TO THE EDITOR
Our membership is passionate about our cause. This past year we've been very active across the state advocating for change in leadership at STRS.
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Ohio's retired teachers deserve much more from STRS
Akron Beacon Journal
Robin Rayfield, Guest Columnist
September 11, 2022
I was sad, but not surprised, to read Bill Siegferth’s column last week criticizing the Ohio Retirement Teachers Association’s efforts to fight for real reform and change at the State Teachers Retirement System.
I was sad, because the poor management and failing investments strategies at STRS is a real issue hurting thousands of retired teachers in Ohio who are struggling with record inflation.
I was not surprised, because the author has an unfortunate history of defending the status quo to protect his cronies’ power and influence.
Teachers were promised and expect a dignified retirement — any denial is gaslighting. The issue at hand is how STRS has broken this promise of a safe and secure retirement for our educators.
Faced with massive unfunded liabilities resulting from gross mismanagement and failed investment strategies, STRS has chosen to cut teacher benefits, make riskier investments and pay astronomical fees to Wall Street.
Years ago, teachers were forced to pay more and work longer for a smaller pension benefit than what was promised. Specifically, their individual contributions increased from 10% to 14% and the minimum years of service to retire rose from 30 to 35 years.
And then in 2017, STRS stopped cost-of-living (COLA) increases. With inflation reaching upward of 9% today, retired teachers living on fixed incomes are struggling even more. It’s a double-whammy that’s punched a gigantic hole in their budgets.
But in that same time, STRS has awarded its employees more than $50 million in performance bonuses. With inflation at a 40-year high, awarding these bonuses is a slap in teachers’ faces.
How big of a slap you ask? Well let’s assume an Akron City teacher retired in 2017 with an expected pension benefit of $56,000. With the loss of their COLA in 2017, our teacher has cumulatively lost around $25,200 in benefits to date. In 20 years, that number balloons to $352,800 in lost benefits. Mr. Siegferth may be okay with teachers losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I assure you most teachers are not. Just ask the more than 40,000 STRS members who are engaging in Facebook groups advocating for reform.
And these calculations can be done for every retired teacher. In fact, you can click here to visit our website to see for yourself how STRS mismanagement of fund resources is affecting all retirees.
But the good news is that teachers are speaking up and making their voices heard. Three newly elected, ORTA-endorsed STRS board members take their board seats in just a few weeks. Those newly elected members — Liz Jones, Julie Sellers and Steve Foreman — overwhelmingly defeated anti-reform incumbents in May by advocating for change and accountability.
Teachers can be excited that these new board members who care about retired and active teachers will be in place at the next meeting. Teachers can be hopeful that STRS will once again soon be looking out for the best interests of Ohio teachers.
The new board must take the drastic steps needed to rebuild trust, bring needed transparency and deliver on the promise to provide a safe and secure retirement.
STRS ignored by Ohio officials
Submitted by Linda Essex (Bryan, OH)
September 4, 2022
The State Teachers Retirement Board of Ohio recently pushed through 10 million in staff bonuses while losing $3 billion within the State Teachers of Ohio retirement fund.
The State Teachers Retirement fund has for sometime consistently lost money at the hands of mismanagement by the Board. Benchmarks set by the board are consistency lowered to show they are doing their job to properly funds the retirement system.
The Board had taken away a guaranteed 3 percent raise for retired teachers until this year only to approve a onetime increase of 3 percent.
The Board has consistently lost money for retired teachers and future teachers while at the same time increasing current teachers’ contributions.
All of this is being ignored by the State Legislature and our current governor and lieutenant governor by previously having given up any oversight of State Teachers Retirement System.
READ ON TOLEDO BLADE
Someone should watch out for retired teachers
Submitted By John Curry
August 25, 2022
Recently the board governing the State Teachers Retirement Fund (the pension fund for teachers) voted to award $9.7 million in performance-based incentives to its 90-member investment staff, despite having lost $3 billion in the first 11 months of the year.
STRS staff continues to get pay raises and bonuses despite massive investment losses and warning members about possible fund insolvency.
Ohio’s governor has a current salary of $159,182. The salary of the highest paid employee of Ohio STRS, in Fiscal Year 2021, earned $819,481, and the second-highest-paid STRS employee earned $584,415. Eighty-six STRS employees made more last year than the governor’s current salary!
Teachers are told we need to make sacrifices despite being promised a safe and secure retirement. To keep the fund alive, Ohio’s active teachers are forced to pay more of their paycheck into the pension fund (14% rather than the 10% from a few years back), and retired teachers lost their promised cost-of-living increases years ago.
As a retired teacher trying to make ends meet during record-high inflation, it’s infuriating. Who’s watching out for Ohio’s teachers? It certainly isn’t the Ohio legislature.
VOICE BE HEARD!
Sending a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper is a great way to amplify your voice and bring attention to the failures of STRS and its leadership. Let’s hold STRS accountable and encourage the new board to make real change and bring true reform.