“You’ve made a difference in the lives of so many children,” CEA President Sheila Cohen told more than 100 retirees at the CEA Retired Annual Spring Meeting at the Aqua Turf today, “and while you are now enjoying your retirement, it’s so important to stay involved.”
Cohen urged the retirees to “lobby for teachers past and present—for issues that make a difference for all of us. Wisconsin is creeping toward the East Coast, and we are facing very real threats,” said Cohen.
Keynote speaker House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz agreed with Cohen. “I can’t urge you strongly enough not to let Wisconsin happen to us.”
He continued, “It’s scary, so I ask you to stand with me—not as a Democratic leader, but as someone who believes in the rights many of you fought for for so many years. Stand with my colleagues who promise to stand with you on basic rights, including collective bargaining.”
CEA Vice President Jeff Leake said educators at the CEA RA voted on a new business item to support new reforms that need to take place to improve our economy.
“We’ve lived through some of the best economic times. We enjoyed a strong, vibrant middle class, which is unfortunately disappearing, and your children and grandchildren won’t have the same benefits as you did if we don’t make some changes and do something about it,” said Leake.
During the last legislative session, Aresimowicz said legislators fought hard to take actions that help the middle class. Legislators tackled critical issues from raising the minimum wage to exempting a portion of teacher pensions from income tax to school safety and security to putting the state on a path toward universal pre-K.
“Our kids spend the majority of their time with teachers,” he said. Like most parents, Aresimowicz said he only spends a few hours a day with his kids, but teachers spend double and triple that amount of time.
“Teachers are among the most important influences in our children’s lives, and we need to make sure they have the resources to provide all that’s needed for our children,” he said.
Aresimowicz told the retirees that this coming election will be a transforming election in Connecticut. While the education community will never have large amounts of money to spend like the Koch brothers and other corporate reformers, he said educators have the winning message — educators know what’s important for students and public education, and they need to find candidates who support their issues and go out and work to get them elected.
He urged the education community to take action now, before it’s too late.
“I beg, plead, pray, and urge you and cheer you on, but let’s not wake up the Wednesday after the Tuesday election in November and look around and say, ‘What happened? I could have done a little more. I could have written postcards, made calls, gone door knocking.’”
CEA has been successfully lobbying for pro-education policies and advocating for professional development and learning. Now, the Association is making a concerted effort to underscore the need for grassroots organizing, to build the capacity needed to tackle future challenges confronting public education and the teaching profession.
CEA’s Summer Leadership Conference (August 4-6), will focus on grassroots organizing, and Cohen encouraged retirees to let their presence be known. “I challenge you to unify your lobbying efforts in a clear, delineated, and organized strategy and to let your voices be heard by making frequent appointments with legislators—and to participate in large numbers when any one of us is testifying at a public hearing.”
Cohen said legislators need to hear from teachers. “Let them know your issues. Make your voices heard, be strong, resolute, and determined. You have every right to be proud because you have touched so many lives and because you are a member of the most noble of professions—be proud because you are teachers.”
CEA Retired President Gloria Brown said CEA Retired is ready. “Retirees successfully lobbied legislators on Retired Lobby Day and have registered a team of five for the Summer Leadership track on organizing.”