Saturday, October 21, 2023

ORTA President, Dean Dennis, addresses STRS Ohio Board


October 21, 2023
Dean Dennis, ORTA President, addressed the STRS Ohio Retirement Board on October 19, 2023. Below is his speech.
"Members are constantly reminded that STRS is a top quartile, top tier pension system. And although in February of 2021 Wade Steen couldn't get any support to include the word "transparency" in Board Policy, STRS proudly posted in the April 21, 2023 Board News that STRS Ohio was recognized for transparency for the third consecutive year by Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber.
"Then there is CEM Investment Benchmarking - CEM annually tells us STRS Ohio’s performance ranks in the top 25% of our peer group and our investment costs are low compared to our peers. So how do these accolades help our members?
"If you are an active teacher, the years to retire for a full pension has increased. Your employee contribution has increased 40%. You currently pay 14% for a negative contribution benefit valued at 11%. When you retire you'll need to wait 5 years for inflation protection and then, probably longer.
"If you are a current Retiree, approximately 45,000 of your peers have died since 2013 without seeing the inflation protection they were once promised. But let's look at a living STRS retiree that depends on inflation protection. We'll compare the retired teacher with a retired Social Security recipient. We'll start with a $40,000 pension for both. We'll also start with the year 2017 because that's when the COLA was suspended, and we want to see the importance of inflation protection. From 2017 to 2023, the STRS retired teacher went from $40,000 to $41,600 which is a only 4% increase. The Social Security recipient went from $40,000 to $51,281 for a 28% increase. Yes, retired members have lost 24% of their purchasing power in less than 7 years.
"Now, since STRS management likes fun facts, let's take that same retired teacher. That teacher received a 1% for this year which resulted in $400 or $33 a month (before taxes). Let's compare that to an STRS investment department manager and pretend they recently retired. They get to be in OPERS. Since every year they have nice 6 figure salaries and ALWAYS get a nice bonus, a pension of $462,000 is not unrealistic. Their annual COLA would work out to be around $13,800 or $1,155 a month. It must be nice to be in OPERS.
"For years, members have been asking for a plan to restore benefits. Sadly, our lobbyists have contributed to the problem by allowing the Employer Contribution Rate (ECR) to remain at 14% for 40 years, putting us well behind the average of other non-Social Security states, which average over 22% ECR. I believe going forward any de minimis monies should go towards solving the plight of active teachers since that might have an impact, whereas a 1% COLA is somewhat insulting. Please work on increasing the Employer Contribution and change the 100% funding goal, and simply comply with the 30 year legislative mandate so members can have some inflation protection."
Dean Dennis is a retired teacher from Cincinnati Public Schools, President of ORTA, Founder of the STRS Ohio Watchdogs, and a member of the Ohio STRS Member Only Forum.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Meet Michelle Flanigan... Intent to run in the 2024 STRS Board Election

From Joe Lupo,

October 18, 2023
It is with great pleasure on behalf of the MOF Central Team that I as the administrator announce to our members the intent of Michelle Flanigan to run for the open active seat in the 2024 STRS board election.
Michelle currently serves as a moderator on the MOF Central Team. During her tenure in this position as a active STRS member, she has been our boots on the ground and a great addition to our team. Her contributions to the team have been numerous. Michelle currently teaches government and economics at BHS (Brunswick High School). During her tenure at BHS she has served as union representative, department chair, a member of the staff development committee and a member of the peer assistance and review committee. Prior to becoming a teacher, Michelle spent 10 years working as a financial analyst for American Greetings Corporation.
Michelle's motivation to get involved in the MOF movement and and then become a moderator is based on her strong belief that Ohio educators are being denied the benefits they have earned and the need to address the years of STRS mismanagement. She believes that management must be transparent and accountable to a board that represents members and not staff.. Michelle strongly believes that all Ohio educators need to be aware of the issues and concerns regarding STRS, whether they are members of OEA, OFT or active or retired members of STRS.
As a reform board member, Michelle looks forward to the opportunity to represent the concerns of ALL members and to make sure that members are consistently informed regarding their issues and concerns. She strongly believes that as a reform board member, all STRS members can once again have a pension system that works in their best interests.
Michelle will have the full support and the endorsement of MOF. Based on her performance and contributions as a MOF moderator, she is ready to serve and will hit the ground running when she is elected and seated on the STRS board.
Michelle lives in Strongsville with her husband Sean, a retired police officer and member of PERS.

Trina Kay Prufer: A retirement system should not be judged by its performance on a bar graph, but on the quality of the lives of its retirees. Using this standard, how is STRS doing?

From Trina Kay Prufer 

October 20, 2023

The Tyranny of the Bar Graph
I watched some, but not all of the proceedings yesterday. Missing from the presentations were discussions on the long-term effects of STRS policies on retirees, which a decade ago sacrificed retirees’ financial security to the altar of ” the unfunded liability”. What happens to retirees in the future is apparently of no serious concern. We are just the unfortunate casualties of the bar graph, which projects how well STRS will be funded in ten years.
The reality is that there are more than 500K of us… and no other teacher retirement system in the nation has betrayed and harmed its constituency to this degree.
Because we are left out of the discussion, there is no urgency in finding solutions. Neville, and STRS have been defining the cola as an “enhancement”. THAT is exactly problem. Instead of facing the issue, its name is changed. Now that was simple… all done, no problem anymore. How ungrateful can teachers be with the 1% gift we are bestowing on them?
Neville is the face of STRS. Unfortunately his mindset is denial. He spouts nonsense … the cola was never guaranteed, STRS is a premier institution and membership is satisfied with the performance of STRS. Aside from his ever present manipulations (which almost always disadvantage membership in some way) his solution is fluff… and LOTS of it.
STRS is a failure, not because it was 49% underfunded a decade ago. It is a failure because there is no moral core to the institution itself. There are no long-term solutions other than harming teachers. It is not fighting FOR us… it is fighting FOR US to take the financial hit of past institutional mistakes, with a dose of profiteering on the side. That’s exactly what the 2012 ”reform” legislation was designed to do. 
A retirement system should not be judged by its performance on a bar graph, but on the quality of the lives of its retirees. Using this standard, how is STRS doing?

Cathy Steinhauser reminds Board members how to be a good fiduciary at the October 19 STRS Board meeting

From Cathy Steinhauser

October 19, 2023
Cathy Steinhauser – 35 yrs., satellite teacher w/Pickaway-Ross CTC in the Circleville City School District – Family & Consumer Sciences.
As customary of teachers, we are constantly learning and believe that all people should be life-long learners. I believe this board should learn what this pension needs to keep thriving as it once did over 40 years ago. As fiduciaries, that is part of the process. And yes, I’m going to repeat the definition:
FIDUCIARY - “A person who acts on behalf of another person or persons, putting their client’s interests ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust. Being a fiduciary requires being bound both LEGALLY AND ETHICALLY to act in others best interests.” You still aren’t doing what is right for the teachers in this pension. Most of you are still catering to the STRS staff and investment staff and have totally forgotten your fiduciary duty to THE TEACHERS!
So, getting back to the issue of learning…I have a handout of articles for each of you. I have a helper (Suzanne Laird) who will give you these before I’m finished. I’d like to think of this information as your homework to read before the next STRS Board meeting. You may notice that these were penned by Edward (Ted) Siedle who all of you should know by now. He IS America’s leading forensic expert investigating pension and retirement plan abuses. There’s a lot you all can learn, so I chose some recent articles he published that directly relate to our STRS pension issues.
The first article “16 Reasons Pensions, 401ks Should Stay the Hell Away From Private Equity” concerns gambling retirement savings in private equity is a risk you can’t afford to take.
The second article “SEC Chairman Alerted To Horrific Private Equity Side Letters” discusses the SEC Chairman Gary Gensler was recently alerted to flagrantly illegal secret “side letter” agreements which pay certain investors aware of fraud to not tell unsuspecting others.
The third article “Holding Gina Raimondo Responsible For Robbing America’s State and Local Government Workers of Promised Retirement Benefits”. This deals with Rhode Island and then nationally, Raimondo championed using government worker’s retirement savings to enrich her Wall Street backers and further her own political ambitions. She has done more to undermine the retirement security of U.S. workers than any politician.
The last article, which is not included because you can look that up yourself, is “Ohio Teacher Pension’s Private Equity Secrets May Soon Be Exposed” deals with the issue of the over two years STRS has been stonewalling a public records request on behalf of teachers to disclose private equity investment risks by maintaining a secrecy about its private equity holdings. The SEC’s website warns private equity investors to be vigilant about fees and expenses and be alert to conflicts of interest.
I recommend you read these, read them more than once, because the investment team is doing everything wrong w/our pension, as well as other pensions in the U.S. When STRS Board members vote against teachers interests like COLAs, not being transparent, not cutting frivolous perks, bonuses and salaries – this is when you are not being the fiduciary you were chosen to be.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Robin Beebe gives the STRS Board a refresher course on Karma

From Robin Beebe

October 19, 2023

Address to the STRS Board October 19, 2023

My name is Robin Beebe. I am a retired teacher, having taught 35 years for the Fremont and Perrysburg Schools. I taught 4th graders, Kindergarten, a smattering of other elementary grades and eight summers of Migrant Education. I retired in 2009 and coming up in 2024, that will be 15 years.

Every time I attend another monthly STRS Board meeting, it seems like new staff positions, with creative titles to go along with them, are created. Really? For what reason? Really? For what salary? Really? Who exactly are filling these positions? Really? And all this is using teachers’ pension monies. Really? I ask you where is our COLA? Really?

It is painful to calculate the money I have missed out on because of your COLA shenanigans. It is tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of dollars. And if things don’t change, down the road it will be in the six figure deficit range! 

Wait….WHAT?….How can that be? Get out your calculator and have all your mathematical, professional staff (accountants, investment pros, attorneys) do an honest calculation, and then give a public presentation of the facts/findings at an STRS Board meeting. 

I dare you!

Social Security gave an 8.8% COLA last year, and a 3.2% is slated for 2024. 

I ask you where is my COLA? I am 72 years old. How long must I wait? I grew up in the 50s in a middle class family with the values of hard work, frugality, live within your means, fairness, honesty, trust, politeness, courtesy, help your neighbors. Good old Boy Scout rules were adhered to. A few of these jump out in particular. A scout is trustworthy. A scout should tell the truth and keep promises. People can depend on you. A scout is courteous. Be polite to everyone and always use good manners. A scout is kind. Treat others as you want to be treated. Perhaps many on the STRS Board could take heed?

Middle class for me is currently slipping away. It is slipping away for my fellow teachers – retired and active. Why? It is due in part to the large scale grifting that is currently going on at STRS under the guise and babble of smoke and mirror spin expounded ad nauseam at Board meetings, in mailed brochures, shameful videos and the highly controlled and orchestrated Town Hall meetings, which are a sham.

One thing I have come to believe in as I have lived my three score and twelve years is KARMA! The thing about KARMA is she has her own timetable. But…she also has an astoundingly long memory. KARMA always gets things right. So…..we teachers can’t wait.

I will now close with my refrain, my mantra. So many of you on this Board have lost your moral compass. Have you found it yet? How do you sleep at night? Once again, I implore you to do the right thing.

Remember: KARMA is watching….

Suzanne Laird to STRS Board 10/19/2023: I am begging you to stop acting like zombies: speak up and stop the bleeding.

From Suzanne Laird

October 19, 2023

Good Morning, Members of MY Board:
Last October, I came before you to ask, “What is more scary in Ohio than STRS?”
Active teachers tricked into working longer for less; retired teachers tricked into losing their COLAs.
What has changed, since then?
Well, since last October, we’ve uncovered MORE waste, more scary “tricks”:
A concierge staff to cater to the entitled employees’ every whim, to the tune of over one million dollars! Average salary: $61,000! Do you know how many years and levels of education it takes the average Ohio teacher to attain $61,000?!
This ridiculously over-staffed organization employs too many administrative assistants to count, each one, again, earning more than some teachers earn in their final years teaching Ohio’s students!
We have repeatedly insisted that you freeze all hiring until our financial crisis is over, yet you insist upon continuing to hire extraneous people. What the hell is a “talent acquisition representative” anyway?!
Is it someone, like our new resident Spin Doctor, Mr. Minnich, hired in addition to Mr. Treneff, to waste our money producing more propaganda?
You’re not tricking anyone anymore.
Last October, I called them bloodsuckers, and I must employ the word again: the investment bloodsuckers, on their sugar-high, must be slashed, and the bonuses curtailed.
No more raises, no new hires in any department.
You must do what every educator in Ohio does: do more, with less, until the crisis is over.
Again, I’ll say, I’m frightened. Frightened that no one on this Board has the guts to cut expenses from that budget. Some Board members still appear to be zombies, bobbing their heads like apples, approving the bloated budget every year.
I’m begging, not for treats, but for what I and all Ohio teachers deserve: a secure and stable retirement.
I am begging you to stop acting like zombies: speak up and stop the bleeding.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Trina Kay Prufer: It would seem that everyone in the STRS ecosystem prospers, except teachers. And that is exactly what it appears it was designed to do.

From Trina Kay Prufer 

October 18

STRS provides financial security …. just not for teachers
It is is becoming more and more apparent to me that STRS is premier in one respect…  it is uniquely designed to redistribute wealth from teachers into the pockets of senior management, investment staff, Wall Street and indirectly into the campaign coffers of politicians. All the levers of power are locked away from teachers, and put into the hands of those who can manipulate and profit. 
Just look at the OUTCOMES of a decade under “reform” legislation. In retrospect, it was a pretty clever plan, all in plain sight.… a floundering retirement system justifies turning itself into a cookie jar by controlling all decision making through RADICAL ”reform” legislation. Retired teachers become poorer by the month due to inflation, actives pay more into the system than the defined-benefit is worth and many disabled become destitute. 
If the STRS system were truly in “reform” or rescue mode, the first round of belt tightening would be cutting unnecessary management and investment costs. Reducing benefits for those already retired would be the LAST resort, not the FIRST, as teachers were made reliant and dependent on the benefit, and are thus the most vulnerable. However, what we see is just the opposite…STRS spends money as if it falls from the sky, with no regard for the sustainability of the system, or respect for membership. ..… that’s the tell. There is absolutely no recognition that retirement dollars are precious to employees curtailing monthly expenditures for a secure future. 
It would seem that everyone in the STRS ecosystem prospers, except teachers. And that is exactly what it appears it was designed to do.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

October 17, 2023

Learn about the ORTA Pension Defense Fund here, and please contribute a few dollars if you possibly can. 
Until Governor DeWine abused his political power to pull Wade Steen from the STRS Board in a last-minute, highly suspicious and uncalled-for move last spring, Wade had been one of the most outspoken and effective leaders FOR TEACHERS the STRS Board has ever had. 
We must do all we can to get him back on the Board, and to elect more reform-minded Board members in future Board elections. Our future depends on it. We have been duped by the management at STRS, who have had a stranglehold on our pension system for many years, highly enriching themselves at the egregious expense of both active and retired Ohio teachers.  

We must stop the blatant misuse and hemorrhaging of teachers' hard-earned money at this poor excuse of a pension system. It's now or never. Please donate whatever you can to the fund. Every dollar counts.

See ORTA's new website today!

October 17, 2023

Visit ORTA's new website here. Be sure you sign up to receive posts from ORTA's blog as soon as they are published. You can sign up on the website's Home page. It looks like this (not a clickable image here): 


This link will also get you there: 

.....and the STRS real estate investment staff REALLY gets BONUSES for THIS?

From John Curry

October 17, 2023
STRS Terrible Real Estate Investing
STRS Real Estate Investment Staff....this is horrible. Here is the ORSC link for this chart. Go to page 9.

Monday, October 16, 2023

You need to attend the October STRS Board meeting either in person or virtually. Here's why.

October 16, 2023
Attend the October STRS Ohio Board meeting
The STRS Ohio Retirement Board will meet on October 19, 2023. You can attend in person or via Zoom. 
Why should you attend the October STRS Ohio Board meeting? 
STRS Ohio keeps track of how many people attend the Board meetings, in person and via Zoom. They also keep track of how many people watch the recordings of the Board meetings and how many people view the Board meeting documents on the STRS website. 
When you attend the Board meetings in person or via Zoom, you are letting STRS know that you are watching and listening and paying attention to how STRS is managing and investing your retirement savings account. You are making your voice heard!
Another reason to attend the October Board meeting via Zoom is to watch and listen as ORTA Executive Director Robin Rayfield and ORTA President Dean Dennis address the Board during Public Participation, along with Ohio's active and retired teachers.
Preliminary meeting materials will be available on Tuesday before the meeting and final meeting materials will be available approximately 30 minutes before the meeting starts.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Trina Kay Prufer: STRS management can DISSEMBLE all they want to…. They just can’t run away from the outcome.

From Trina Kay Prufer

October 15, 2023
Neville and STRS can’t run away from this…
STRS never addresses the fact that they made 150K teachers RELIANT on the promise of financial security (which is about 70% replacement). It is in the previous mission, vision and goals, 20 years of plan booklets, retirement estimates, letters, the ORC, and in the calculations of the actuarial payout of the plan. Nope… there is just too much evidence that the cola was guaranteed, despite the LIE that it was not. STRS causes us irreparable harm in taking away our livelihood.
Now, STRS wants to go to 100% funding, which will take another decade, putting pre-2012 retirees at about 30% monthly replacement in advanced age, without social security. There are no other teacher retirement systems, without Social Security, that have ever done this before.
This level of deviance, came out of long-term methodical planning. The 2012 “reform” legislation gave STRS power to pull all the levers… modifying/cutting the cola, extending the time actives had to work and increasing the teacher contribution to 14%. Perhaps STRS’s most controversial and destructive decision was not to grandfather in retirees who had been assured the cola was pre-funded and safe.
And then there are the sneaky changes…. not using Robert’s Rules, changing the mission statement and goals, slanting the director’s objectives in his evaluation, extending the director’s contract without full board approval, limiting board members' questions and the removal of Board member Wade Steen, which was planned far in advance. There are just so many others, including the wasteful spending, exorbitant bonuses and salaries, and the propaganda issue.
However, when it gets down to the outcomes, it’s really pretty simple:
Teachers were harmed, irreparably, in a significant way, in a well thought out, methodically implemented plan.
STRS is an outlier in this regard. It is not a legitimate retirement system as all the levers of control work against teachers’ interests. There is no oversight and its just too unregulated to be a trusted and safe financial institution. Lives have been destroyed with its extreme policies. STRS management can DISSEMBLE all they want to…. They just can’t run away from the outcome.

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