Parents, students, teachers, nurses, community members demand a state budget that creates fairness and opportunities in our schools and communities
We are in the midst of a crisis that demands bold leadership and action now to fund our future, because too many Connecticut families, students, and communities are struggling. That was the message parents, students, educators, nurses, elected officials, and other members of the Recovery for All coalition delivered today during a rally in Danbury.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the deep economic disparities in our state and the lack of funding for critical services. Vulnerable populations, who had difficulty making ends meet before, now struggle to survive while the wealthy continue to profit from a booming stock market. Coalition members are calling for a state budget that reflects our society’s priorities, ensuring that our economic recovery is shared by everyone, not just the wealthy.
“Connecticut has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the country, leaving the poorest residents to deal with education gaps, health disparities, unattainable home ownership, and other hardships,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “We must address unemployment, food insecurity, and lack of access to health care and affordable housing, and we must attend to the growing needs of our students, who will require additional supports due to the trauma caused by the pandemic.”
As communities throughout the state face multiple crises caused by the pandemic, they need a state budget that invests in those communities, along with their children and their schools—not an austerity budget, as proposed by the governor, which will worsen inequality and inequity. The Recovery for All coalition, which includes Senator Julie Kushner and several dozen of her legislative colleagues, is calling for a revenue system that provides the resources for all of Connecticut’s residents to succeed.
“We need to invest more in our schools, our healthcare system, and affordable housing, but our middle class and working families are stretched so thin, they cannot afford to pay more,” said Kushner. “That’s why it’s critical that my colleagues and I work together to ensure an economic recovery for all Connecticut residents—one that lifts up our middle class and reduces the growing inequities and widening gap between the super wealthy and those in our state who are struggling to make ends meet.”
At Thursday’s event outside Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury, speakers shared their personal stories about underfunded public schools and other struggles facing students and families, including a disproportionate number of people of color who are suffering from food insecurity, threats of eviction, and lack of healthcare. Danbury has the lowest per-pupil spending in the state ($13,521), and schools are funded at less than half of neighboring Fairfield County schools, such as Redding ($25,051).
Educators and students are experiencing the effects of underfunding in Danbury schools each and every day.
“For more than a decade, the City of Danbury and the State of Connecticut have left our students with the paltry remains at the bottom of the school funding barrel,” said Erin Daly, a third-grade teacher and president of NEA Danbury. “Our children have a right to an equitable education. The injustice in school funding puts our students at a disadvantage compared to students in every other district in Connecticut. It is time to stop the excuses and political maneuvering and make the commitment to invest in our schools and our community.”
Luanelly Iglesias, a bilingual educator in Danbury and a single mother, has experienced the hardships caused by the state’s inequitable tax structure—both in her personal life and in her classroom.
“I have seen many unmotivated and depressed students after their parents lost their jobs, couldn’t afford to pay their bills, and had to move in with friends or relatives. Our schools require critical funding to meet the growing needs of our students, including more support for English learners and students who receive special services, counselors, health services, and other important programs that provide our students with the best opportunities to succeed,” said Iglesias.
Danbury instructional math coach, Mary Jo Bohrman, agrees and says now is the time to change the way we fund our public schools.
“Year after year our district has had to prioritize and cut while others have grown. We have creatively tried to add, without using funding. This has been a band-aid at best, but our students are paying the price.”
Danbury High School Senior and student body president Rebecca D’Ostilio sees the inequities at school every day and said that funding must increase to meet the needs of students like her and her peers.
“I have a unique position at Danbury High School. I listen to students’ concerns every day. I see inequity firsthand, and I have even experienced it myself. Researchers, administrators, teachers, and even students can agree that if this inequity continues, there will be drastic effects on the student body,” said D’Ostilio.
Now more than ever, we need increased education funding to address the impact and inequities of the pandemic, the needs of English learners, students living in poverty, students who have experienced trauma, those harmed by asthma and poor air quality, and special needs students facing unique challenges in these times—especially those in our urban and high-poverty districts.
“I have a natural affection toward children and absolutely believe they are our future,” said Kathleen Nix, RN, a pediatric nurse at Danbury Hospital and liaison with the Danbury Nurses Union, Unit 47, AFT Local 5047. “They deserve the best education and care possible, no matter what ethnic, racial, or gender-specific qualities they have. We are a multicultural community, and it is vivid and alive. The residents of Danbury teach me so much and it is time to give back.”
Oswaldo Chin, President of ATU 1622, Western CT Area Labor Federation delegate, parent, and Danbury community member says a recovery for Connecticut and Danbury must start with our schools and our students’ futures.
“Billionaires have profited during the pandemic, but our community members have suffered. Underfunding our students is not fair to our families or our communities. Now is the time to fund our schools and fund our future,” said Chin.
Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill goes a long way toward moving the country forward, but the President has called on state leaders to step up and do their part to ensure equity and “give the people who keep this country going a fighting chance.” President Biden added, “We need to summon a new wave of worker power to create an economy that works for everyone. We owe it not only to those who have put in a lifetime of work, but to the next generation of workers who have only known an America of rising inequality and shrinking opportunity. All of us deserve to enjoy America’s promise in full—and our nation’s leaders have a responsibility to deliver it.”
The coalition agrees and calls on the state to end the regressive tax structure that has forced the poorest families to pay up to triple what the wealthiest residents pay in state and local taxes.