OHIO, USA —
Rudy Fichtenbaum said he doesn't understand why the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio is celebrating after teachers statewide suffered a major loss.
"Giving record-high $10 million dollar bonuses for only losing $3 billion dollars last year would really be an insult to every retired teacher who's struggling with inflation," Fichtenbaum, an STRS board member, said.
In June of 2021, the Ohio pension fund was valued at about $95 billion, but by March of 2022, it has shrunk to nearly $92 billion.
Fichtenbaum said this loss could mean teachers' pensions might not be able to meet the cost of living in the future.
"They're going to be hurting, and I think it's going to be a problem going forward because teachers are going to see that the pension made a promise to them and didn't keep it," he said.
Dan Greenburg, a teacher at Sylvania Southview High School said he's an outsider trying to look in and is unsure how he feels about the bonuses.
"I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt and trying to understand both sides of it," he said.
While Greenburg, the president of the Sylvania Teachers' Association, said he understands the frustration that current and retired teachers might feel, STRS has stated the loss of revenue was an inevitable side effect of the spiraling economy and the bonuses are a reward for staff who helped prevent the losses from being even more severe.
Greenburg said if the people investing their money are making smart decisions, he wants to help keep them around.
"I don't want us to get into a space where we're losing quality employees who are investing 90-plus billion dollars for all of us," he said. "I don't want us to compromise quality for the sake of cutting salaries."
Fichtenbaum said he can't say for certain how Thursday's vote will go, but knowing the members of the board, he expects the bonuses to pass.
No matter what, teaching is a thankless, low-paying job, he said. But he will continue fighting to make their retirement worthwhile.