linda Brown, secretary; Billie Bussmann, treasurer. Other leaders include Mary Lou Sandell, Barbara Hetcko, Jo Wolff, Pat Etherton, De Tonack, Rosalee Nagele, Lois Johnson, Wauneta Peterson, Pam Ford and Linda Lyon. They have prepared a full year of lunches, including one at the Governor’s Mansion; a trip to the National Roller Skating Museum; speakers on ‘Memories’ and ‘Communication is a Contact Sport’; a scholarship program; holiday celebrations; presentations to new retirees; and much camaraderie. Stamper can be reached at 402-483-1672 or at: Elkhorn/Sandhills Education Association-Retired Francis Rohrich is president. Other officers include LuEtta Clark, vice president; Marianne Wright, secretary; and Pat Monson, treasurer. Additional leaders are Marlene Petersen, Geri Benton and Tom Black.

Highlights this year will be tours of the Wayne State College Planetarium, the Orphan Grain Train Warehouse in Norfolk, and the Platte County Historical Museum in Columbus. Members will enjoy lunches at such enticingly-named eateries as Tacos and More in Wayne; the Downtown Coffee Company in Norfolk; and Picket Fence in Columbus. Rohrich can be reached at 402-3719096, or at: Platte Valley Retired Education Association Guy Roggenkamp is president; Martha McGahan is vice president; Linda Dahlstrom is secretary; and Marlin Sekutera is treasurer. Other officers are Jan Barnason and Linda Riley. They plan an exciting series of meetings with the author of a book on the history of Nebraska and Native Americans; a video on the Veterans’ Honor Flights to Washington, D.C.; a review of the 2010 Nebraska State Fair’s first year in Grand Island; and a visit with a marathon runner who has run in 48 states and seven continents. Reach Roggenkamp at 1-308383-3579 or at: — Tom Black, Editor

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The Inside Page

We’re No. 5 – in Roads! It’s All About Priorities The Reason Foundation’s 19th Annual Highway Report ranked Nebraska with the fifth best state roads system in the country. The report considered urban and rural interstate conditions (Nebraska ranked first); urban interstate congestion (22nd); maintenance (15th); capital and bridge disbursements (11th); and rural and other principal arterial condition (34th). Nebraska ranks ninth in total highway system disbursements, yet state policymakers (including 40 state senators) met in Omaha in August to find ways to increase funding for roads. Nebraskans are justifiably proud of the roads ranking, but note that Nebraska ranks 50th – dead last – in the amount of state dollars allocated to K-12 education. Just 10 years ago, Nebraska was 29th in the roads ranking.

to sound flip, but I wonder how many parents would want their names published with the achievement scores of their own kids.” Test Scores Don’t Reflect Teacher Effectiveness A new report by the Economic Policy Institute says student test scores are not reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness. The report said “the accuracy and reliability of analyses of student test scores, even in their most sophisticated form, is highly problematic for high-stakes decisions regarding teachers. Consequently, policymakers and all stakeholders in education should rethink this new emphasis on the centrality of test scores for holding teachers accountable.” The report is at: publications/entry/6276/

A Bigger Bite Tony Danza’s Toughest Job The Kaiser Family FoundaTony Danza’s acting career tion and the Health Research has had twists and turns, none and Educational Trust report more startling than the latest. that workers are paying a greatTeach: Tony Danza, is a reality er share of their health insurshow that premiers on A&E on ance costs these days. Friday, Oct. 1. In it Danza, who The average employee conhas a bachelor’s degree in edutribution to health insurance cation, tries his hand at teachcosts rose 14 percent in the past ing English to 26 sophomores All about coaches: Among the Nebraska coaches and year, to nearly $4,000. The rein Philadelphia’s biggest public NSEA members to stop by NSEA’s booth at the Ne- port said companies that offer high school. Coaches Association annual convention recently benefits still pay, on average, 70 Danza earned his degree braska were, from left, Elizabeth Grosc and Amanda Novak, Dayears ago, but quickly realized vid City; and Kate Kloke, Shelby.They visited with NSEA percent of the premium. But in the past year companies have “I was too young to teach any- UniServ Director Duane Obermier, at right. not absorbed increases, instead body anything.” Nearing 60, he passing those increases on to said, he began to wonder about employees. Deductibles are also rising, particularly in small what he might do with the rest of his life. The television show companies, where 46 percent of workers are now enrolled in gives him the chance to live out a dream, but Danza committed such plans – a 30 percent increase in just four years. only after he was assured that the kids came first. Danza said he was scared, afraid of failure, and cried three times in the first More From the Insurance Front week. Check local listings. Seen in The Hill, a blog site reporting on policy and politics: “We’re just days away from a new era when insurance comMore on Anderson, Schimek panies must stop denying coverage to kids just because they Last month’s edition omitted two key facts. First, it should are sick, and now some of the biggest changed their minds and have noted that the late Vickie Anderson served as NSEA vice decided to refuse to sell child-only coverage,” said Health Care president for seven years – believed to be a longer term of offor America Now Executive Director Ethan Rome in a statefice in that post than any other vice president in NSEA history. ment. “The latest announcement by the insurance companies Former State Sen. DiAnna Schimek received NEA’s Mary that they won’t cover kids is immoral, and to blame their apHatwood Futrell Award in June. She was nominated for the palling behavior on the new law is patently dishonest.” award by the NSEA’s Ethnic and Minority Affairs Committee. Tying Testing to Teachers It was just a matter of time: In August, The Los Angeles Times began printing classroom-by-classroom test scores, linking each classroom to a teacher by name. The newspaper said it planned to print results for some 6,000 K-6 teachers. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said “What’s there to hide? In education, we’ve been scared to talk about success.” NSEA Executive Director Craig R. Christiansen, in response to the Omaha World-Herald, turned the question. “It does sound kind of Big Brother,” he said. “I don’t want

‘Free’ Isn’t Always Free on the Internet This news from the PCMAG.COM blog Security Watch: The free Internet content you enjoy may have hidden costs. Experts from McAfee Inc. report that when you search for content, adding the word ‘free’ to the search term “wildly increases your chance of hitting a malicious site.” Pirated items – non-free content offered for free – are even more dangerous. McAfee researchers found that in searching for ringtones, adding the word ‘free’ resulted in a “300 percent increase of the riskiness of the sites returned by major search engines.” October 2010 n The NSEA Voice n Page 23

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Nebraska Teacher Gothenburg’s Bailey Koch says she is proud of Nebraska’s education system, so she wrote and submitted the following poem – written, she said, “about how I see Nebraska teachers.” With American Education Week coming up in just a few weeks (see story, Page 2), her poem is appropriate. By Bailey Koch 7-12 Special Education Teacher I know you by name, not by number. I know your address, where you slumber.

Mailed By: The Nebraska State Education Association Suite 200, 605 S. 14th St., Lincoln, NE 68508-2742

Family of Teachers

Your mother is a friend of mine. Your brother mows my lawn. Your father once helped me with my car, when it broke down at dawn. I watch you during school to make sure you are okay. I check with all your teachers to keep bad grades away. I know who your friends are. I listen when you talk. A piece of my heart gets broken when I hear your peers mock. I do my best everyday to teach to your learning style. I watch you as the light bulb goes on. Your success makes me smile. I go to your activities to simply be there to cheer for you. I can tell immediately when you are feeling blue. I take great pride in your success. As I was the one who helped you study for that big test. I come to work early. I always leave late. You came to tell me all about it when you had your very first date. I put God first and family second, but you are a very close third. I go to every extreme to help you soar like a bird. I’m not a saint. I’m not a preacher. I’m not looking for recognition. I am simply your Nebraska teacher.

Speaking of Teaching

“Man’s ego makes it difficult for him to accept this truth: Because no two people have identical minds or traits or capabilities, we’re all in minority groups of some sort.” Wally Provost, Sports Editor, 1922-1996

Each one a master: Helen Carlson, left, began her teaching career in several one-room school houses in Washington County in 1942, and ended her career with a 25-year stint teaching third grade at Jefferson and McDonald Elementary Schools in North Platte. Along the way, she continued her education, eventually earning a master’s degree in counseling and guidance. Each of the other members of Carlson’s teaching family also has earned a master’s degree in education. Next to Helen, from left, are granddaughterWendy Bartels, a second grade teacher at Dudley Elementary School in Gothenburg; daughter Carolyn Simmons, a fourth grade teacher at Maxwell Elementary School in Maxwell; and granddaughter Tiffany Anderson, a first grade teacher at Carole Rae Ranch Elementary School in Gilbert, AZ. If you have a family of teachers, send your photo and information to Family of Teachers, c/o NSEA, 605 S. 14th St., Lincoln, NE 68508-2742.

Stop the Copying! From Chris Miraglia, an eighth grade U.S. history teacher in Lakewood, CA:

“One of the biggest problems I found with utilizing hard copy work in my class is rampant copying. Students would copy work before school and during morning break. To combat this problem, I began using my blog ( to post questions related to readings. Replies on the blog are time stamped, and can be easily compared at my leisure in contrast to quickly checking hard copies during class. Soon after I started using my blog, the copying of answers was almost eliminated. Moreover, many students begin to actually spend more time on their responses, and the quality of work improved.” Sign up for Works4Me at this link:

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The Voice October 2010  

NSEA The Voice October 2010

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