Connecticut 2019 Teacher of the Year Sheena Graham joined legislators, homecare workers, childcare workers, and others at a Recovery for All press conference today calling on the state to make long-term investments in education, health care, housing, labor protections, jobs, workforce development, and municipal aid.
“The needs of Connecticut’s students are greater now than ever,” Graham, a Bridgeport music teacher, said.
In addition to addressing poor indoor air quality, outdated technology, and facility repairs and improvements, Graham said Connecticut also needs to support students by providing sufficient school psychologists, counselors, social workers, paraprofessionals, educators, and custodial staff.
“Our students will benefit from reduced caseloads for social workers and counselors, and reduced class sizes so that teachers can focus more effectively on students’ social emotional needs,” she said.
Like other speakers during the press conference, Graham emphasized that the federal funds coming to Connecticut are much appreciated but not a solution to the long-term, structural inequality that plagues our state.
“Not one of us would believe that two minutes of counseling could solve more than 10 months of trauma,” Graham said. “Likewise, two years of additional funds will not solve more than 10 years of educational inequities.”
Rep. Kate Farrar pointed out that nearly 40 percent of Connecticut households are still struggling to make ends meet. “This is why we need a long-term investment.”
Connecticut Students for a Dream member Katia Daley stressed the urgent need to provide all Connecticut residents with health care.
“Extending health insurance to all residents is a critical investment, especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic,” she said. “It’s Imperative that we make bold moves.”
Homecare worker Pam Hunt said that her son was born with a chromosomal defect and she is a breast cancer survivor. “As a homecare worker, we have no health insurance, paid time off, or a way to a dignified retirement benefit. This is unconscionable and unjust.”
“Our care infrastructure has been deliberately disinvested in, and it employs mostly women and people of color,” said Rep. Anne Hughes. “These are workers that are unwilling to be exploited anymore. This work can’t be outsourced. We must take this once in a lifetime opportunity to make equitable investments.”
She added that corporate profits have soared during the pandemic and our workforce has subsidized those profits.
“Equity requires revenue,” said Senator Gary Winfield, adding that Connecticut’s tax system also needs to be more equitable, as the effective tax rates for low- and middle-income families are currently much higher than those for the wealthy. The coalition is seeking targeted tax increases on the wealthiest residents and tax relief for working people and the poor.
“The coalition that is working on this is not going away,” Winfield said.