STRS Ohio Watchdogs

Chew on this!

With recent events, ORTA is taking this time to open a Pension Defense Fund to develop resources for legal and professional help in fighting for Ohio teachers.

Please consider helping out by donating today.

ORTA Pension Defense Fund

ORTA’S mission is to monitor, advocate for, and protect the pensions and benefits of its members.

Recently the Governor has declared war against teachers, active and retired by attacking their pension. He's standing in the way of reform. We are now taking this time to open a defense fund to develop resources for legal and professional help in fighting for Ohio teachers. Please consider helping out by donating today.

ORTA's Executive Council has determined that the first actions from the fund will be to use fund monies to help Wade Steen. The monies will go towards the legal expenses he might incur in challenging his improper removal by the Governor. Please rally around this cause!

Please consider helping out by donating today.

Pension Warriors
By Edward Siedle

A Single State Pension--Ohio Teachers--May Trigger A Collapse In Values At All Others.pdf

May 31, 2023

Ohio Governor Rushed To Rescue Wall Street From State Teachers Pension Reforms.pdf

May 22, 2023

Ohio Auditor Warns State Teachers Pension_ Stop Misleading the Public.pdf

May 18, 2023

Editorial: Make pensions transparent

Toledo Blade
The Blade Editorial Board
May 22, 2023

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, (D., Ohio) is on the right track in demanding more legally required disclosure from shadowy private equity funds in which Ohio’s public pensions have way too much invested.

Mr. Brown and seven fellow Democrats have written to Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler asking for quick work on a rule to bring necessary transparency to private equity financial reports.

Private equity managers have nearly $14 trillion, mostly supplied by public pensions like Ohio’s five funds which have $28.6 billion invested in this asset category. In theory, private equity funds buy businesses, make management improvements, and sell for a profit.

Mr. Brown is properly skeptical of private equity asset valuations which have been far out of step with all other market indicators. The SEC is proposing requirement of an annual outside audit to verify values the private equity firms now provide without oversight.

The Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund reported a 54.5 percent gain in private equity in the last year. All other Ohio pensions claim gains above 20 percent except the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System which reported a more realistic 4.79 percent loss.

These are hard to believe as the stock market value of private equity giants fell dramatically.

“Because private fund advisers’ fees are calculated based on fund asset valuations, the accuracy and transparency of fund asset valuation practices is crucial to prevent overcharging of investors and to mitigate conflicts for private fund advisers,” Mr. Brown wrote.

Inflated claims of performance are used to justify the fees and expenses that are paid to private equity managers. Since 2018 OPERS has paid its private equity fund managers almost $1.3 billion.

Private equity managers typically take 20 percent of a fund’s investment profit. In the last five years OPERS has provided those fund managers $608.2 million. The conflict of interest Mr. Brown details is obvious when you understand those profit shares were based on valuations set by the fund managers collecting the bonus.

There has been no transparency requirement on private equity because large investors like Ohio’s pension funds are assumed to be sophisticated and have no need for protection by the SEC.

But the beneficiaries of these pensions and the taxpayers who fund them are endangered financially by untrustworthy financial statements.

Friday, OPERS reported a $16 billion loss on investments and a decline in assets of $20.2 billion. That’s with a private equity valuation that is significantly better than the overall market and provided by managers with a massive conflict of interest.

There is a shortfall in the public pensions that Ohio taxpayers are being asked to fill.

The true extent of the problem cannot be established when pension financial reports cannot be trusted.

It is wise that Senator Brown is making a federal issue out of it.

Editorial: Bonus battle postponed

The Toledo Blade

The Blade Editorial Board
May 20, 2023

The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio board may think it can dodge the controversy over the removal of a reform-oriented board member and paying huge bonuses to undeserving staff by postponing the decision.

That’s what it did on Thursday when the STRS trustees held its eagerly awaited meeting in Columbus.

STRS Trustees made no decision on controversial investment staff bonuses totaling more than $11 million. That explosive issue will provide the fireworks for the June board meeting, and the issue isn’t going away.

The May meeting was papered with teacher protest signs asking “where’s Wade?”

Wade Steen, the first major critic of STRS investment strategy, appointed by Gov. John Kasich and reappointed by Gov. Mike DeWine, was dumped from the board by Mr. DeWine over howls of outrage from teachers.

The law says Mr. Steen was appointed to a term which expires in 2024. His attorney Norman A. Abood of Toledo warned the STRS Board any action taken was “ineffective regardless of the presence of a quorum.”

Mr. Steen intends to force a court ruling on whether the governor’s appointee serves solely at the governor’s pleasure. Mr. Steen consistently criticized payment of large bonuses to investment staff when STRS retirees received no COLA.

Mr. Steen’s skepticism on STRS asset values was based on solid evidence provided by transparent markets.

As The Blade pointed out during last year’s STRS bonus battle (“Ohio pension results hinge on private equity,” Aug. 21), all Ohio pensions including STRS reported huge private investment gains when its outside investment managers were valued on Wall Street billions of dollars less.

Large bonuses to pension investment staff based on fictitious asset values is a cruel joke to STRS beneficiaries forced to pay more and accept less to bailout its retirement fund.

Bonuses should also be an outrage to taxpayers when they discover STRS is working with lawmakers in an attempt to raise schools’ contribution to the pension from 14 percent of salary to 18 percent.

Under current investment strategy any extra taxpayer funds will go straight to Wall Street. In the last two years STRS has paid outside fund managers $504,998,393. Claimed asset values have fallen by nearly 10 percent and the near $10 billion decline is despite make-believe asset valuations.

The entire debate over STRS bonuses ignores (“Act on STRS Audit,” Jan. 2) the finding of State Auditor Keith Faber’s special audit, showing a low cost S&P 500 index would have returned $90 billion more since 2009 than STRS current investment strategy.

Moreover, as the STRS compensation consultant made clear, index investing eliminates bonuses and the need to compete for staff with Wall Street.

The STRS Board passed a statement of investment beliefs as called for in its recent fiduciary audit. The beliefs are basically boilerplate language about prudent financial management.

But acting upon the recommendation recalls the lack of action regarding bonus benchmarks in the 2006 fiduciary audit.

That document said that staff bonuses should reflect exceptional performance that can be easily documented. The recommended bonus benchmark was the Russell 3000 total market index plus 5 percent.

By that measure, STRS would never have paid bonuses. If the fund had been invested to minimize costs in an index fund rather than maximize gain with Wall Street, annual COLA’s would never have stopped.

STRS puts staff before beneficiaries and taxpayers.

Mr. Steen’s ouster was provoked by confronting this malfeasance. 

Editorial: Focus on performance

The Blade Editorial Board

May 15, 2023

Ohio’s Retirement Study Council is supposed to safeguard the retirement assets of the state’s five public pension funds.

Close observation over an extended period leaves us with little confidence they are up to the job.

It’s a critical job. Ohio’s pensions hold over $250 billion for more than 2 million public workers who are currently paying, formerly paid, or are collecting retirement benefits. Because Ohio public workers do not pay Social Security, the state system is all they can count on for retirement income.

On Thursday, the ORSC questioned State Teachers Retirement System leadership on the highly controversial plan to pay performance incentive bonuses totaling more than $11 million to investment staff.

Multiple members, including Sen. Paula Hicks Hudson (D., Toledo), prefaced their questions with admissions of ignorance on investment management. Ideally, such an important oversight body would appoint members with some degree of expertise.

But it takes no expertise whatsoever to understand the key fact on STRS.

State Auditor Keith Faber’s special investigation of STRS featured an easy to understand performance chart.

Since 2009 STRS has underperformed the results of an S&P 500 index by $90 billion. Incredibly, Ohio is paying STRS staff performance bonuses when they have demonstrably destroyed value.

If STRS had no investment staff and put the entire portfolio into an index it would literally have doubled the money it has now, according to Mr. Faber. STRS would also have paid a fraction of the fees they do now.

There is no better illustration of ORSC incompetence than discussion without resolution on $11 million in bonuses, while ignoring $90 billion in unrealized investment gains.

STRS has a $20 billion liability, has frozen cost-of-living-adjustments since 2017 and is pushing legislation to increase the amount school districts — taxpayers — contribute to the pension.

Meanwhile, the report that shows STRS could have a $70 billion surplus has prompted no action by the General Assembly or the governor.

Financially, $11 million is inconsequential to STRS. The bonuses are important only as an indicator of self-serving mismanagement, made possible through the abdication of responsibility by the legislative and executive branches of Ohio government.

Ninety billion dollars should be impossible to ignore for even the most naïve Ohio legislator. Fifty percent of possible performance is also simple to understand. Fees of pennies on the dollars now spent are also uncomplicated.

If the Ohio Retirement Study Council does not act upon this information, who will?

Click here to read this editorial online.

May 10, 2023
DeWine fails teachers

ByThe Blade Editorial Board

Gov. Mike DeWine has failed the State Teachers Retirement System by removing the one person who was leading the charge for much-needed reform.

STRS has lately been managed more for the benefit of insiders and staffers than Ohio’s retired educators.

Wade Steen, a CPA and Cleveland Metro Parks chief financial officer, was booted from the STRS Board of Trustees by the governor Friday night. The timing coincides with the election to the board of Pat Davidson, a Berea teacher who campaigned with the support of dissident teachers who want reform at STRS.

Mr. Steen was the very first STRS board member to call for reform. His opposition to investment staff bonuses paid despite a freeze on cost-of- living-adjustments for retirees was a lonely crusade when it began.

Click here to read the editorial online.


May 8, 2023


"I believe that Mike DeWine would never knowingly do anything inconsistent with Ohio law. The attempt to revoke my appointment by a staff member was a clerical error. I am confident the Governor will step in and fix this issue. The reform movement that has been talked about at the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) is being driven by teachers. Ohio educators have elected new members or “reformers” in each of the last five elections over the last few years. Change at STRS has been a slow and deliberate process. Ohio educators would never do anything to harm their pension.

I am disappointed that a staff member sought to revoke my appointment to the STRS Board after I declined to immediately resign. I have been advised that I serve for the term for which I was appointed and not at the pleasure of the appointing authority. I greatly respect Governor Mike DeWine and would ask to work with his office to improve the lives of Ohio teachers. During my seven-year tenure on the board I have been an unrelenting advocate for all STRS members - contributing and retired teachers. I will be advocating for teachers until my term ends on September 27, 2024."

Background: The 11-member STRS board is composed of seven teacher-elected members (five active teachers and two retired teachers) and four members appointed by various state officials. ORTA-supported reform candidates overwhelmingly have won the last five board elections, including the announcement made on Saturday, May 6th that pro-reform candidate Pat Davidson defeated incumbent Arthur Lard in a landslide (70 percent to 30 percent.) Wade Steen, as the Governor’s appointee, also supports reform efforts. As a result of this spring’s election, reform board members will constitute a majority of the 11-member board when Pat Davidson is sworn in on September 1st.

On Friday, May 5th the Governor’s office notified Wade Steen that his appointment to the STRS board was revoked after he refused the request for him to resign. Wade Steen responded that the Governor’s office does not have the legal authority for such action per Ohio law.

# # #

May 8, 2023
Parma teacher, retired Ohio teachers against proposed bonus hike for pension fund staff

ABC NewsChannel 5 - Cleveland, 11PM News Special Report
By Joe Pagonakis

PARMA, Ohio — Terry Caskey is a 28-year Parma teacher who is stunned that the State Teachers' Retirement System or STRS is considering a 30% hike in incentive bonuses when retired Ohio teachers have faced restricted cost-of-living increases for several years.

Caskey told News 5 she believes it's absurd that the STRS pension fund lost 5.3 billion in investments in 2022, still awarded $10 million in bonuses to staff, and is now proposing to increase bonuses by way of an STRS board vote in the next several weeks. Caskey said additional bonuses are especially troubling since Ohio teachers now have to work 35 years to get their pension, moved up from 30 years several years ago.


May 6, 2023
Gov. Mike DeWine replaces member of teacher pension board

By: Colleen Marshall, Orri Benatar, Maeve Walsh

Posted: May 6, 2023 / 12:58 PM EDT

Steen claimed to the governor’s office they do not have the authority to revoke his board membership, according to the email NBC4 obtained. Sources within a group of retirees who have opposed recent actions of the board told NBC4 that Wade Steen was forced off the board when Gov. DeWine realized that the balance of power would tip.

Click here to watch this report online.

April 25, 2023

Ohio teacher pension fund considers 30% boost in staff bonuses

By: Maeve Walsh, Colleen Marshall

Posted: Apr 25, 2023 / 06:30 AM EDT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Managers of Ohio’s $90 billion public teacher pension fund are considering a larger round of bonuses for its investment staff despite retired educators’ concerns.

But Julie Sellers, an STRS board member and retired Cincinnati Public Schools teacher, called the boost in proposed bonuses worrisome for a fund that lost $5.3 billion in returns in fiscal year 2022 and “out of touch with reality of what teachers want:” a reinstatement of their once-guaranteed 3% annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, and a lower retirement age.

Click here to read this story online.

Is OEA Misleading Active Teachers?

By Dean Dennis & Cindy Murphy

March 26, 2023

The April 2023 election for one contributing seat on the STRS Ohio Retirement Board is currently a hot topic on social media. The Watchdogs want to share with active teachers a serious misrepresentation on the part of the Ohio Education Association.

First, and most important, are the Minutes of the March 17, 2022, meeting of the STRS Ohio Retirement Board.

Following discussion, Mr. McFee moved, seconded by Ms. Herrington, that in accordance with the Board’s
actuary’s determination that these changes do not materially impair the fiscal integrity of the retirement system,
the Board should make the following benefit plan design changes.

1. Pursuant to the authority provided under Ohio Revised Code (RC) §3307.67(E), beginning July 1, 2022,
approve a one-time 3% cost-of-living increase be paid to eligible benefit recipients on their anniversary date
in fiscal year 2023.

2. Pursuant to the authority provided under RC §3307.58(B)(3), eliminate the requirement of age 60 scheduled
to go into effect August 1, 2026, pursuant to RC §3307.58 (B)(1)(c)(vii).

Upon roll call the vote was as follows: Mr. McFee, yes; Ms. Herrington, yes; Ms. Correthers, yes;
Dr. Fichtenbaum, yes; Dr. Hunt, yes; Mr. Lard, abstain; Mr. Price, yes; Mr. Rhodes, yes; Mr.Roulston, yes;
Ms. Walters, yes. The motion carried.

Now that you have read the Board Minutes, what follows should be of interest to all active teachers.

Here's what OEA has posted about Arthur Lard on their website.

Note that OEA is stating that Arthur Lard “voted for the elimination of the requirement that members be 60 years old or older to retire and to approve a one-time 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for eligible retirees".

However, the Board Minutes reveal that, when he could have voted for these changes, Arthur Lard abstained.

The STRS Ohio Watchdogs believe that abstaining from an important vote to restore lost benefits for members breaches the responsibility that one would expect of a Trustee.

If re-elected to the STRS Ohio Retirement Board, will Arthur Lard continue to abstain from voting on issues that impact Ohio's active teachers?

March 23, 2023
Become a Pension Warrior!

"If you are in a pension, you should assume the pension promises made will not be kept and you need to become a Pension Warrior. Get out there and demand information and be relentless in protecting your retirement security." - Edward Siedle

Ted Sielde is moving from Forbes to Substack, where you can now read his articles for free.

Siedle is a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer and the leading expert in forensic investigations of retirement plans.

Ohio teachers raised $75,000 to hire Siedle to perform a forensic investigation of STRS Ohio.

The High Cost of Secrecy: Preliminary Findings of Forensic Investigation of State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, Commissioned by Ohio RetiredTeachers Association. Benchmark Financial Services, Inc., June 2021

Follow Pension Warriors at

March 16, 2023
Ohio State Teachers Retirement System had massive investment in failed bank

System already under scrutiny for huge bonuses after big losses

By Marty Schladen

Already under fire for high pay despite big investment losses, the pension system for Ohio’s retired teachers lost between $27 million and $40 million when Silicon Valley Bank failed last weekend. That appears to be by far the biggest investment by a public pension system in the United States.

The losses follow a nearly $10 million loss last year when cryptocurrency platform FTX failed, according to the Ohio Retired Teachers Association, a group that represents pension system members.

Click here to read this story online.

March 16, 2023

Ohio teachers concerned after Auditor report raises retirement fund transparency issues

State Teachers' Retirement System confirms it has more than $27m invested in failed Silicon Valley Bank

By Joe Pagonakis

Posted at 11:05 PM, Mar 15, 2023 and last updated 8:53 AM, Mar 16, 2023

CLEVELAND — Some Northeast Ohio teachers like Terry Caskey have growing concerns about the health of the Ohio teachers' retirement system after learning STRS has $27.2 million invested in the now-collapsed Silicon Valley Bank.

Click here to read this report online.

March 11, 2023

"You need to keep the promises to the people" - Keith Faber to ORSC

By Cindy Murphy

Keith Faber, Auditor of State, defended his Special Audit of STRS Ohio during the March 9th meeting of the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC).

Key findings from Faber's written testimony:

Faber made comments after his presentation, in response to questions from ORSC Board members. Watching the recording of the meeting, and using closed captioning, we did our best to accurately transcribe Faber's comments.

Watch Faber's testimony at

Saturday essay_ STRS investment performance measure flawed _ The Blade.pdf

March 4, 2023
Saturday essay: STRS investment performance measure flawed

By Richard Ennis

Retirees of the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio are hopping mad over $10 million in bonuses paid to the STRS staff for its performance in managing the STRS investment portfolio. I believe their concerns are justified.

March 3, 2023
Ohio teachers, both current and retired, share concerns over STRS Ohio pension fund

Ohio Retired Teachers Association continues call for reform after $5.3 billion in fund losses in 2022

By Joe Pagonakis
News 5 Cleveland

February 16, 2023
Ohio teacher pension fund board not confident in executive director

By Maeve Walsh

The 11-member board of the State Teachers Retirement System is not confident in the pension fund’s leader.

In a split vote Thursday afternoon, the board rejected a motion to declare confidence in STRS Executive Director William Neville, who has presided over the $90 billion public teacher pension fund since June 2020. The final vote — five in favor, five against and one abstaining — fell short of the six votes needed to assert confidence in Neville.

“We have to have a change at the top,” said STRS board member Julie Sellers, who introduced the motion. “The problems that have been here have been here for years, and I just feel like we need to have a direction forward.”

Click here to read this article online.

February 14, 2023
"It is an unequivocal fact. Ohio teachers have the worst pension deal in America."

Dr. Robin Rayfield, Executive Director of the Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association (ORTA), addressed the State Board of Education today.

He addressed the voting history of STRS Ohio Board member Dr. Scott J. Hunt, who was appointed by Stephanie K. Siddens, Ph.D., Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction, to serve as her desginee on the STRS Ohio Retirement Board.

Dr. Rayfield also addressed the perennial granting of large bonuses to STRS Ohio investment staff, while Ohio teachers' retirement benefits have been continuously reduced since 2012.

Dr. Rayfield's presentation begins at 34:40 and continues for 20 minutes.

February 11, 2023
Let’s Give Every Ohio Taxpayer $46,000

By Edward Siedle, Contributor, Forbes

All state pensions in Ohio have dramatically underperformed for decades due to rampant political corruption and gambling on Wall Street’s riskiest investments. State politicians have profited from Wall Street campaign contributions as active government workers and retirees have seen their benefits slashed. The staggering cost of this mismanagement amounts to $46,000 per Ohio taxpayer. That’s more than the state’s $34,500 average annual per capita income.

Doing nothing is not an option. If political corruption and mismanagement doesn’t stop, count on a transfer of wealth (greater than the average annual per capita income) from pension stakeholders continuing.

Click here to read Ted Siedle's article online.

January 28, 2023

"It's no surprise to find out the State Teacher Retirement System of Ohio lost nearly $9.5 million in the collapse of crypto currency FTX." - Toledo Blade

Prior to 1996, there was a list of permitted investments for Ohio's pensions

Then came S.B. 82

This post is directly related to the Jan 28th editorial by the Toledo Blade Editorial Board

Here is ORSC's 1996 analysis of S.B 82:


For those of you who want to dig deeper into S.B. 82 (1996), which deleted the detailed list of permitted investments for Ohio's pensions, like index funds, here is a letter I received from ORSC, with links to relevant documents.

Ms. Murphy,

You asked about the “legal list” of investments the retirement systems were permitted to invest in prior to S.B. 82, which became effective March 7, 1997.

The detailed list of permitted investments is available in the version of R.C. 3307.15 effective prior to March 7, 1997.  I have attached a link to that document:

In comparison, the version of R.C. 3307.15 effective on and after March 7, 1997 deletes the majority of those restrictions, as can be seen here:

Jeffery A. Bernard
Senior Research Associate
Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC)

January 28, 2023
Editorial: Follow Pa., not Texas


Ohio lawmakers meddling with investment practices of state pensions, universities, and the Bureau of Workers Compensation have done nothing but destroy value and create corruption since 1996.

That's when S.B. 82 removed investment restrictions lim iting Ohio investments to public and transparent markets.

Click here to read The Blade's editorial.

January 21, 2023

Pat Davidson for STRS Board

Pat is a business and computer teacher in the Berea City School District with 22 years of classroom experience. For the majority of his career, he's taught personal finance classes to high school students.

Pat is running for the STRS board because the STRS reforms in 2012 and 2017 have dramatically affected personal financial planning for active and retired members.

If elected to the STRS Board, he will continue to pursue constructive conversations that challenge STRS to address the needs of active members without risking the system's long-term stability.

Pat will work toward advancing the following goals:

Click here to find out more about Pat Davidson for STRS Board.

January 21, 2023
Active teachers: We need your help!

Collect nomination signatures for Pat Davidson for STRS Board

Nomination Petition: Pat Davidson for STRS Board

Send your signed nomination petitions(s) to:

Robin Rayfield, Executive Director
Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association
250 E. Wilson Bridge Road, Suite 150
Worthington, Ohio 43085

Election Timeline

January 18, 2023

Sign the Petition asking Treasurer Sprague to appoint a pro-teacher board member

As reported by The Toledo Blade, Editorial: A Revealing Appointment, there is a sudden vacancy on the STRS board as one of the anti-reform members just submitted his resignation from the eleven-member board.

State Treasurer Robert Sprague will be making a new appointment to the board at any moment.

Please join ORTA in encouraging Treasurer Sprague to appoint a board member who will join the five existing pro-reform members to fight for transparency and accountability.

Pro-reform board members are saying “NO MORE” to STRS accounting gimmicks, lack of transparency, misreporting of investment performance and unconscionable staff bonuses.

Click here to sign our petition calling on Treasurer Sprague to appoint a pro-reform board member!

Treasurer Sprague needs to hear how STRS mismanagement has resulted in lost COLA’s and broken promises for retired teachers.

He needs to hear how active teachers are being forced to pay more and work longer for less benefits.

He needs to know new leadership is needed at STRS.

Also join us in calling the Treasurer’s office at 614-466-2160 and emailing to speak your mind.

Together we are making a difference.

January 14, 2023
Editorial: A revealing appointment

A commitment to the failing status quo or recommended reform?
By The Blade Editorial Board

Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague, a Findlay Republican, has a very telling appointment to make. Mr. Sprague’s appointee to the State Teachers Retirement System, Scott Roulston, has resigned from the 11-member Board of Trustees and the treasurer must make a new appointment to fill the seat.

Mr. Sprague’s appointment will be judged as a commitment to the failing status quo or recommended reform. A half million teachers and nearly 5.8 million Ohio taxpayers have a big stake in Mr. Sprague’s appointee fulfilling the treasurers commitment to pension transparency.

Click here to read The Blade's editorial online.

ORTA's Teaching Tuesdays

Educational webinars for retired and soon-to-be retired teachers

The Ohio Retired Teachers Association is proud to announce a new educational webinar series for ORTA members! 

ORTA partnered with Association Member Benefits Advisors (AMBA) as the endorsed benefits advisor for members. These short webinars provide valuable resources and information about important topics like Long Term Care, Medicare, Medical Transportation and more.

There have been many changes with legislation, Medicare, Social Security for Ohio's retired teachers. There are many pitfalls you need to watch for so your decisions don't cost you money.

This program should be a must for anyone getting ready to retire or those who are retired.

Mark your calendar for the 3rd Tuesday each month at 9 a.m. for ORTA's Teaching Tuesday.

The talks are educational and informative: retirees often tell us they are thankful for the overview and knowledge they gain. Robin Rayfield will also be giving a brief ORTA update.

To register for the webinar on January 17th, click on the link below. Once registered you will receive webinar login information.

Registration link:

January 1, 2023
Editorial: Act on STRS Audit

By the Editorial Board of The Blade

The obvious solution is missing from Mr. Faber’s recommendations. Repeal the 1996 law that gives pension funds discretion to invest in anything and restore the requirement that only public, transparent investments are suitable for the state pension portfolios.

Click here to read The Blade's editorial online.

STRS Ohio Special Audit.pdf

December 29, 2022
By Ted Siedle

It's the shot heard around the world!

Ohio State Auditor is first in nation to recommend all investment contracts be made public. If adopted, would have massive impact on Wall Street secrecy, as well as public pension integrity! With transparency, the public can demand an end to all the abusive Wall Street practices.

Sections of report where auditor says STRS follows industry norms were predictable (and predicted). But if you look at all the confirmations of negligence (STRS, ORSC, etc.) cited in his report, you can see that the ORTA-funded investigation has accomplished much. Participants did the work elected officals should have, but were unwilling to do.

Click here to read the special audit report.

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December 23, 2022

The Battle Over The Side-Letter Scam
Lobbyists and their congressional allies are trying to protect secret deals that can enrich Wall Street insiders at workers’ expense.

By Matthew Cunningham-Cook

“I have encountered side letters that I have forwarded to the SEC which stated that the manager of the fund agreed to waive fees to this particular investor as long as he stayed in the fund and promised not to tell anyone about fraud involving the fund. It’s conspiracy to commit fraud,” said Edward Siedle, a former SEC attorney who currently specializes in SEC whistleblower cases. “The point is anything can be in these side letters. They can give one investor certain liquidity rights that other investors don’t have. They can give knowledge of portfolio positions that other investors don’t have. They can give different fees. Unlike mutual funds where every investor is treated equally, in these funds, every investor can be treated differently.”

Click here to read this article online.

December 6, 2022

Ohio Teachers Pension Has No Comment Or Records Regarding Its Cryptocurrency Investments

By Edward Siedle

The $100 billion Ohio Teachers pension fund recently responded to a public record request from a former board member indicating it had no records in its possession regarding its cryptocurrency investments. Later, in response to a media inquiry regarding crypto investments identified in its portfolio, officials at the state pension responded, “No comment.” 

So much for transparency and public accountability.

Click here to read the full article online.

November 23, 2022

Effort to claw back $10M in staff bonuses for Ohio teacher retirement system withdrawn 

Bonuses were awarded just before news that the teachers’ fund lost $5.3B.

By Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal

A board member of the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio last week made a short-lived attempt to claw back $10 million in bonuses awarded in August to the system’s highly paid staff. He said he’s going to keep up the fight for reform.

Steven Foreman, one of 11 members of the Retirement Board, last Thursday made a motion to claw back the bonuses after the system’s investment losses for the preceding fiscal year turned out to be 71% greater than predicted. It was a $5.3 billion loss to a system with about $90 billion under management.

“I highly question if any of the $10 million in bonuses would have been paid had the board waited for the valuations to be reported,” Foreman wrote in a letter to board Chair Carol Correthers. “The staff took money and portrayed it as justified. 

November 16, 2022

I will be calling a vote to claw back the money paid as bonuses when we meet tomorrow, Thursday, November 17, 2022. There is no agenda item more important in my mind at this moment.

"I highly question if any of the $10 million in bonuses would have been paid had the board waited for the valuations to be reported. The staff took money and portrayed it as justified. If any part of this is appropriate, then the system is broken and/or rigged to benefit the staff at the expense of the membership. In lieu of an attempt to justify this, what actually needs discussed is that historically, boards failed to hold staff accountable. They enabled a system where the staff feel justified in taking $10 million from teachers. I call for an end to this now because the longer it continues, the longer our members are excessively burdened." - Steven Foreman, STRS Ohio Trustee

Foreman to Correthers Nov 16, 2022.pdf

November 3, 2022
Through the STRS Looking Glass

By Rudy Fichtenbaum

Last month, the day before the Board meeting, I sent an email to Board members in preparation for the Investment Committee meeting. On the agenda for that meeting was a discussion of STRS’s investment philosophy. Staff prepared materials with Callan’s assistance in which they asserted that our philosophy supports active investment. STRS’s “belief in active investment” is based on the claim that active investment outperforms passive investment. The investment staff and our consultants constantly talk about the value added by active investing.

The only verifiable benchmark that STRS uses is for U.S. equities. Beyond that all the other benchmarks are custom, and none of them get audited. The international equities are 50% hedged; without daily data on hedging, you cannot verify performance. Fixed income uses daily weights that only STRS has and cannot be verified. Real estate uses an index that does not include leverage. For alternatives, STRS has been using its own performance until this year. Look at the reports for Cliffwater, and you will see that they never beat the Russell 3000 +1% for private equity and Russell 3000 -1% for Opportunistic Diversified, which used to be the benchmark. Now STRS uses the Cambridge “indices”, which are not real indices because, for example, there is no data publicly available on say the largest 1000 private equity deals. What is being constructed by Cambridge is an “index” based on peer reporting.

I attached a spreadsheet to my aforementioned email to Board members that used calendar year data for the S & P 500 and a Bond Portfolio which uses 10-year Treasurys, Baa Corporate Bonds and 2-month T Bills with various weights for the bonds. I noted the sources of my data and explained in a fair amount of detail how I constructed 6 different 60/40 stock-bond portfolios using three different mixes of bonds. Each portfolio started with a 60-40 mix of stocks and bonds using three different mixes for bonds. Three portfolios started at 60-40 and changed through the year, ending at 70-30, which is about where STRS is today in terms of risk. The other three just stayed at 60-40.

Over 30-years, STRS loses to all six of these portfolios. The losses range between 44 and 94 basis points (bps) on an annual basis. (A bps is 1/100th of a percent, so 44 bps is 0.44%.) That is real money. The bottom line is that between 1992 and 2021, STRS did not beat a 60/40 portfolio of stocks and bonds i.e., a real passive benchmark. Moreover, even when the returns of these six portfolios are adjusted for risk, all six still outperformed STRS.

In 1992 STRS had about $30 billion in assets. My spreadsheet also showed the money lost over 30 years, all other things equal, was between $48 billion and $109 billion. Of course, I told the Board that I realized that all other things had not remained equal i.e., the amount of money we have in assets is a function of the rate of return as well as the burn rate -- the amount by which payments to retirees exceeds contributions. In fact, I would argue that the burn rate is our biggest problem. So, the calculation of money lost is meant to illustrate the magnitude of the losses.

The bottom line is STRS between 1992 and 2021 did not beat a 60/40 portfolio of stocks and bonds i.e., a real passive benchmark. Moreover, each of these portfolios have risk adjusted returns that exceed that of STRS.

Like most pensions, STRS beats the benchmarks it constructs. But it does not beat a real benchmark, i.e., a passive benchmark that is investable and transparent.

This is a classic example of the principal-agent theory in economics where staff and consultants benefit from active investing by creating benchmarks that they can beat, allowing staff to get bonuses while consultants get their contracts renewed. They rely on complexity and the fact that most of us are not investment experts. I believe most members of the Board have good intentions. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I am not alone in believing that STRS does not beat a passive benchmark.

Richard Ennis just sent me a paper entitled "Lies, Damn Lies and Performance Benchmarks: An Injunction for Trustees.” It will appear on LinkedIn, SSRN (an outlet for scholarly research before it appears in scholarly journals) and eventually appear in the Journal of Investing. For those of you not familiar with Richard Ennis, here is a short bio that appears on his blog.

Richard M. Ennis, CFA, managed money at Transamerica and pioneered quant investing in the early 1970s. He helped create the field of institutional investment consulting at A.G. Becker & Co. Richard co-founded EnnisKnupp, the first consultancy to be recognized as a professional services firm. During his career Ennis received lifetime achievement awards from CFA Institute and Investment Management Consultants Association. His research won Graham & Dodd and Bernstein Fabozzi Jacobs Levy Awards. He edited Financial Analysts Journal. He and his wife, Sally, retired to Sanibel Island, Florida, upon the sale of his firm to Aon in 2010.

One of the main points that Ennis makes in this paper is that most pensions report outperforming their benchmarks, but they do not use real benchmarks to measure their performance. They use custom benchmarks that exhibit benchmark bias. In his paper he explains a passive benchmark must be investable and fully transparent.

Richard Ennis has also done an analysis of STRS’s performance constructing benchmarks used in the article "Cost, Performance, and Benchmark Bias of Public Pension Funds in the United States: An Unflattering Portrait”. In this article Ennis constructs benchmarks for each pension he looks at using three indices: U.S. Stock, non-U.S. stock, and an aggregate U.S. bond index. The methodology he uses was developed by William Sharpe, Emeritus Professor of Finance and Stanford and winner of the 1990 Nobel prize in economics. Although STRS OH was not included in the article, in an email to me he confirmed that he had looked at STRS performance for 10 years and found that STRS underperformed a passive benchmark by 81 bps.

Finally, my email stated that STRS has not had a successful active management program, which is not surprising given the overall track record of active managers. Without some sort of an information edge, beating real benchmarks is basically flipping a coin, except you must pay to play – which is why most active managers lose to an index.

I concluded that STRS needs to change its investment philosophy and move toward index investing.

You would think that after receiving this email that there would have been a robust discussion of my spreadsheet and email. And yet the content of my email and spreadsheet was not discussed at all. Not one Board member said, “your analysis is wrong” or “there is a mistake in your spreadsheet.”

Instead, a majority of Board members focused their attention on whether my sending this email to the Board was a violation of the open meetings law. After a lot of back and forth I think the conclusion was that if members did not engage in discussion via email, there was no violation of the open meetings law. So, then the discussion turned to saying, but there could have been a violation if members had responded, although nothing in my email invited a response. The whole point of the email was to provide food for thought so we could have a robust discussion of our investment philosophy. Then I was admonished by Board members for not having sent my email to the Chair.

The whole experience is akin to Alice in Wonderland. Under the status quo, we have a pension where there is no prospect in my lifetime of restoring a permanent COLA for retirees and active members, and no chance of returning to 30 years for unreduced benefits. But don’t worry -- the staff will continue to get their bonuses for beating the benchmarks they create.

Change requires 6 votes. That means that if you want a COLA and you want a chance of being able to retire after 30 years with unreduced benefits, then you need to convince an existing board member to do the right thing and vote for what is in the members’ best interests or elect a new Board member for the active seat in 2023.

Ohio Auditor Raises Fears About State Teachers’ Pension But Won’t Tell All Until After His Re-election

By Edward Siedle, Forbes

October 27, 2022

When State Auditor Keith Faber announced to stakeholders in the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, including active government workers, retirees and taxpayers, his office was initiating a Special Audit of the pension based upon complaints evolving from a forensic investigation commissioned by the Ohio Retired Teachers Association, there was hope that the lack of transparency, mismanagement of investments and potential violations of law at the fund would finally be addressed.

A year later, Faber is conveniently delaying release of his office’s findings until after his upcoming re-election, even as he publicly expresses unspecific “concerns” regarding the pension.

Fichtenbaum Letter to HPA 2017.2.14.pdf

Prophetic paper written by Trustee Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum in 2017.

Speech at ORTA 2022.10.10.pdf

Speech Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of ORTA by Rudy Fichtenbaum, October 12, 2022

Will the Real Costs Please Stand Up v2.pdf

Will the Real Costs Please Stand Up
by Rudy Fichtenbaum, September 22, 2022

September 13, 2022


COLUMBUS, OH – Last month, the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) awarded $10 million in staff bonuses despite reported investment losses of $3 billion last year. STRS justified the bonuses by saying that investment losses could have been billions of dollars worse.

But a new look at STRS records and market performance show that STRS did not report any material loss in the value of its billions of dollars of private equity holdings from January 2022 through June 2022. This glaring omission likely dramatically understated STRS’ losses because public equity stocks lost a quarter of their value during that same time period. As shown in the chart below, market data suggests that STRS may ultimately book a staggering $5.5 billion loss – completely erasing the STRS justification for the bonuses and raising serious questions as to whether private equity losses were intentionally misreported in order to guarantee employee bonuses.

As discussed in The Toledo Blade, STRS’ justification for its “gravity-defying” private equity valuations is an accounting gimmick that conveniently delays losses, seemingly until after the current board could vote to award nearly $10 million in employee bonuses. In stark contrast, the chart above shows that STRS was quick to book gains as public equity markets rose in fiscal year 2021. STRS’ “magic” valuations also appear to conflict with market data from other large public pensions that reported at least a 10% loss on its private equity positions. For example, in July 2022, California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) sold $6 billion of its private equity portfolio at a 10% loss.. Somehow, STRS claims that its private equity portfolio never saw any real reduction in value during the same time period.

“It looks more and more likely that STRS cooked their books and used accounting tricks to ensure they could pay employees their $10 million in bonuses, ” Robin Rayfield, Executive Director of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association said. “On behalf of all retired teachers, we’re calling on State Auditor Keith Faber to get the real numbers STRS won’t show the public and hold STRS accountable.”

The STRS Propaganda Machine

September 9, 2022

The STRS Propaganda Machine

By Rudy Fichtenbaum

The STRS propaganda machine on Facebook and with its E-News has been hard at work trying to mislead members and the public. One of their tried-and-true methods is by making a straw person argument -- an argument that misrepresents or distorts someone’s position followed by an attack the distorted position thus created.

This is exactly what STRS is doing when it puts out misleading statements to try and distract attention away from the fact that it is the only major pension in the country with a negative normal cost. A negative normal cost means that the actuarial value of the benefits earned in a year as a percentage of salary is less than the percent of salary paid to fund those benefits in a year.

To quote Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers “you can’t make old friends” but you sure can lose them when you break your promises and use straw person arguments to deflect criticism and avoid accountability.

Our members have spoken, and it is time for a change!

August 18, 2022

After drops in Ohio teacher pensions, money managers get $10M in bonuses

The board voted 9-2 to approve bonuses for about a hundred members of the investment staff, even though the pension fund lost $3 billion in the most recent fiscal year. Retired teachers told NBC4 they are outraged that their pension fund is losing money and that they have gone years without the promised annual cost of living increases while the people in charge of it are getting bonuses. The vote came one month before three new board members took office.

"I think that’s why they pushed the vote for this month so that it was during the lame duck so that as they were going out they got the last vote in,” said Julie Sellers. “I think it was pretty much a snub to all of us. Our members spoke clearly that they want to change but today that did not happen.”

Click here to read this article online.

August 17, 2022
Ohio teachers’ pension fund investors set for bonuses

Retired teachers in Ohio have not received a cost of living increase in their pensions for years, even though they were promised an annual increase.

The group managing the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) will vote Thursday on huge performance bonuses for the investment staff.

Retirees are furious that they are going without while bonuses are planned for pension fund managers who lost $3 billion in the last year.

Click here to read this report online.

August 11, 2022
Ted Siedle comments on STRS Ohio & Pittsburgh Comprehensive Municipal Pension Trust Fund v. The Carlyle Group

"The goal of the forensic investigation ORTA members funded was to improve management of the pension, disclosure of investment strategies and fees, and investment returns. As you know, for nearly two years now, STRS Ohio has responded to our investigation in an adversarial manner-- attempting to discredit our efforts and never once considering that the insights of a leading pension expert might be helpful. Worse still, STRS Ohio has defensively refused to provide investment documents we requested which detail conflicts of interest, fiduciary breaches, hidden and excessive fees and violations of law which the pension has never addressed. As a result, we have been unable to date to provide STRS Ohio members with an analysis of the dangers lurking in your pension's portfolio. STRS Ohio members must instead, as in this Carlyle case, wait for other (much smaller) pensions to bring lawsuits addressing abuses. Let me restate the obvious: Had we been provided the key investment documents we requested nearly two years ago, we would have been able to identify many forms of wrongdoing at that time--STRS Ohio members wouldn't have had to wait and follow in the wake of other pensions in addressing wrongdoing, but could have led the way. STRS Ohio secrecy is causing real harm, which each new revelation of wrongdoing reminds us." - Ted Siedle

City of Pittsburgh Comprehensive Municipal Pension Trust Fund v. The Carlyle Group.pdf

“The beneficiaries of the city of Pittsburgh Comprehensive Municipal Pension Trust Fund are municipal fire and police personnel serving the city of Pittsburgh. Many are first responders putting their lives on the line every day. They depend on the integrity of the financial markets to provide for their retirement.” 

August 11, 2022

An unusual deal gave Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin $8.5 million in stock. He paid $0 in tax on it.

A shareholder of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm formerly led by Youngkin, alleges in a new lawsuit that a 2020 deal enriched executives at the expense of cops and firefighters.

By Gretchen Morgenson

Now, that transaction is under attack by a Carlyle shareholder in Delaware Chancery Court. The suit, filed last week by the city of Pittsburgh Comprehensive Municipal Pension Trust Fund, says the $344 million deal harmed Carlyle’s stockholders, who received nothing in return when they funded the payday. 

Meanwhile, the Carlyle insiders who received the payouts escaped a tax bill that would have exceeded $1 billion, according to the complaint, which accuses Rubenstein, Youngkin and other Carlyle officials of lining their own pockets at the expense of people like police officers and firefighters.  

“The kind of impunity that Carlyle’s control group acted with is shocking and unacceptable,” lawyers for the Pittsburgh pension fund said in their complaint.

Click here to read Gretchen Morgenson's article online.

July 2, 2022

The Blade Editorial Board: Ohio's Public Pension Funds Need Scrutiny

"It’s time for an independent examination of the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio and the state’s other public-employee pension funds.

The fees and expenses charged by professionals paid by the funds require vetting. That examination must include a determination of the values of investment funds and the direct investments made on behalf of the pension funds."  - The Blade Editorial Board, July 2, 2022

Read the article at

POLL: Should Ohio Auditor of State, Keith Faber, hire and oversee independent vendors to examine the fees and investment returns charged to Ohio’s pension plans?

Funston STRS Ohio 2022.pdf

June 26, 2022
Fiduciary Performance Audit of the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio

Listen to Funston Advisory Services LLC's presentation to the STRS Ohio retirement Board on June 16, 2022

Click here to listen to the presentation.

June 6, 2022
Legislators, Stop Harming Education in Ohio; Fix the STRS Employer Contribution Rate.

In Ohio, both teachers and employers make contributions to the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS). Over the past 38 years, the employee contribution rate has nearly doubled, while the employer contribution rate has remained completely stagnant.

This nearly four-decade-old freeze has made Ohio lag their non-Social Security state peers by approximately 8% in employer contribution rates.  Legislators must address this problem by increasing the employer contribution rate and properly funding the State Teachers Retirement System. Most importantly, this increase MUST NOT become an unfunded mandate imposed upon Ohio school districts.

Because Ohio is neglecting to pay its fair share in properly funding the State Teachers Retirees Pension System, dangerous domino effects are impacting Ohio families. Teachers must work longer due to pension benefit cuts. Ohio retired teachers no longer have a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to stave off inflation as it erodes their retirement security. When teachers are forced to work longer, local school districts are burdened with having to pay higher salaries.  For example, instead of paying TWO younger teachers $40,000 each, districts end up paying ONE older teacher $80,000. This results in districts having to make difficult choices which impact the quality of education. 

Teachers coming out of college will realize that if they choose to teach in Ohio, without receiving Social Security benefits they may not have a cost-of-living adjustment after they retire. This is not the way to attract and retain high-quality educators. Ohio is driving the best and brightest teachers away.  Do we want Ohio to be a leader or a laggard in education? We need Ohio legislators to step up and address this issue and fund the benefits they promised current and retired teachers. Ohio cannot go 38 years without an increase in the employer contribution rate increase AND not expect there to be problems.  

Click here to sign and share the petition.

STRS Ohio Watchdogs Bulletins

We know that you want to be informed about STRS Ohio and your retirement benefits.

We also know that you're busy and you don't always have time to visit the Watchdogs website or Facebook group.

Sign up to receive periodic bulletins about the Watchdogs' campaign to protect and preserve your retirement benefits and how you can help.

Click here to sign up for STRS Ohio Watchdogs Bulletins.

HB601.SponsorTest.Lightbody.AMiller (2) 2.pdf

June 4, 2022
Lightbody and Miller Introduce Ohio HB 601

"A few weeks ago the STRS Board took action that partially addresses our goals. At their March Board Meeting, they approved a one-time 3% COLA and eliminated the age 60 requirement for educators who have taught for 35 years. We are glad to see these updates, but think that House Bill 601 will more permanently address this issue and provide predictability and fidelity to agreements for future retirement benefits that were made to teachers during their active years." - Rep. Mary Lightbody and Rep. Adam C. Miller, Sponsors  

June 2, 2022
The Boomer Bust: Retirement Dilemma - Sidebar with Judge Winslow

Edward Siedle talks about Ohio's teachers and STRS Ohio!

Boomers are approaching retirement age but face one big dilemma: not enough savings to retire! And Millennials have it worse. Join Judge Winslow’s discussion with Ted Siedle, nationally-recognized expert, author, and film maker on what’s wrong with our retirement system and how to fix it.

Click here to watch online. 

May 23, 2022
Ohio Teachers Pension Touts Past Transparency Awards, Fails To Disclose Special Investigation By State Auditor
By Edward Siedle

"To paraphrase King Mongkut of Siam in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, it is a “puzzlement” to me how a state pension that is supposed to be prudently investing the retirement savings of hundreds of thousands of teachers could refuse to disclose how their money is invested and still be considered transparent—even win a top award from the state auditor! A puzzlement." - Edward Siedle

Click here to read this article online.

May 22, 2022
New Battle at STRS Ohio Over Finances, Investments, and Leadership at STRS Ohio

Watch as NBC4 investigative reporter Colleen Marshal talks to Julie Sellers, STRS Ohio Board Member Elect, and Dean Dennis, Founder of the STRS Ohio Watchdogs, about the philosophy and culture at STRS Ohio which pays high salaries and bonuses to staff while suspending the 2% simple COLA for Ohio's teachers for nearly 7 years.

May 7, 2022
STRS Ohio Board Election Results

On Saturday, May 7, 2022, the results of the State Teachers Retirement Board election were certified by a board of tellers appointed by the State Teachers Retirement Board and Election Services Company — the independent firm administering the election. The results of the election for the two contributing member seats on the Retirement Board are as follows:

The results of the election for the retired member seat on the Retirement Board are as follows:

The term of office for Steven Foreman, Elizabeth Jones and Julie Sellers will begin on Sept. 1, 2022, and will end on Aug. 31, 2026.

May 4, 2022
Exposing Wall Street's Pension Looting

"It's the story of, what I call the largest upward transfer of wealth in modern history, one that most people don't know very much about. It's the story of how Wall Street is minting millionaires and billionaires using the retirement savings of teachers, firefighters, sanitation workers and all, really all government workers. And it's a story that corporate media doesn't very well cover all that often. And it's really a story of secrecy. So that's what we're going to be discussing tonight" - David Sirota, The Lever

Edward Siedle, who performed the forensic investigation of STRS Ohio, is one of the guests.

Watch the recording of the chat at

May 1, 2022
"The bottom line is the index fund portfolio had a higher annual rate of return and took less risk." - Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum, STRS Ohio Trustee

STRS OH v VFINX Part 3.pdf


Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum
May 1, 2022

STRS OH v VFINX Part 2.pdf


Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum
April 28, 2022

STRS OH v VFINX Part 1.pdf


Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum
April 27, 2022

April 8, 2022

A Watchdogs Commentary:  Why New STRS Trustees Are Needed

By Dean Dennis

This is an article I lifted for posting. The article is nearly 3 years old, but it is still relevant. As Members we cannot continue business as usually at STRS, nor elect "business as usual" Trustees. This business as usual approach has led to active members paying 14% in contributions while the "normal cost" for their pension is assessed at 12%. Our active teachers are giving 2% of their pension towards liabilities created by STRS under-performance. This is a negative value; we need new Trustees. For the upcoming election, the STRS Ohio Watchdogs, the Ohio Retired Teachers Association and the Ohio Members Only Forum have endorsed Julie Sellers, Steven Foreman and Elizabeth Jones. The Ohio Federation of Teachers have endorsed Julie Sellers and Elizabeth Jones. Please read the eye-opening article below.

By Chad Aldeman   

July 22, 2019

This may sound counter-intuitive, but here it is: Technically speaking, Ohio school districts do not contribute toward Ohio teacher pension benefits. 

"How is this possible?" you might ask. After all, Ohio school districts are contributing 14 percent of each teacher's salary into the pension fund. 

But wait, where is that contribution going? If you pull up the latest actuarial valuation report from the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, you can find out. Table I-1 (not shown in article) shows that the plan estimates the "normal cost" of the benefits are worth 10.91 percent of salary. That is, across all individuals who enter the plan, after accounting for their age or how long they might stay, the plan thinks the promised pension benefits are worth an average of 10.91 percent of each teacher's salary.

You'll quickly start to screw up your face, especially if you know that every teacher is currently contributing 14 percent of their salary into the plan. Fourteen is more than 10.91 percent, how can that be?

This is due to the fact that Ohio STRS has accumulated unfunded liabilities of $24.8 billion. Every single STRS member is contributing 3.09 percent of their salary (14 percent - 10.91 percent) to pay off that debt.

That's not all. In addition to the employee contributions, school districts are also paying in 14 percent of each teacher's salary into STRS. That money is going into the plan, but none of that is going toward benefits. All of it is going to being used to pay down the unfunded liabilities. 

In essence, Ohio has created a system where teachers, on average, are getting less out of their pension plan than they themselves put in. To be honest, it's hard to even call this a "retirement" system at all. The system is functioning like a debt accumulation tool and a tax on teachers, with retirement benefits on the side. 

Again, this may be sort of hard to wrap your head around, but it's true. The figures above are all based on what the state's actuaries think the Ohio STRS plan will cost over time. Ohio is the only state in such a bad situation overall, but Illinois teachers hired as of 2011 are also paying more into the system, on average, than the state's pension plan thinks their benefits are worth. Other states may be in similar territory for new, less-generous benefit tiers, but they rarely report those data separately. 

In contrast, Ohio also offers new teachers the option to join a defined contribution plan with a 9.53 percent employer match. For the vast majority of teachers, that's likely to be the better option. 

April 5, 2022
ORTA Endorses Foreman, Sellers, and Jones for STRS Ohio Retirement Board

The current leadership are the root cause of what's wrong with our pension. We urge you to vote for Foreman, Sellers & Jones.

The reason for this endorsement is active teachers have the worst deal in America and retired teachers are not getting what they were promised... It's time for change!

Watch this video on ORTA's YouTube channel.

March 30, 2022
The Myth of Turning Over $65 Billion to Wall Street

By Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum

The OEA leadership and Board members running for reelection are desperate because they know that members are upset. Active members are finding out the truth that they have the worst deal in the country, paying $1 to get a pension that is worth $0.77. Retired members can see through the scam that is being run on them when they are given a one-time 3% “COLA” and told that the Board will look at another “COLA” next year i.e., 2024. The truth is the Board just approved an investment allocation that is expected to earn 6% while approving a discount rate – that’s the expected return on investments – of 7%. Why is this important? It is important because to reduce and eventually eliminate the unfunded liability, STRS needs to earn 7%.

The truth is that to fully restore a real COLA, one that gets paid every year rather than just once, the pension needs more money. When I campaigned for a Board seat, I recognized that the pension needed more money, so I said that I would support an increase in the employer contribution. None of the incumbents running or the OEA leadership have ever campaigned on raising employer contributions. When they get backed into a corner, they might say they don’t oppose an increase in employer contributions, but they have done nothing to try to make that a reality. What could they have done? For starters, they could have had the Board vote on a resolution calling for an increase in employer contributions and directed the STRS staff to start lobbying for an increase in employer contributions.

They could have directed the staff to tell the truth: without more money there will never be a restoration of a real COLA. Instead of going around the state telling everyone what a great job they are doing, they could have started meeting with active teachers and retirees and telling them that if they want a real COLA and a pension that is at least worth what they are contributing, they need to start organizing and putting pressure on the legislature and the Governor. Active teachers and retirees vote. Their family members and friends vote, too. If teachers and retirees were showing up by the busload at the statehouse, organized by OEA and STRS working with ORTA, the Watchdogs, OFT, and AAUP, we could start creating the kind of pressure that is needed to get an increase in the employer contribution and make sure it is funded by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Ohioans who have getting tax cuts for years.

But we should never put all our eggs in one basket. If there are other ways the pension could earn more money, we should explore them openly and honestly. That is why Wade Steen, former board member Bob Stein, and I tried to make a proposal at the November meeting to explore an option that we thought was promising and could earn more money for STRS.

We never got to make our presentation because the staff and STRS consultants, with the complicity of the Board, lied and disrupted our presentation. Then they started telling the big lie that we proposed to give $65 billion to a firm without a track record.


What did we propose? We proposed hiring a specialty law firm to negotiate a contract to create a partnership that would implement a pilot program, a proof of concept that would start with $250 million. Once the partnership agreement was negotiated, we proposed it would come back to the Board for a vote. That is what we proposed.

We never proposed -- as leaders of OEA and incumbent Board members constantly repeat -- that we turn $65 billion over to a firm without a track record. That is lie. But we all know the power of a big lie. If you say it repeatedly, some people begin to believe it.

None of these OEA leaders, incumbent Board members, or staff seemed to have a problem when STRS lost $525 million on Panda Energy, a company that used our money to buy a professional wrestling league. None of these people thought it was a problem when STRS invested $50 million in Infinity Q, whose former CIO and founder was just charged by the SEC with overvaluing its assets by $1 billion, while pocketing tens of millions in fees. None of them were outraged or thought it was a problem when Ted Siedle found widespread failures and mismanagement at STRS. In fact, when an STRS staff member was asked recently about the Panda loss, he said “STRS absorbed it.” What does that mean? It means the members paid for it with our money.

So why the problem with negotiating a contract that the Board would have to vote on before it was implemented for $250 million? That was our proposal! I believe that OEA leaders, incumbent board members, and STRS staff were afraid it would be successful. That would have meant that instead of us continuing to pay an investment staff to send billions of our dollars to Wall Street, Wall Street might have been sending STRS members a check that could help pay to restore a real COLA and help give active members a pension that is worth what they are contributing.

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.

Around 10 years ago, a nightmare was about to be dropped on STRS members. 

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?

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.

March 17, 2022
Ohio retired teachers get long-awaited changes to pension benefits

Retirees push to restore permeant cost-of-living adjustments, changes to retirement system

By Josh Croup

The State Teachers Retirement Board on Thursday unanimously approved a one-time 3% cost-of-living adjustment, also called a COLA, for eligible retirees.

The board on Thursday eliminated a requirement that was set to take effect in 2026 which would’ve made teachers also wait until age 60 to retire. Several retirees continue their push to lower the work requirement from 35 back to 30 years.

Click here to read the full story.

STRS:  It's Our Money, Not Yours!

STRS is costing us billions by having an IRA (investment return assumption) that is significantly lower than what is actually earned. This has cost retirees their COLA and has forced active teachers to increase their employee contribution to 14% of their salary.  In return, they work more years and receive less benefits. It's time to stop the madness and time to become proactive!     

STRS: Restore Our Promised COLA!

It is only through a COLA that retired teachers can keep up with inflation. Many of Ohio's teachers work in rural areas and retire with very modest pensions. They rely heavily on their promised and earned COLA. The State Teacher Retirement System (STRS) and elected officials have broken their promises to Ohio's retirees and have placed an unfair burden on Ohio's current teachers.  

Teachers Attend STRS Ohio Retirement Board Meetings

During the pandemic, STRS Ohio Board meetings were held virtually. Members attended via webinar software but were not permitted to address the Board during Public Participation.

In-person meetings of the Board resumed on August 19th. 

Many thanks to Ohio's teachers who have travelled to Columbus to attend the Board meetings!

Kathie Bracy's Blog

Kathie Bracy’s blog is a forum for Ohio educators, sharing thoughts regarding their health care and pension system, STRS Ohio. Kathie’s blog is a virtual repository of STRS Ohio history since 2003.

Many of the documents and articles featured in Kathie’s blog are contributed by John Curry. John manages a clearinghouse of emails, documents, and articles about STRS Ohio.

Visit Kathie Bracy’s Blog at

Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA)

ORTA’S mission is to monitor, advocate for, and protect the pensions and benefits of its members.  The Association shall encourage individuals to improve the social and economic changes and issues relevant to their retirement. 

Click here to visit ORTA's website.