Fedor Introduces Legislation to Reinstate COLA for Retired Teachers
January 12, 2022
Today, state Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) introduced Senate Bill 280, which would reinstate the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for retirees in the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS).
“This bill fulfills a promise made to retirees’ years ago,” Fedor said. “With inflation at an all-time high, retirees living on a fixed income need this adjustment more than ever. Though this increase does not make up for all the money they have lost over the years, it is still the right thing to do.”
A 2012 overhaul of Ohio’s pension law resulted in significant reductions in pension benefits and allowed pension boards to change cost of living adjustments without the legislature’s approval. Following this change, the STRS reduced its cost of living adjustments for some retired teachers and froze it for others in 2013, until the COLA for STRS retirees was removed entirely in 2017.
“You can’t have a secure retirement if your income remains the same for years and years while the cost of living increases,” said Melissa Cropper, President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. “By pushing Ohio’s public pension funds to provide cost of living adjustments, this bill will help retired educators who haven’t had a COLA since 2013 and will help schools recruit and retain educators while schools are dealing with drastic staff shortages.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics today released the Consumer Price Index Summary, showing that over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 7% before seasonal adjustment. According to the Bureau, this is the largest 12-month increase for the all items index since the period ending June 1982 and the largest 12-month change for the all items less food and energy index since the period ending February 1991.
“When I retired from more than 30 years of dedicated teaching a decade ago, STRS’ pension came with an agreed COLA. That lasted only a few years,” said Rochelle (Shellie) McKnight, a retiree in the system. “While STRS pays millions to financial and legal consultants, my yearly funds are shrinking 5-7%, no COLA in sight. Meanwhile, gas, food, utilities and real estate taxes increase. This unjust and punitive situation is a slap in the face to all retired teachers. I haven’t reached the ramen noodle diet yet, but isn’t it disgraceful that the honored and respected teaching profession is being reduced to this?”
“I retired 12 years ago after 35 years of teaching, coaching and administration in the STRS,” said Jeff Bunck, an Ohio Education Association (OEA) retiree in the STRS system. “When I retired, I was assured that teachers would be receiving an annual increase of 2% each year. Well, as we all know that promise was broken and salaries were frozen. As a result, I have had to become very frugal with my expenses. Inflation has reared its ugly head and bitten many of us who now live on fixed incomes. Food, gas, heating, and taxes have all gone up. Just today, I received my tax bill in the mail. It went up by $272 a year, or $22.67 a month. That may not seem like a lot, but it does take away something else that I may need or want. Also my wife and I have decided to cut back on charitable donations. Sounds cold, but that is the way it has to be for a while, at least until a fair COLA is passed by the General Assembly.”
S. B. 280 is cosponsored by all eight Democratic senators. You can follow the status of this legislation here.