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Robin Rayfield to STRS Ohio Board: Please stop the madness

Robin Rayfield addressed the STRS Ohio Retirement Board during Public Participation on February 15, 2024.

Good Morning. My name is Robin Rayfield, and I am a STRS retiree and the Executive Director of ORTA.

For over a decade now, STRS members have heard that ‘Reforms at STRS are working’. Each month the management team lets us know that the reforms put in place over a decade ago are doing what they are supposed to do and that, in time, the financial security at STRS will get stronger.

As we look at ‘Pension Reforms’ that have been in place for the past decade or so, what do we see?

  • Retirees have lost tens of thousands of promised benefits. Taken from their state guaranteed pension and transferred to Wall Street and to the pockets of our employees.

  • Active contributors paying 40% more into the pension, working 15% longer (not collecting 5 years of benefits), with no inflation protection.

  • Is it any surprise that the fund will have more money in it if we reduce the amount paid out by not paying our obligations to retirees? I have said many times, ‘Not paying your obligations is not Pension Reform. It is failing to make good on a promise to active and retired educators in Ohio’. 

Here is what we have not seen.

  • Shared sacrifice from the staff at STRS. Everyone at STRS have received raises each and every year during ‘Pension Reform.’ Investment staff have been paid outrageous bonuses each year. Market up? Huge bonuses paid. Market down? Huge bonuses paid. The constant thing about Pension Reform is this… The members get less; the STRS staff get more.

  • Any substantive changes in our approach to investing. We continue to play ‘beat the market’ and lose. Simply doing what we have always done, maybe doing it harder, does not yield positive results.

Let me offer a few suggestions for bold leadership from the STRS board.

  1. Pass a policy that states something to the effect of ‘Each year that STRS does not pay COLA to retirees, there will be no compensation increase for any STRS staff. This would also eliminate any PBI payments.

  2. Begin the transition of active management portfolios to passive investment portfolios. The asset allocations could remain the same, but simply move our investments to passive indexes.

  3. Begin divesting from risky, illiquid alternative investments and real estate. 

The membership has spoken through the election process. The court has spoken through its magistrate. Please stop the madness. Your notion that ‘Reform is working’ is not felt by the membership.

ORTA advocates for the pensions and benefits of Ohio's educators, demands accountability from STRS Ohio, and lobbies Ohio's legislators to provide a strong and sustainable retirement system. We rely on membership dues to continue our work. Click here to Join ORTA!



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