Saturday, March 26, 2022

STRS Election - This Centerville Schools (near Dayton) OEA local wouldn't do this, would they?

From John Curry

March 26, 2022
From donuts to Dollars? 
This is what I am told the Centerville City Schools OEA local is offering for votes. I call it Dollars for Desperation! If this isn't illegal it is unethical. I wonder if these $25 prizes are coming out of dues money? A Centerville teacher sent this to me. It was emailed out to all teachers in this system! I wonder if they checked the law (immediately below) out first?
18 U.S. Code § 597 - Expenditures to influence voting
U.S. Code
Whoever makes or offers to make an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate; and
Whoever solicits, accepts, or receives any such expenditure in consideration of his vote or the withholding of his vote —
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 721; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(H), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147; Pub. L. 104–294, title VI, § 601(a)(12), Oct. 11, 1996, 110 Stat. 3498.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Update from the Executive Director of ORTA, Dr. Robin Rayfield

From the March 2022 Newsletter of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association

March 24, 2022


STRS approved an increase to the benefits of thousands of retirees at the March STRS meeting. Each retiree that is eligible (those that have been retired at least 5 years) will receive an increase of 3% of their original retirement benefit. This increase is permanent. Your new benefit going forward will be your benefit for the remainder of your life or until STRS changes this amount. STRS will look at increases a nually, however, there are no promises to increase benefits after the 2%. The increase will occur on your retirement date anniversary. STRS also removed the age 60 requirement for full benefits. People can now retire after 35 years of service at any age.

ORTA recognizes that the increase is small when compared to what we were promised, however, we are proud to have been a large part of the pressure that forced STRS into increasing our benefit. From the beginning, ORTA opposed the loss of COLA. ORTA has been a voice for retirees and active educators in Ohio since 1947 working to protect and improve our pension. Certainly, this increase is a victory, but ORTA is not done fighting for our pension. ORTA will continue to advocate through any mean possible including:

Providing information

Working with legislators like Senator Tressa Fedor (sponsor of Senate bill 280)

Educating STRS Board members

Helping elect STRS board members that will ask questions and not simply be a

rubber stamp for STRS management

Forcing STRS to become transparent with information related to investments

ORTA Endorsements for STRS Trustee Elections

ORTA’s Endorsement Committee met with all 6 candidates for STRS board of trustee

seats. The committee endorses the following people:

Active seat -- Steven Foreman

Active seat -- Julie Sellers

Retiree seat – Elizabeth Jones

Each candidate’s questionnaire is posted later in this newsletter. Thanks to the endorsement committee for their work in making these endorsements: Chris DeMarco (chair), Dean Dennis SW Ohio, Kara Mendenhall Central Ohio, Bee Lehner SE Ohio, Brenda Davis SE Ohio, Steve Seagrave NW Ohio, and Carol Kinsey NE Ohio. Each STRS member will receive a ballot in early April. ORTA askes that you vote for our endorsed candidates. The only pathway to fixing our pension system depends on a board that will lead the staff, not a board that is led by the staff.

ORTA Liaisons

ORTA welcomes Gail Gronwall to the leadership team. Gail responded to ORTA’s plea for leaders and volunteered to serve as a liaison for the Northeast part of Ohio. Welcome, Gail!

ORTA Celebrates 75 Years!

ORTA has been engaged in advocacy for STRS retirees since 1947. 2022 marks our 75th anniversary. Our leadership team is currently planning a celebration. We would like to know your thoughts on what our celebration might include. Please feel free to reach out and share your thoughts.

Robin Rayfield, ORTA Executive Director

ORTA endorses three candidates for seats on the STRS Board

Each candidate's response to the ORTA questionnaire is posted below. Be sure you click on "Read more" in order to view the responses from all three candidates.

Name: Elizabeth (Liz) Jones

ORTA STRS Board of Trustee Candidate Screening Questionnaire (Retired Member)

ORTA has a vested interest in who serves on the STRS Board of Trustees. The purpose of this questionnaire is to help ORTA determine whether to ‘endorse’ candidates for election to the STRS board. Retirees vote on retired members seeking election.

  1. Please provide ORTA with the resume/bio that you provided to STRS.

I’m a retired High School English teacher and guidance counselor with more than 30 years of experience at Cincinnati Public Schools. Throughout my career I’ve been involved in the fight for fair pay and retirement security for educators – first as my union’s Collective Bargaining Chair during my teaching years, and now as the President of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers Retired, Local 1520-R.

  1. What are your main planks to your platform? Please prioritize these platform planks if possible.


  • Restore the COLA while working to help restore benefits to active members.

  • STRS will need to move to a lower risk investment strategy that can sustainably increase our rate of return, and move away from hedge fund and private equity investments with their costly fees. 

  • Ask questions at Board meeting to encourage more engagement from retired members.

  • Seek more transparency about STRS work and recording of Board meetings.

  • Continue to engage CFT R members in monitoring STRS.

  1. Tell us about your background with STRS and any issues that concern you and relate to active members/retired members. What skills (include financial) do you bring to help you deal with the issues you have identified?

I amped up my activism on retirement issues when our COLA was discontinued after 2013 and ran for President of my retiree local shortly after that. As President, I have attended STRS meetings regularly and have mobilized my membership to fight for the reinstatement of the COLA. I’ve also sought out independent information from the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) and the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) that has helped inform my views on improvements that must be made at STRS.

  1. Feel free to offer any additional thoughts you have with regards to your candidacy.

I am running because STRS needs a change in direction and that will only happen with new voices and ideas on the STRS Board.

  1. What can ORTA do to help you with your candidacy?

Urge STRS members Only members to vote for change and vote for me to the retired member slot.

Read more »

Hey, active teachers (OEA members), want to see where your humongous dues money is going? Check this out!

From John Curry

March 22, 2022

Here's another page for you to copy and share with other active teachers. They'll understand...after they respond to the smelling salts! This data was taken from the U.S. Department of Labor and...yes it is public information. Just like all just have to know where to look.

Thanks to Tom Curtis, we now have a way to compare STRS to the other four pension systems in several areas

From Tom Curtis, March 23, 2022


Joe Lupo: A novel idea for STRS

From Joe Lupo

March 22, 2022

I have a novel idea that will allow the OEA/STRS Board to be "fair and balanced."
Effective immediately, the current salaries and bonuses for STRS staff be frozen for the period of years that our COLA was frozen. At the end of this period, the staff then be given a one time salary increase and bonuses not to exceed 3%.
This would show all members that they too will have skin in the game in addressing what they have referred to as an austerity program. After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
This savings could then be used to fund the needs of active and retired STRS it should be.

FLASHBACK - Ex-OEA official, STRS board president sentenced to 3 year probation


Paul Kostyu: Ex-OEA official, STRS board president sentenced to 3 year probation

By Paul E. Kostyu
Copley Columbus Bureau chief
Canton Repository, June 21, 2006
COLUMBUS - A former official with the Ohio Education Association and former president of the state’s teacher pension board was sentenced to three years of probation for violating state ethics laws.

Jack H. Chapman pleaded guilty in Franklin County Municipal Court on Tuesday to three charges of conflict of interest.

He’s the second former board member and third State Teachers Retirement System official to be ensnared in an ongoing ethics investigation. Charges against other system officials are expected.

Chapman, an often outspoken member of the board, was barely audible when he responded to questions from Judge H. William Pollitt. After the hearing, Chapman refused to comment to reporters.

Pollitt sentenced Chapman to 180 days in jail for each charge, but suspended the sentence and put him on probation. He ordered Chapman to pay three fines — $884, $169 and $225 — which represent the cost of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians tickets he used, the golf outing he took in Washington state and the ticket he used to the Broadway show “Hairspray.”

Chapman also must pay $4,000 to the Ohio Ethics Commission for the cost of its investigation of him. And he must perform 60 hours of community service, 30 in a Franklin County public school and 30 in a senior center or retirement home. Chapman also agreed to assist prosecutors with the continuing investigation.

Chapman’s attorney, H. Ritchey Hollenbaugh, told the judge the former president of the OEA’s Central Ohio District didn’t know he was not to accept the gifts, and the court should consider his years of service as a middle school teacher and his 14 years as a volunteer on the teacher pension board. Hollenbaugh made a similar argument when he defended former Canton City Schools teacher Hazel Sidaway, who was convicted in April on two similar charges.

Though prosecutors did not respond to Hollenbaugh in court, they did afterward.

David Freel, executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, said he didn’t accept the professed “naiveté.” Quoting the judge in the Sidaway trial, Freel said, Chapman “would have had to been under a rock” not to know about the ethics standards.

In 2002, Chapman was the retirement board’s top traveler, going on 12 trips and spending $14,684 of teacher pension board money.

In a trip evaluation, Chapman recommended a convention in Anchorage, Alaska, “based solely on the opportunity ... to network with peers.” One of the sessions he attended discussed “the loss of faith in corporate America.”

Reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:


Three officials with the State Teachers Retirement System have pleaded or have been found guilty of violating state ethics laws. Here’s a scorecard.

Name: Herbert L. Dyer

Position: Former executive director

Charges: Four counts of conflict of interest; one of failure to disclose gifts and meals

Result: Pleaded no contest, found guilty in September 2005 of failure to disclose golf outing in New Castle, Wash.

Sentence: Reimburse STRS for outing and meals, $394; pay fine $1,000 ($300 suspended) and court costs.

Name: Hazel Sidaway

Position: Former board president

Charges: Four counts of conflict of interest; three counts of nondisclosure of gifts

Result: One count of conflict of interest dropped; found not guilty of nondisclosure and conflict of interest; found guilty of two counts of conflict of interest on April 14.

Sentence: 180 days in jail (suspended); two years probation; fined $670 for using four Cleveland Indians tickets and two Broadway show tickets; paid court costs ($1,204) and $5,381 to Ohio Ethics Commission for cost of investigation; 200 hours of community service (100 in Canton City Schools and 100 in a nursing home or retirement facility).

Name: Jack H. Chapman

Position: Former board president

Charges: Three counts of conflict of interest

Result: Pleaded guilty, June 20

Sentence: 180 days in jail (suspended); three years probation; fined $884 for using Cleveland Indians and Cavaliers tickets; $169 for a golf outing in New Castle, Wash., and $225 for using a Broadway show ticket; paid court costs and $4,000 to Ohio Ethics Commission for cost of investigation; 60 hours of community service (30 in public schools and 30 in nursing home or senior citizen center).

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Dean Dennis: Age 60 Requirement Lifted and 3% COLA Granted. So, Why Aren't We Happy?

From Dean Dennis

March 22, 2022

Age 60 Requirement Lifted and 3% COLA Granted. So, Why Aren't We Happy?

By Dean Dennis
After a decade of watching their pensions erode, members of STRS Ohio watched and listened during the March 2022 Board meeting as the Trustees voted to provide a 3% COLA and remove the age 60 requirement for full retirement benefits after 35 years.
  • Eleven years ago, retired teachers received a simple (non-compounding) 3% COLA.
  • Eleven years ago, active teachers received a pension with full benefits after 30 years. Active teachers contributed 10% of their salaries to STRS. Retired teachers received a COLA one year after they retired.
  • Eleven years ago there weren't any petitions complaining about STRS, any Facebook groups complaining about STRS, any protest signs at STRS meetings, and no one in Ohio knew Edward Siedle conducted forensic audits. So, what changed?
Around 10 years ago, a nightmare was about to be dropped on STRS members.
  • Active teachers would learn that they were heading towards having to work 35 years and be at least age 60 to receive a pension with full benefits.
  • Their employee contribution would increase to 14%, while their employer's contribution remained unchanged.
  • They would learn that there would not be a 3% COLA for them when they retired, but only a simple 2% COLA. They would also have to wait 5 years after retirement to begin receiving this COLA.
  • Retirees would learn that the language in ORC 3307.67 that stated they "shall" receive a 3% COLA was meaningless. Their COLA was reduced to 2%, would be frozen a year later and then, in 2017, completely eliminated.
Active teachers now understood that they would not have any financial security in retirement. Why did this happen?
Around 2010, STRS management began painting a dire picture to the STRS Trustees. They convinced the Trustees that their Earnings Rate Investment Assumption (projection rate on investments) was too high. Starting in 2012, Trustees would reduce the investment assumption from 8% to 7.75%, then to 7.45%, then to 7%. At every reduction, tens of billions of projected liabilities would be added to the STRS balance sheet.
Management could have presented a plan to the Ohio Retirement Study Council as to how they were going to address the new projected liabilities created by the drastic Earnings Rate Investment Assumption reductions. But they didn't. Instead, STRS management convinced our Trustees to renege on the promises made to members and make drastic cuts to teachers’ retirement benefits. The retiree's COLA was targeted and active teachers would work longer for less.
So, in hindsight (10 years later) was this dire picture correct? And what proactive changes have been made since the Draconian cuts?
  • The Earnings Rate Investment Assumption reduction was cut from 8% to 7%. And what have we earned on our investments over the last 10 years? The answer is 9.84%.
  • What proactive changes have been made over the past 10 years? The answer is, nothing significant. Members assumed all the risks and they still do. The employer contribution rate is still the same after 38 years.
  • A major change suggested by the 2006 outside independent audit was how STRS awards bonuses to the Alternative Investment staff as they pertain to their benchmarks. To this day, this remains a problem.
  • The 2006 audit also suggested that the STRS staff grossly needed more internal auditors. STRS management disagreed and none were added.
  • Ten years later, management fees are still a controversy. Members aren't clear as to how much money is going to Wall Street. Members aren't clear as to what our actual investment costs are.
  • There haven’t been any real changes in how we do business. Our investments are still under an "active" management model. The forensic audit cast a shadow as to whether this is a cost for members, or a savings for members.
Still, after 10 years, our Trustees voted to provide a 3% COLA and remove the age 60 requirement for a full retirement after 35 years. So why aren't members celebrating?
Members were pillaged and are still living a nightmare. There has been some relief because something has been returned to us, from that which was taken. Members haven't seen any real changes at STRS. It seems to be the same business plan.
Everyone knows that STRS balanced their books on the backs of its members. There's nothing noble about withholding monies promised to members and reneging on payouts to balance books in order to reach a self imposed 85% funding goal.
Doling out a pittance, doesn't make members happy, it reminds them of what they have lost.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

"STRS exists to pay member benefits. So why does STRS pay exorbitant broker commissions? The staff argue that they get better execution of trades and research. But according to Callan, every internally managed portfolio is below the peer group median for the past 10 years."

Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum
March 18, 2022
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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