Rep. Ron Young (R-Leroy Twp.) has introduced House Bill 66, legislation that would create a state-imposed workload mandate for tenured faculty.
The legislation calls upon boards of trustees at each public college and university to review and update workload policies. Those updated policies would have to include a provision that tenured faculty must teach “not less than three semester hours, or the equivalent, of undergraduate courses per semester.”
The bill would not impact current collective bargaining agreements, but explicitly lays out that it would prevail over any future collective bargaining agreements, should the bill be passed and enacted.
Gov. Kasich has tried to impose workload mandates in previous budget bills, but the legislature was quick to remove those provisions. Generally speaking, colleges and universities have been opposed to these provisions because they do not want the General Assembly to get in the business of micromanaging institutions.
Right now, we do not know where the Inter-University Council or Ohio Association of Community Colleges stand on the bill. We do hope that we can be united with those employer groups, as well as other organizations, to combat this misguided legislation.
The bill merely has been introduced and has not yet been referred to committee, although we expect that it will be referred to the new House Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee. Should the bill be scheduled for hearings, we will provide testimony on the myriad of problems that this legislation would present in tinkering with workload.
As always, we will try to help legislators understand that these are not the real issues facing public higher education.
One of the critical functions that the Ohio Conference performs for you, our members, is participating in coalitions that advance collective interests.
With regard to public college and university faculty in the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS), we belong to a coalition called Healthcare and Pension Advocates of STRS, or what we refer to simply as “HPA.”
HPA is a coalition of active educator groups like ours, retired educator organizations, as well as associations that represent the K-12 and higher education employers. HPA originally began to save the retiree healthcare program, but as pension issues sprouted, began to take on a wider set of issues.
AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum, a member from Wright State University, and OCAAUP executive director Sara Kilpatrick represent faculty as part of HPA. This allows us to voice concerns to the STRS staff about the direction of the retirement system. We balance the interests of those in the Defined Benefit (DB) system with those who have chosen the Alternative Retirement Plan (ARP).
In 2012, a set of reforms were made to STRS in order to shore up funding of the DB system to meet legislative demands. These reforms included raising the mitigating rate for those in the ARP, as well as increasing contributions from DB members by 4%.
Most recently, the STRS Board and staff have undergone the legislatively-mandated five-year actuarial study. The study has revealed that market returns over the last five years have not been as high as were anticipated. The consultants hired by the system have recommended a new discount rate (the expected rate of return) of not higher than 7.25% (the current rate is 7.75%). The STRS staff are recommending a more conservative 7%.
Lowering the discount rate means that the system’s liabilities will increase drastically. This then creates pressure on the system to make additional reforms in order to lower the liability. The STRS staff is recommending to the Board that they should eliminate the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for retirees.
Rudy Fichtenbaum taught econometrics for 35 years. He keenly understands economic forecasting and believes that STRS is making unnecessary decisions that will hurt retirees. Please take a few moments to read the letter that he sent to our colleagues in HPA.
Like the STRS Board and staff, we want to ensure the preservation of the Defined Benefit plan, but we firmly believe that we cannot keep cutting, cutting, cutting away at active educators and retirees alike if the DB is going to have any real value to members. And please know that we will continue fighting for all public college and university faculty to be treated fairly by STRS.