Public Education Matters

Arthur Lard, the OEA endorsed candidate for the STRS Board in 2023, is a Portsmouth City Schools teacher with 31 years of experience in the classroom. He is dedicated to keeping our pensions solvent and secure. All Ohio’s educators deserve a pension they cannot outlive. As a member of the STRS Board he has been dedicated to acting in the best interests of all STRS members. Arthur joins us for this episode to explain why he wants to continue being a voice for OEA members on the State Teachers' Retirement System Board.

LEARN MORE | For more information about Arthur Lard's qualifications and his vision for the future of STRS, click here.

VOTE | Active educators can vote for the active seat on the STRS Board by phone, mail, or online. Ballots will be mailed out to eligible voters in early April. The deadline to vote is May 1, 2023.

Featured Education Matters guest: 
  • Arthur Lard, Portsmouth City Teachers Association member
    • Arthur Lard is a Business Education teacher from Portsmouth City Schools who has served on the STRS Board since 2019. He has a strong background in accounting and board governance. He has served as treasurer of his local association for 23 years and was treasurer of the OEA Board of Directors for four years. Prior to becoming a member of the STRS Board, Arthur underwent extensive training on pension issues receiving the Certificate of Achievement in Public Plan Policy on Employee Pensions from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.
    • As a member of the STRS Board, Arthur has been a thoughtful advocate for Ohio’s teachers. During his time on the Board, the funding status of the pension plan has improved, making our benefits more secure. The health care plan is fully funded so that it will be there for current and future retirees. The Board has lowered health care premiums and provided rebates to retirees. This fiscal year, STRS paid a 3% COLA to retirees and, most notably, did away with the age 60 requirement for retirement eligibility.
      • Teacher in Portsmouth since 1992
      • Teaches Business Education, Financial Management, and Accounting
      • Teaches Typing and Print Shop- a combination marketing and production class that produces and sells goods to the public.
      • Earned Certificate of Achievement in Public Plan Policy for Employee Pensions in 2019.
      • Portsmouth Outstanding Teacher Achievement Award 2006 and 2018
      • Treasurer for local association for 23 years
      • Treasurer for district association for 4 years
      • OEA Board of Directors for 4 years
      • Outstanding Local Treasurer 2010-2021
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About us:
  • The Ohio Education Association represents about 120,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals who work in Ohio’s schools, colleges, and universities to help improve public education and the lives of Ohio’s children. OEA members provide professional services to benefit students, schools, and the public in virtually every position needed to run Ohio’s schools.
  • Education Matters host Katie Olmsted serves as Media Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. She joined OEA in May 2020, after a ten-year career as an Emmy Award winning television reporter, anchor, and producer. Katie comes from a family of educators and is passionate about telling educators' stories and advocating for Ohio's students. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two young children.
This episode was recorded on March 1, 2023.

What is Public Education Matters?

Ohio's public schools serve 1.6 million children - 90 percent of students in the state! What happens in the classroom has impacts far beyond the walls of the K-12 school building or higher ed lecture hall. So, on behalf of the 120,000 members of the Ohio Education Association, we're taking a deeper dive into some of the many education issues facing our students, educators, and communities. Originally launched in 2021 as Education Matters, Public Education Matters is your source for insightful conversations with the people who shape the education landscape in Ohio. Have a topic you'd like to hear about on Public Education Matters? Email us at

Intro 0:07
This is Education Matters, brought to you by the Ohio Education Association.

Katie Olmsted 0:15
Thank you for joining us for this edition of Education Matters. I'm your host Katie Olmsted, and I'm part of the communications team for the Ohio Education Association and the 120,000 educators OEA represents. We believe all educators deserve the ability to retire with financial security. And that's why strong pensions, with predictable guaranteed benefits for educators when they retire, are absolutely critical, not just for the active and retired educators of today, but also as we continue to work to bring new educators into the profession. That's also why OEA members are recommending Arthur Lard for a second term on the STRS Board. Arthur Lard is one of only two OEA members on the State Teachers' Retirement System board right now. And we need him to continue to be a voice for OEA members around the state, continuing to fight for the policies that have kept STRS financially secure, and against the proposals that put OEA members pensions at risk. That's exactly what Arthur did in his first term on the board. And he did it honestly and transparently. In his active seat on the board, the Portsmouth City Schools teacher was a proven leader. Now with ballots for this year's STRS Board election going out in just a few weeks. We wanted to hear from Arthur, about his time on the board. And what's ahead for the teachers' pension system. He joins us for this episode.

Arthur, thank you so much for sitting down with us. The stakes are huge here. STRS is the cornerstone of financial security in retirement for teachers. Where do things stand with that pension system right now?

Arthur Lard 2:04
Well, the pension system currently is doing really well. Before the teachers had to take some sacrifices along with the retired to get the system back to where it needs to be. When Governor Kasich was in office, there were 66 billion coming in, 90 billion going out. And he said fix it. So basically, the fix was, you couldn't use legislation to increase the amount that the employers were giving. So you had to fix it with what you had. So the what the board members at the time had to do was they had to increase the teachers' amount and take away the COLA.

Katie Olmsted 2:10
The Cost of Living Adjustment.

Arthur Lard 2:41
Yes, the Cost of Living Adjustment. And then also, that wasn't enough. So they had to try to figure out how they can save even more money. And that was again put on the active teachers by increasing the amount of time they had to stay from until 60 years of age without an unrestricted retirement. At this present moment, now it's better.

Katie Olmsted 3:02
Right. And that was before your time on the board, you were elected to that active seat about three years ago. And in that time, we have seen benefits return to some STRS members, and we have seen a really big improvement in the financial health of the system under your leadership. What can you tell me?

Arthur Lard 3:23
Well, again, this year, we were able to do a 3% cost of living adjustment, we were able to do away with the age 60 requirement. They also did away with some of the costs as far as the health care. So they've been experiencing the lower than average premiums. So they're passing that cost back off to the individuals that actually use the health care. And this year, they also got a $600 rebate on the insurance. So again, the health care insurance is 186% funded, so that will be there for myself and future teachers. So that's a good thing. And no money is going into that program. So it's self funding itself.

Katie Olmsted 4:02
Well, and that's something I want to talk about: the future teachers. When we are, the big picture on this one, looking at an educator recruitment and retention crisis, the pension, the health of the pension long term for both the teachers and retirees of today. And for future teachers who haven't even entered the profession. It is so so important that we maintain that health. There's been a lot of proposals over the last few years for things that are those like, get rich quick schemes. And you have been a voice for OEA members standing up for reason on this one and saying wait a second, wait a second, that doesn't make sense for us. What can you tell me about that?

Arthur Lard 4:45
Well, again, everybody has got a target on STRS because they pay out $7 billion a year in retirement, but they still bring in money. So the difference in what they bring in, 3 billion, and they pay out, the 7 billion, is from investments. So when you're doing well investing, everybody wants that little piece of the pie. And that's not something that we can let happen because that money is there for the teachers for their retirement. So we got to make sure that we safeguard and make sure that if we're going to have people investing, they have to have a proven track record, and show that they have some experience doing the investing, not somebody that's just going to come in and use our money to make a name for themselves.

Katie Olmsted 5:25
Well, let's be real here, the people who are doing our investment, they there is a concerted misinformation campaign, about the STRS board, about the investments, about the people doing the investing. Are you able to help dispel some of those myths? I think it's so important right now, when people are getting ready to cast their ballots, that they know what they're actually voting for. And they know the truth about what's going on with their investments.

Arthur Lard 5:53
Their investments are safe. You've got people that are investing and doing their jobs. Now part of their incentive package was, you know, they have different types of bonuses they get if they hit their one, five, or one, three and five year marks. So basically, instead of making their compensation, a bigger package, they are getting paid if they do well for the system. So it's you want them to make money for the system, and then get a bonus. Again, if you can get negative going, and then people focusing on that one negative thing, and they keep beating that drum, then you get people behind it. And they don't hear the truth. Just like with the audits, we had three audits. They kept saying, you know, this was wrong, this was wrong. There's theft, there's all this stuff. Nothing.

Katie Olmsted 6:40
Right. So a lot to unpack here. I think one thing that's worth mentioning - yeah, a lot of people really made made headlines on this one, because of losses in the system this past year. I'm not a teacher, so I'm not in STRS, I'm not going to ever benefit from the pension. I can tell you my 401k - totally a different investment - took a bath in the last year, it was just not a good year for investments. And even through that, the STRS system, its health is way better than it was not that long ago. And that's because of leadership, board members like you who are standing up against those risky investments that would just - I mean, if you are afraid of the losses, now imagine if you handed your money over to the wrong people who are doing the wrong things to line their own pockets with this. I also want to talk about the people we have doing the investments. STRS is still paying them less than we'd be paying if we had somebody on Wall Street doing this. I think we all just have to put things into perspective a little. And then those audits, I'm very glad you brought them up, because they really do show that there's a lot of smoke; there's no fire. And there is again, this concerted misinformation campaign from people who are trying to take over the board and not work in the best interests of the teachers who need financial security into the future. Is all of the negativity and all of the misinformation, is it - it's got to be frustrating for you - but does it, does it dissuade you from wanting another term?

Arthur Lard 8:15
You know, I talked to some board members who've been on in the past. And then it's really hard, because if I had a class that was as negative as the board has been recently, I wouldn't want to go to work every day. But I do think that somebody has to be there. Because if no one is there, then those one kids that need that person that that extra little voice that extra little push is not going to be the beginning. So even though I sometimes get frustrated after I leave, and I I've found ways to cope, I feel like need to be there and I I think everything happens for a reason. I was put there to serve on this board for a reason, where the teachers are guaranteed a salary, guaranteed a paycheck. So again, they know what they're going to be getting. And then we're hoping and praying that everything works out to our benefit, that we can give some relief as far as inflation and bring back a cost of living adjustment on a regular basis. But again, we have to look at not only the retireds, but the actives, but the people coming into the profession. We're an older, mature system. So we're 1.11 to every teacher that's working. So we don't have that luxury of being a two to one system. So we got to make sure that the money we're bringing in, is going to match and make sure it's going to be there for those people when they retire. And that's what we're trying to do. And also to we want to make sure that it's something that somebody wants, the profession that people want to get into. So if you're telling me I have to work until like 45 years to retire, I can go out and find something else. So we want to make sure we keep it at a level where yes, you're going to put some time in, but it's going to be reasonable time. And when you're done, you're going to have a retirement that you can live on.

Katie Olmsted 10:07
A retirement you can live on, and I will say, you know, my my mom's a retired educator. And thank you for the one time 3% cost of living adjustment. That was a really nice thing for her last year. Why do it just that one time? Knowing what I know about the system that made absolute sense. But I think it's important - and I think you've been very transparent about these decisions - but I think it's important to really get that message out there.

Arthur Lard 10:30
Oh, we take a look at what the actuaries bring us back. And they can give us an idea of what our solvency of the system looks like, and how we don't want to make sure we want to make sure there's money and we're secure in our investments and the money that we have coming in. So basically, right now we're at, we're at 81, point something percent, we want to get 100%. But even given out that 3%, it knocked us back to 79. Well, that's better than the 52 that we started out with. So we're still okay. And then people don't understand that 3%, even though it's a one time, it's for the rest of their life. So it's never gonna go away. It's not like a bonus that you get, and it's gone, it's going to be 3% on their, on the rest of their payments for the rest of their life. And again, the thing I like about STRS, you can't outlive your pension. So basically, I had a friend who her dad retired from the railroad. His pension was $550. And that was it. Well, her mother was a teacher, and those were the days where everything was clicking, everything's great. And they got even got that bonus check. But you know, if everything were to fall into line, and so forth, and so on, all that starts with the line. And we could probably go back to that, but right now we can't, because we have to look out for what's there and make sure that everybody's gonna be taken care of. So it's really important that we focus in and make sure that everyone is going to get their piece of the pie.

Katie Olmsted 11:54
On the other hand outside of having a reliable, strong pension that you can live on in retirement, you have people who are outside STRS, and I'm a little worried I'm going to live too long, and I'm going to outlive my investments. So there's definitely something to be said about the long term health of the system being absolutely vital for everyone here. I think it's also vital that we have an active teacher, an active OEA member like you representing the best interest of other OEA members. You know what OEA members need. And you know what the conditions are in our schools right now. 31 years as a business education teacher in Portsmouth city schools where you are right now. What have you learned from your time in the classroom that has set you up for success on the STRS board?

Arthur Lard 12:44
a lot of teachers that are actively working do not focus on retirement, because again, there's so much going on in their day to day lives, that retirement is something that even if they're five years out, they're not thinking about it. So by being on the board and letting them know what's going on, you're trying to bring it home and let them know that hey, you need to start looking at this now. And also too, we've started having the younger teachers look at retirement to make sure they have some other vehicles lined up and make sure that by the time they get to retirement age, their bills are paid. And I think a lot of people get confused a little bit and then sometime times they get upset, because again, they think they're gonna make as much in retirement as they made when they were active. And that's not the case. Because again, you based on the number of years you have, and you're gonna get a percentage of your final average salary. So once they understand that, then they can better understand what's going on. And a lot of times people are upset, and confused and angry, but then once they get in, and they see what's going on, myself included. And you know what, you look at it, and you say, Okay, wow, they're doing this and you look at the number, they're doing this, okay? They can do? No, they can't. This because of this. And then you see, it seems like they're doing what they need to do at this time. And then if there's anywhere you can tweak, I mean, every time we have meetings, we talk about the cost of living adjustment, we talk about health care, we look at ways in which we can add some type of relief for those people that are retired and not getting anything. So we're always constantly looking at it. But again, we have to make sure that the system stays up and running for everyone. So that way, we don't get ourselves into a problem. And then you got to have people that are smart enough to out predict, or out, you know, guess what's going on. And that's what we have, it's not an exact, and people want to say, Oh, you just do this. And it's gonna come out that like, no, if it was that way, we'd all be rich.

Katie Olmsted 14:38
And that's what some people are trying to do right now. I mean, those we're talking about those risky investments schemes, people who are saying, if you do this, we'll all be billionaires by the time you retire, and are if you are never going to overpromise because you are realistic about what these financial situations are. And you're realistic about the needs of educators. A promise to be billionaires by the time you retire isn't realistic, especially not for a system that serves so many people. But a promise of a predictable, reliable, comfortable retirement, one that meets your needs after all that time in your classroom, is something that you can deliver on because you're transparent, because you know how this system works, and because you're able to deliver for OEA members.

Arthur Lard 15:20
Right, well, my thing is, I don't want to look back for years and say, I promised this, this, this and this, and it didn't happen. I'm going to do the best that I can with the information that I have to get the most for our members. Again, and by doing that, I know I can sleep at night, and I've done the best that I can. To overpromise and say things that are not correct just to get a position, that's not me.

Katie Olmsted 15:42
Speaking of getting a position, you are running for reelection. You're looking for your second term on the STRS board. What would the next three years look like and why are you the best person for this job, as OEA members have already said? You are the OEA recommended candidate.

Arthur Lard 15:59
I am a full time working teacher. I'm in the classroom every single day. So I know what the teachers are going through. I'm also closing in on retirement. So I know what the Retireds are looking at. And I see the new teachers coming in. So I can talk to them and help them get themselves set up. So that way, when they get to this point, they know what to do, and how to take care of themselves. So I see all aspects of it, and I think I can be a good voice for all of them. And also, too, I have common sense, and some business background, so I know how to read the financials and I know when people were trying to sell you a bill of sales that are not going to come through in the end. And also, too, I can't prove it. But I can see they were joking, at one point, Bernie Madoff schemes in the works. You know, you think it can never repeat itself. But it seems like every day people are just trying to put a new skin on it and sell it the way it is, which is sad. Because again, they don't know who they're hurting. And sometimes I don't think they care. And that's where I'm here. So I care about everyone. And maybe that's my downfall. But my goal is, somebody did this before me. So it's my turn to do it now. And I'm hoping that I can get enough people to understand what I'm doing. So that way, when I'm done, somebody will come behind me and do what's right for the system. And help me get through my retirement years.

Katie Olmsted 17:28
Somebody before you said pension security is the top priority. And you are carrying that torch forward for the rest of the teachers in the state.

Arthur Lard 17:38
That is it.

Katie Olmsted 17:39
Arthur, thank you so, so much.

Arthur Lard 17:41
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Katie Olmsted 17:46
The STRS Board election is so important for the future of our teachers' pensions and the future of the profession. Ballots are going to start going out at the beginning of April, and you have until the beginning of May to cast your ballot. You can do by mail, online, or by phone. And please don't put your ballot away and just forget about it. Keep in mind last STRS election, 470,000 ballots went out; less than 25,000 ballots were returned. Your voice matters so, so much in this election! And you can always learn more about OEA's recommended candidate in this election at Until next time, stay well.

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