Politicians Need to Stay Out of Teachers’ Retirement Funds

Here is what I just wrote on Maureen Downey’s “Get Schooled” blog, regarding how inadvisable and wrong it is for politicians to think they can dictate how to invest TRS funds in Georgia:

“Before politicians get involved in my pension funds and the pension funds of other retired teachers in Georgia, they will have a legal battle on their hands.  And, I will do everything in my power, with my words and impact, to convince others that it is time for Georgia’s teachers to lead the way in establishing real unions in Georgia not only for teachers but for all of Georgia’s citizens who have jobs in labor.
No one, except teachers themselves, has the right to be discussing and determining how teachers’ own retirement funds are invested.  Teachers’ retirement funds were contributed from their own monthly paychecks – in a significant amount monthly – over the course of their long and stable professional lives.  Those funds were pooled together with the funds of all other public school teachers in Georgia and invested for all of those teachers by the financial personnel at the Teacher Retirement System of Georgia.  Georgia has one of the best TRS systems in the nation and one that is financially very sound.  Before the Great Recession, Georgia’s retired teachers funds were 100% funded by teachers’ monies.  Since then, 85% has been funded by teachers monies, with the difference contributed by approximately 7.5% by the school district in which the teacher had worked and 7.5% by the state of Georgia.
Teachers were paid during their working years for the services that they rendered to the students in Georgia, just as mayors and governors are paid for their services rendered to the public.  Georgia’s teachers have a defined-benefit retirement plan that is legally binding. It was legally binding when they began their careers and that defined-benefit plan is still legally binding today.
I started my teaching career 45 years ago. No politician has the right to rob my retirement funds for his or her own political advantage – morally and legally.  If Georgia’s TRS were not self-supporting, as it is today, then the taxpayers of Georgia would have to pay 100% for my retirement until I die, as was established legally nearly a half century ago, when I began my teaching career.  Georgia’s citizens should be astute enough and wise enough to understand this and join the GAE, PAGE and other teachers’ groups in Georgia, as well as the public school teachers themselves, in demanding that the outstanding professional financial agents at the TRS continue to make sound financial investments for teachers, using the teachers’ own contributed retirement funds to do so.  The rest of this venture capital argument, concocted by politicians who are as flightly and vapid in their thinking as some of their constituents, is only a way to start drawing funds from the TRS and teachers in Georgia will not stand for this.  They see through it and they will fight it as high and as long as it takes to secure their financial well-being, their rights, and simply for reasons of fair play.”
Link to that AJC article can be found here: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2014/10/19/teachers-retirement-system-heads-up-hands-off-and-suspicion-all-around/
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The Reason I Will No Longer Be Posting on the Blogs at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On October 5, 2014, I posted the following words on one of the blogs of the AJC in order to announce that I will no longer be posting my thoughts on all of the blogs at the AJC.  I do not wish for people to speculate as to why I am no longer posting my thoughts there.  I decided to state the truth for myself in order to avoid speculation.  Link to the remarks below can be found here:



“I came to blogging so that I could discuss ideas, not so that I could ‘debate’ negative, toxic people such as TD and Astropig.  I feel as if I want to take a shower to get clean, once again, after having had a dialogue with people on blogs such as they are.  As much as I enjoy the discussion of creative thought and ideas, I do not enjoy dialogue with toxic people.  Blogging is just not worth it to me since I have to deal with that caliber of person on public blogs.

I do hope many will remember what I have tried to communicate on various blogs over the years, especially regarding my thoughts that the world’s people are evolving into a more democratic, just consciousness.  It will simply take more time, but we, as a world community, will get to that level of understanding, one day.

I will continue to write my evolving thoughts on my personal blog.’


“I fully understand and sympathize. If only the AJC would limit people to one comment per article. ” 


“Thank you for your words of understanding, Wandering Tao.  I appreciate your taking the time to express your thoughts to me.”


Ralph 43@MaryElizabethSings:

“Please don’t abandon ship.  It suggests the scoundrels are winning.  We need your intelligent and well constructed thoughts on the blog and they so nicely counterbalance TD1234, Astropig, EdUktr, and the other right wing trolls. Take a breather and come back tough.”

Mary Elizabeth@Ralph-43:

“Thank you for your kind remarks, Ralph, but I have no intention of returning to blogging on any AJC blog.  I have had to deal with toxic people on all of the AJC blogs, not only on this one.  It is no longer worth it to me, at age 72, to put myself through this. Some of those who have spread negatives about me (for whatever motive) have been progressives, so the venom directed toward me comes not just from rightwing types although the rightwing posters are in the majority.

I made a public announcement because I did not want others to speculate about my reasons for leaving. I have always been proactive. I do not feel that anyone is running me away.  I am simply tired of spending time in my life (which is more limited now that I am older) engaging with toxic people, who have, yet, many lessons to learn which I learned many years ago, in the course of my long life. Each person must find answers for him/herself.

Thank you for your kind words.  That is so like you, Ralph. Please carry the torch for enlightenment forward on public blogs, for me.  I do not believe that my years spent in blogging at the AJC have been in vain.”


“I too read your posts of farewell here regretfully. I’ve read your comments for several years now, here and especially on ‘Get Schooled,’ and have always admired your forthrightness and bold expression of your idealistic viewpoint. I think this is what drew many of the “toxic” comments, for many here seem to want to squash any viewpoint different from their own. Many of the negative comments directed at you have made me wince, because they haven’t fought fair but have only sought to hurt.

You have a very interesting and important viewpoint to express, as a longtime teacher as well as a native white Southern liberal who lived through the Jim Crow era. Often, you have “borne witness” on this public forum to what you have learned about cloaked Southern racism in a way that’s valuable to us all.  I regret very much that your voice has been silenced….and still hope this is not a final decision. Keep lurking.”


“Thank you for your kind and perceptive comments, Original Prof.  I will probably continue ‘lurking’ to some minimal extent at first, but as time goes on, and as my life continues to take shape in a different, more positive direction, I will ‘lurk’ less and less, I am sure.  Much of what is written by posters on the blogs of the AJC are simply repetitive thoughts, posted by the same people whose perceptions never seem to evolve. Continuing to “lurk” would be counterproductive to what I am seeking for the remainder of my life.

It has been a pleasure to interact with you on many of the AJC blogs. I have appreciated your support, and I have enjoyed reading your in-depth perceptions.”

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Why Football is Destructive to Americans

In response to the thread entitled, “Three high school football players died in the last week.  Should we reconsider football?” written by Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist, Maureen Downey, I offered the following comments.  See Ms. Downey’s excellent article at the below link:



Mary Elizabeth: “Football is not good for America.  It fosters a muscular, ‘winning is all’ sensibility – lacking of compassion and intellect.  It creates a brutal American male who has little regard for the dignity of women nor any awareness of how to relate to an adult woman, as an adult male. Football creates men who have no idea of how to create a more humane society, and world.  Football creates adolescent men, well into their sixties or seventies.  It is sad for America, this obsession with football and its ‘manly’ projection of violence.

Mary Elizabeth: “It is not just the physical damage to the body of even one player to which I object.  It is the brutalization of the sensibilities of the society-at-large to which I object, also.

I had lived in NYC during the 1960s while I was attending and working at New York University.  The anti-intellectualism in the South is sad.  Football has become a way of life here, instead of valuing deeper thought and reflection.  As we have seen with the number of major league football players who beat up their wives and partners, violence can become a way of life.  The violence inherent in football is not good for the society emotionally and intellectually, as well as for the obvious physical damage it does, even decades later, to the players and to those they may abuse.

The South needs to become more humane, imho.  It has a long history of frustrated violence interwoven into its culture.  Football is a release of that violence.  We must find more productive ways to elevate the consciousness of the South, imo.”

Other poster:

“And there is absolutely no anti-intellectualism in the North?  You obviously, once again, see the South as a stereotype, and all stereotypes are based on hate and ignorance.”

Mary Elizabeth: “Of course, some value anti-intellectualism in the North and some in the South value deeper learning.  However, having lived in both cultures, I have found that the norm in the North swings much more toward the valuing of intellectual pursuits than does the norm in the South.  And, this variance shows up in how many in the South have voted, for far too many years, against their own best interests by buying into propaganda instead of seeing through it. “

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Why Jason Carter is Wrong that Teachers’ Pensions Should Supply Funding for Risky Venture Start-Up Businesses

Today, 9/22/14, there has been an active discussion regarding why Jason Carter is wrong to support a law which would require that a percentage of retired teachers’ pensions funds be used to fund risky venture start-up businesses through their Teacher Retirement System (TRS) of Georgia funds, meant to give these elderly teachers financial security in their old age, as promised by the state of Georgia when they were beginning, young teachers.

If you wish to be fully informed on this issue, please read all of my remarks which run throughout this thread on Jim Galloway’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution blog (written by Greg Bluestein), as well as read all other comments in the link below:


My thoughts on this issue:

“I was one of Jason Carter’s staunchest supporters. I am a native Georgian, a Democrat, and a retired public school teacher, after having served the public school children of Georgia for 35 years of my life.

I was appalled yesterday to learn that Jason Carter would help to enact a law which would take my TRS funds (hard earned funds that I, and many other teachers, contributed to the TRS for 30 or 40 years) to hand over to risky business start-up entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs of wannabee start-up businesses should save, themselves, to start their own risky business ventures. If the state of Georgia it is insistent upon giving these handouts to these entrepreneurs – practically all start- up businesses of years past in Georgia have had a record of failure – then it should find the money from other means to give to these risky business ventures than from the hard-earned money of worthy, elderly teachers through their TRS funds. There is good reason that 20 years ago the TRS broke from the state of Georgia. Politicians and politicians should stay out of my retirement funds.

Jason Carter, unless you change you position on this issue, I will vote for Nathan Deal, and not for you. This support from you to take money from the TRS makes you appear very politically self-serving and opportunistic – to this 72 year old retired teacher and educational leader in Georgia.”


These remarks were posted on Facebook:

While we agree with you that no one needs to be changing TRS, Nathan Deal and some of the Legislators are planning a complete raid on the TRS. Hunter Hill (6th District – Cobb/Fulton) has Senate Resolution 782 sitting in committee after last years session. It would allow for a “study committee” of 17 people to looking into doing away with the defined benefit that has proven so important to Georgia teachers.

Moving away from a defined benefit to a contribution system would destroy TRS for future generations of children, and Deal would like nothing more than to be able to appoint the 17-member committee that would dismantle TRS.

We were heartened to hear Senator Carter clarify yesterday that he would make NO changes to TRS without the input and blessing of the teachers who would be affected.


On reflection two days later:

Jay Bookman, columnist for the AJC wrote the following comments, in part, on his blog on the morning of September 24, 2014:

“I don’t buy all of his (Jason Carter’s) policy proposals — his recent call to use state pension funds as a source of venture capital, for example, is worrisome. Such a program offers a huge temptation for corruption, and nothing in Georgia’s good-ol-boy political culture nor in its system of ethics enforcement offers reassurance that the temptation could be avoided.
What Carter does offer is an understanding that the status quo is not working, that more of the same from the folks under the Gold Dome is going to produce more of the same. After 12 years of such gubernatorial ‘leadership’ under Perdue and now Deal, that’s not acceptable.”
Mary Elizabeth Sings’ response: “Thank you for this statement, Jay Bookman.  I thought I might not vote for Jason Carter, because of his stand on this issue, alone, but he has tempered his position, a bit, by indicating that he would not do anything that teachers were not in favor of, and he has sought guidance from the GAE, in this regard, also.
I am voting a straight-up Democratic ticket in November, and I encourage all citizens of Georgia to do the same, if you want to move Georgia forward, again.”
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The Invaluable Economic Strength That Teachers Give Back to their Communities

Read the entire page from Jim Galloway’s blog on the Atlanta Journal Constitution and notice my remarks regarding how very much teachers contribute the economic viability of their communities through their collective purchasing power.  They give back, in economic strength, to their communities almost twice as much as they receive in salaries as teachers.  See the link below:


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Instructional Management of Many Classroom Groups through Hiring Instructional Lead Teachers

On August 24, 2014, I posted the following comments on the “Get Schooled” blog of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, regarding an instructionally sophisticated way of managing, school wide, the range of skill levels students will always have within various grade levels.  Another poster responds to my remarks. See below for the comments and the link to that thread on “Get Schooled.”

Mary Elizabeth to another poster: You are describing realistic groupings of students to address individual needs without undue burden on teachers. The public must be educated not to perceive in dramatic absolutes (as you had written yesterday) regarding what is involved in individualizing to students’ various needs. Many other instructional suggestions (other than those you presented) can also be exercised, and are. The key to understanding how individualizing instruction works is to perceive in instructional details, instead of in generalities, about the many ways to deliver individualized instruction. That would involve forming various groupings of students, using several teachers to team-analyze the best groupings within their overall jurisdictions of students they are responsible to educate, as well as funding more paraprofessional or mentoring support by well-trained instructional coaches and/or adult volunteers.

Thank you for your well-balanced and well-considered post.


The other poster responds to Mary Elizabeth’s comments, above:
Agreed. The problem may also rest on the need for principals to work with the teachers to compose the classrooms in that way and to work the master schedule around it. Some school administrators might need help doing that.
Making all classrooms evenly composed and punting the “differentiation” to the teachers seems like the path of least resistance for the administrator who either does not have the logistical skills or won’t take the time to group students more appropriately.
What can be done by a school system to assist with this?
MaryElizabethSings's avatar


Continued dialogue with the other poster on the “Get Schooled” blog, on August 25, 2014:

Other Poster:
Sounds like this ILT position is exactly what Young Middle School needs. How would folks at that school lobby for this from APS and work with Mr. Middleton, Associate Superintendent for middle schools to ability group their students effectively without tracking?
And is APS capable of providing the sort of training you suggest?”

Mary Elizabeth:
I am not familiar with the APS in any detail, but I worked with the DeKalb County School System, from 1971 – 2000 when I retired. I was the ILT in a school without walls in south DeKalb County for almost a decade (1975 – 1984) in which I functioned as the ILT, doing exactly what I have described on this thread. Please know that schools do not have to remove walls in order to form multi-aged groupings throughout the school and to be aware of every group formed within the school. Schools simply must have a sophisticated knowledge of instructional delivery in depth, led by an excellent Instructional Lead Teacher and/or Principal, hopefully both, working in harmony.

From 1984 – 2000, I was the Reading Department Chair, and Advanced Reading teacher of the high school in south DeKalb County which served 1800 students. I tested all of the students in that high school on reading vocabulary and comprehension skills, by means of an in-house Nelson (or Nelson-Denny) Reading Test (provided by the Reading Department of the DCSS in the Department of Instruction) through the help of all English teachers in the school. We did this testing for diagnostic purposes to better place and instruct all of the students in that south DeKalb County high school.

My suggestions to you in helping the students and teachers at the Young Middle School in the Atlanta Public School System:

(1) Get interested teachers, parents, administrators together as a lobbying group and have these people (the greater the number, the better) persuade Mr. Middleton to contact Instructional Coordinators within the DeKalb County School System who remember when the DCSS had hired ILT’s for most of its elementary/middle schools (grades 1 – 7) beginning with the 1978 school year when the ILT position was created until that ILT position was discontinued (because of money concerns?), if in fact it has been discontinued.

(2) Suggest to Mr. Middleton that some Instructional Coordinators from the APS be chosen to make an appointment in the DCSS central instructional area to speak directly with these older DCSS Instructional Coordinators about the role of the ILT when it existed in the DCSS. These older Instructional Coordinators/Supervisors from the DeKalb School System should be able to advise personnel from the APS as to how to get the ILT role incorporated into the APS, perhaps as a model for other schools in the APS in to how to serve the instructional needs of each student, very precisely.

(3) Hire at least one Instructional Lead Teacher (as a model, hopefully, to be implemented, later, in other APS schools), who will know instructional strategies and instructional groupings with great detail and expertise, and who will know how to work with, and communicate with, others, including parents and the whole community, in workshops after school hours. This ILT must be willing to go over and beyond to train teachers, parents, counselors, and administrators about how to place and correctly monitor the progress of all students in the school. This must be a community project to see Young Middle School succeed beyond all expectations. Train and implement. This will keep hope alive. I so hope that this instructional goal is accomplished.

(3) To help as I can, I have incorporated my thoughts (and yours) into my last post on my own blog. Any educator who wishes to read our words, here, can go to this link to read what we have discussed:


(4) Share with as many people in the community my thoughts on education, as I practiced them under the Associate Superintendent of Instruction in the DCSS beginning in the 1975 -1976 school year when he formed his open classroom, multi-aged groups, continuous-progress model school, and hired me to work directly under him. A beginning link to understanding part of what he had taught me, and what I learned about instruction, can be read at this link on “Mastery Learning”:


GOOD LUCK. I cannot tell you how gratified I would be to know that the APS would incorporate some of the instructional suggestions which I have shared here. I will pray for this to happen. Don’t give up. Be tenacious in your commitment to this happening. It happened before in the DCSS, and it can happen again in the APS. Who knows, Young Middle School, as part of the APS, might become a model school for other schools throughout Georgia in how to address individual needs of students without tracking.

Post Script: A simple way to get to my blog, through memory, is:


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Disciplinary Problems in Public Schools

I posted the following thoughts regarding disciplinary problems in public schools in America on the Get Schooled blog of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on August 20, 2014:


Disciplinary problems in schools in the south metro area, especially, come from poverty and different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds that will take years, more, of concentrated effort and programs to overcome. These disciplinary problems are societal in nature, more than educational in nature, although schools inherit the problems in discipline within their walls because of society’s problems. The best reparations that we, as a nation, could give the black communities throughout our nation, would be more concentrated effort to enter their communities with fully-funded resources to lift their communities, as LBJ had started to do in the 1960s with great success.

However, since the mid-1970s, there has been a very selfish backlash to the altruism of the 1960s, and we, as a nation, have not served the poor in our nation as a great nation should have. We have dropped the ball in that continuing rectification of poverty of blacks (left over from slavery and Jim Crow), and now from immigrants, such as poor Hispanics. All of this shows up in our schools as disciplinary problems, but that means even more reason to monitor individual students instructionally, with even greater precision and care. Discipline problems in schools have nothing to do with how carefully educators monitor the progress of students, individually. That is done outside of classroom time. But, correct diagnosis and monitoring of individual students is a necessity, and an instructional truth, that must happen or too many students will continue to fail. Too many students have fallen through the cracks of educational systems and this must end if our public schools are to survive, and they must survive or corporations will run every aspect of our lives. We will no longer be a democratic-republic, if that were to happen to America.

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