Saturday, January 29, 2022

ORTA/STRS Symposium Feb. 2, 2022, 1:00 PM


Join the event through ORTA YouTube Channel and Facebook Live through ORTA's Facebook Channel (links below)

ORTA YouTube Channel:

ORTA Facebook Page: 

Learn more here:

Friday, January 28, 2022

CLIFFWATERGATE: A telling video

Setting the Record Straight

What made the November 18, 2021 STRS Board meeting turn contentious?
Why was a highly paid consultant so nervous that he couldn't get out of there fast enough?
Watch this video and find out. It's short.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Forbes/Siedle: Ohio Lawmaker Wants To End Wall Street Wealth Transfer At State Teachers Pension 

January 26, 2022
Ohio Lawmaker Wants To End Wall Street Wealth Transfer At State Teachers Pension
Pension forensics expert and record-setting whistleblower award winner 
Cost of living benefits promised to retired teachers in Ohio were slashed a decade ago and then totally eliminated 5 years later, as payments by the state teachers’ pension to Wall Street’s highest cost money managers secretly skyrocketed. Retired teachers have suffered over the past decade as Wall Street has prospered. An Ohio lawmaker wants to end this audacious wealth transfer by trimming payments to Wall Street and restoring the promised COLA benefits to deserving teachers. If she’s successful, legally-mandated transparency (which STRS Ohio long abandoned to facilitate the wealth transfer scheme) may finally return.
Retired teachers in Ohio saw the 3 percent cost of living adjustments they had been promised slashed a decade ago and then totally eliminated in 2017. Over the years retirees were told that cutting and then eliminating COLA benefits was necessary to shore up the pension’s finances. It sounded simple enough: reducing benefits paid to teachers—cutting costs—would result in more money in the pension, i.e., increasing the pension’s funding level.
Not surprising, retirees weren’t told that cutting their COLA benefits by 3 percent to secretly pay Wall Street money managers ever greater fees—often in excess of 4 percent (even when they underperform)—does nothing to strengthen the pension. It’s simply a blatant wealth transfer scheme—the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of retired teachers is undermined to secretly enrich a handful of politically-connected Wall Street billionaires.
Ohio Senator Teresa Fedor would like to see COLA benefits promised to teachers restored and end this unconscionable secretive assault on teacher retirement security. Ohio Democrat John Cranley recently picked Fedor, a  long-time legislator from Toledo and a former school teacher, as his lieutenant governor running mate.
Fedor has introduced legislation to bring back the COLA, calling it "the right thing to do." Fedor's bill has support from fellow Senate Democrats but no Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors.
Local media has unfairly criticized Fedor, claiming she doesn’t have a plan to pay for restoring the promised COLA, even as Fedor has suggested the STRS Ohio board look at reducing fees paid to Wall Street and possibly increasing the employer contribution rate.
That sure sounds like a plan to me.
In fact, a June 2021  preliminary forensic investigation  of Ohio STRS I conducted on behalf of the 20,000- member Ohio Retired Teachers Association concluded there is ample reason to believe “the total fees the pension pays to Wall Street are nearly double what it is reporting, amounting to almost $1 billion annually. To put the hidden, unreported fees—alone—into context, they amount to $2.75 million per school day, and more than twice the $210 million required to pay STRS COLAs annually. Further, assuming STRS pays fees of 2 percent on total unfunded capital commitments, aka “money for nothing,” this amounts to an annual waste of approximately $143 million—enough to restore the COLA benefit to 2 percent.”
In short, my forensic investigation of STRS Ohio revealed ample evidence to establish that reducing investment fees paid to Wall Street for secretive, esoteric “alternative” investments, such as private equity, hedge, venture and real estate funds (that have massively underperformed well-established passive indices) could easily cover the cost of restoring the COLA benefits. In addition to reducing investment expenses and improving investment performance, shedding costly, secretive alternative investments in favor of passive index funds would also restore much-needed transparency to the pension.
Read the rest of the article here.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Steve Foreman: Candidate for an Active Teacher Seat on the STRS Board

From Steven Foreman

Facebook - Ohio STRS Member Only Forum

Original posting date: October 16, 2021

Hello! I thank you for your questions. I am currently organizing and working on biographical information to share. However, I Do believe I can answer your questions with the goal in mind of transparency so you know who I am. I hope this helps for the time being.

I am an active STRS member with 30 years of service. Like many, I went to sleep one evening retiring at 52 and then woke up the next day with a retirement age of 58. I taught ELA for 5 years at Tri-Valley High School in Dresden Ohio. At the same time, I taught Communications and Technical Writing part-time at Zane State College as a way to pay for my education resulting in my M.Ed. in Educational Administration and my Principal's License. I then secured my first job as an assistant HS/MS principal in Northridge Local Schools near Johnstown, Oh.

During that time, I completed my Assistant Superintendent and Superintendent license coursework and secured those certifications. The next year, I was offered an elementary principalship position in Zanesville City Schools. During my time at Zanesville, I have served as the principal of 4 elementary schools, the Director of Continuous improvement, Title One Director, and now I am the Assistant Superintendent. I am not certain of the endorsements that I will be seeking. I plan to lean upon my working relationships and connections as an elected city councilman for the City of Zanesville, Reading Recovery of North America Board Member, Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators Zone 9 Representative, and Regional Prevention Specialist for the Ohio Children's Trust Fund.  

I do not want to simply seek an endorsement from individuals or associations to gain the following of their membership. Instead, I want to make my "ask" more of an invitation to rally around the injustice and indifference that one of Ohio's hardest-working professions has experienced at the hands of those who only wish to line their own pockets.

Ted Siedle’s The High Cost of Secrecy is, sadly, no surprise at all to me. It affected me. At the same time that retirees were experiencing a loss of promised benefits, active teachers saw an increase of 40 percent in their contributions to STRS. Active teachers also witnessed an increase in the number of years required to receive full retirement benefits. These changes resulted in many teachers paying more, working longer, and not receiving the level of benefits previously promised. Therefore, I am working until 58... not 52 as promised. Seems like all of which class-action lawsuits are made.  

John Curry’s, Wade Steen’s, and Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum’s numerous charts, graphs, and other evidence of fiduciary irresponsibility also fail to surprise me. Their data shows a complete indifference on the part of STRS to even acknowledge the impact of their actions, let alone set out to harm its membership. They are receiving bonuses for work that is resulting in NO GAIN for its members. I would like to remind them all that they work for us, because without their profiting off the backs of hard-working educators, STRS employees would have nothing- it is that simple. 

My goal of being an STRS board member is simple. I refuse to look into the eyes of my mother, an 83 year-old retired second grade teacher, or any of the other numerous family and friends who have worked in one of the most demanding jobs in our society- today and yesterday- knowing that they are being robbed for heated sidewalks, privatized parking, exorbitant meals, personal travel, unnecessary artwork, and ridiculous leases throughout the country believing that I can bring these thieving cowboys to justice but instead choosing to do nothing.  

My critics can claim I don't stand a chance, but I believe I do because I do not carry a rubber stamp and believe that my accomplishments and service to education in my career can serve as a disturbance to the status quo: that is the beginning to much-needed paradigm shifting. Every employee of STRS, moving forward, must EARN their pay. I queried the salary of "Nick" who I was directed to via the STRS switchboard for information on applying to be a board member. I don't know why he has never contacted me, but I do know that as an employee of the communications department, his salary exceeds mine.

I am finished with the excuses and demand action. I want to know WHY bonuses are routinely given to underperforming employees. I want to base evaluation on cost-saving measures as well as investment portfolios. I am not an accountant, please be clear on this matter. But I wish everyone to understand that the board members do not HAVE to be. Instead, they hold the fiduciary responsibility to approve the employment of those who can achieve at high levels for our membership. An important part of that is overseeing the evaluations of employees over time.  

As an assistant superintendent, I have never held the position of 7th grade biology teacher, but I certainly assure you that I know how to hire and evaluate whether they are serving the needs of students in my middle school. That is why school boards do not have the requirement that all (any) board members hold any experience or expertise in education, administration, food service, transportation, etc. Instead, they determine that needs are not being met and act. It does not take a person with financial education to see that while STRS employees have benefited from inflated salaries and bonuses, membership has been stripped of promised benefits and opportunities.  

I work closely with the ODE as the federal program manager for my city school district where I control the federal finances of the district as well as three non-publics. Further biographical data will share my duties as they relate to finances. I have also served on certified and classified negotiations and participated in the sale of bonds on Wall Street to save our district's residents many tax dollars.  

The problem, my friends, is really quite simple from a 30,000 foot view: 1. Nobody is successfully guarding the henhouse. 2. Membership is not respected. 3. We need to work to disrupt the status quo. and 4. We all need a VOICE at the table. I will do my best and I fear I will not always succeed, but I want to try. I have been told that my various efforts on a myriad of projects were pointless at several times throughout my career. But in retrospect I have to smile, because I now (at 53) realize that was being said to me by those who feared the change I was suggesting the most.  

If you deem me less qualified than someone else, then please know that I respect your decision. Truly. Just please know that my heart has led me to this decision to try to enact change. This is about ALL of us. Most importantly, THANK YOU for the work you do and the work you have done. I was only a classroom teacher for 5 years... but that was long enough to KNOW THAT TEACHERS CHANGE LIVES. You do not deserve what has happened to you. At all. Thank you all for your time and consideration. Much more is on the way.

Find Steve's nomination petition here. You will find an address on the form to which petitions may be sent. Please keep in mind the candidates need time to get their petitions to STRS by February 25.

Elizabeth Jones: Candidate for Retired Seat on the STRS Board

Elizabeth Jones for STRS Ohio Retiree Member Seat
Elizabeth is a retired HS English teacher and guidance counselor, and the current President of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers Retired, Local 1520-R. As Local 1520-R President, she has mobilized her membership to fight for the reinstatement of the COLA. During her career she was a leader in the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers and served as the local’s Collective Bargaining Chair. She is a member of Hamilton County ORTA and is active in the Cincinnati Education Justice Coalition and the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council.
As a board member, Elizabeth’s top priority would be to reinstate the COLA. She would also work to ensure that charter schools pay into STRS from pay deductions the same way that traditional public schools do. She would like to revisit the changes to age and years of service requirements, which will become more feasible if retirees and other Americans organize at the federal level to lower the age for Medicare eligibility.
Click on the link below to print Elizabeth's nomination petition. Please sign and circulate it if possible to get other retirees' signatures, then and send it ASAP to:
ATTN: STRS Petitions
Ohio Federation of Teachers
1251 E. Broad St.
Columbus, OH 43205 
Keep in mind the candidates need to get all petitions to STRS by February 25.

OFT Supports Julie Sellers for STRS Board Contributing Seat

January 23, 2022 

OFT Supports Julie Sellers for STRS Board Contributing Seat

OFT is proud to support Julie Sellers, President of Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, for one of the contributing member seats.
Please read Julie's statement about her experience and priorities, and then follow these instructions to download, sign, and return a nomination form so that we can make sure Julie is on the ballot!
Julie's candidate statement:
"I’m a STRS contributing member, with 20 years of experience as an elementary school teacher before being elected President of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, Local 1520 in 2009.
In addition to my role as CFT President, I also currently serve on the Executive Board of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council and the Executive Committee for Ohio Federation of Teachers, and as co-chair of the Ohio 8 Coalition, which is made up of district superintendents and union presidents from Ohio’s eight largest school districts.
I have always fought at the local level to make sure educators can retire with dignity. I’m running for the STRS Board because I want to fight for all educators to have that dignity. I’m not afraid to be a watchdog or to call people and institutions out when needed. I’ll push the Board to be more transparent and to stop doing the same old things that have kept STRS from recovering financially.
I’ve been involved with retirement issues since 2008, when actions were taken to make the system more soluble in response to the Great Recession. Unfortunately, the actions that have been taken in the last 14 years have not stabilized STRS, and contributing members are carrying the heaviest burden from that failure.
We pay the second highest contribution rate in the country (for statewide teachers pension systems), yet we’ve seen it become harder and harder to retire with full benefits. I’ll fight to reduce the years of service requirement and reduce or eliminate the age requirement. We can do that with smarter investments, increased transparency, and a long overdue increased contribution from employers.
I speak to CFT members everyday and that has given me a great understanding of the wide array of stressors that contributing members are facing as we do our jobs through a global pandemic. Having a secure retirement should not be one of those stressors, it should be a guarantee."
Help get Julie on the STRS ballot:
1. STRS contributing members can download a nomination form for Julie at
2. Fill it out and get some of your co-workers or other contributing members to sign also.
3. Because we need to track the number of signatures, you can send the form to us, then we will hand deliver them to STRS. Mail the completed form to:
Darold Johnson
Ohio Federation of Teachers
1251 E. Broad St.
Columbus, OH 43205
4. Send back the form as quickly as possible. The deadline is February 25, but we want to send in our signatures early to ensure that Julie is on the ballot.

Youngstown Vindicator: Lawmakers: Retired teachers need new COLA

Youngstown Vindicator
January 23, 2022
Lawmakers: Retired teachers need new COLA
A proposal to reinstate the cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers in the state pension fund has bipartisan support among state legislators who represent the Mahoning Valley.
A change to all of the state pension funds in 2012 reduced pension benefits and allowed pension boards to change the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) without the approval of the state Legislature. The State Teachers Retirement System reduced its COLA for some retired teachers and eliminated it for others in 2013. Four years later, a 2 percent annual COLA was removed for all STRS retirees because of a bad investment.
But with the retirement fund stabilized, state Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, introduced legislation Jan. 12 in the Senate to reinstate COLA to retirees in STRS. The bill hasn’t been assigned to a committee.
About 500,000 active and retired teachers are in the system.
The pension fund has more than $90 billion in assets as of June 30, 2021. 
The bill doesn’t specify how much of a COLA increase would be offered. 
Those in other state public retirement pension systems will receive 2.5 percent to 3 percent COLA increases this year.
State Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Lenox, who represents all of Trumbull and Ashtabula counties and a section of Geauga, said: “I’d more than likely be in favor of that. We’re dealing with 7 percent inflation, the highest since 1982. How do you plan for that? We need to provide a cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers. They’ve earned that retirement, and it’s hard for them to live without it with inflation that high.” 
State Rep. Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren, said he favors Fedor’s bill because retired teachers have lived without a COLA increase for years.
“The pensions are now healthy so they should get an increase,” he said. “There’s been lobbying from the (Ohio) Retired Teachers Association. The numbers are there. The pension is solvent. The teachers are owed their retirement.”
State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said the bill “is long overdue, and it needs to happen.”
Lepore-Hagan said she hopes the Senate will vote on it soon so it can be considered quickly by the House.
COLA increases for state retirement systems typically go into effect annually on July 1.
“We need to address this soon,” she said. “I would definitely be a yes for it as the retired teachers deserve this.”
Read the rest of the article here.
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