As the U.S. Congress works to finalize a fiscal year 2022 omnibus spending bill, CEA members have joined their NEA colleagues from around the country in lobbying members of Congress for education funding and supports for teachers.
CEA President Kate Dias, Vice President Joslyn DeLancey, Secretary Stephanie Wanzer, and CEA’s NEA Directors Tara Flaherty and Kathleen Gale met last week with Senator Chris Murphy and Congressman Joe Courtney, as well as key education staffers from the offices of the other members of Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation. The Connecticut teachers advocated for additional federal education spending for disadvantaged students, improving school HVAC systems, including emergency paid sick and family leave in any supplemental COVID relief, and expanding Social Security benefits for teachers.
“The omnibus funding bill includes historic investments in education and is a long overdue funding increase that can chart a new course in public education, the backbone of our nation’s human infrastructure,” said Flaherty.
Increased funding is essential to address long-standing problems including the educator shortage, as well as chronic underfunding of Title I, IDEA, and other programs serving the students most in need.
Students from disadvantaged communities are also those most likely to attend schools without air conditioning and with old and poorly maintained HVAC systems. CEA recently submitted comments to the United States Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration as part of OSHA’s rulemaking process regarding temperatures in work settings.
“Paid leave is also a priority,” said Flaherty. “Many teachers have used up their sick time during the pandemic between catching COVID themselves as well as needing to take time off to care for their children due to daycare closures. We also highlighted the issue that many families also have exhausted their sick leave, which means they are sending their children to school sick. Some students sit in the COVID isolation center all day because their parents don’t have the sick time to come pick up their child. We asked each senator and representative to support guaranteed paid sick leave to help working families and curb COVID.”
NEA has long advocated for repealing the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provisions (WEP) that deprive more than 2.5 million educators and other public servants of Social Security benefits they have earned.
Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congressman John Larson have introduced the Social Security 2100 Act, which would fully repeal both the GPO and WEP, expand and strengthen benefits, and ensure that wealthier Americans pay their fair share.
“Currently, teachers who have had a career prior to teaching often do not teach long enough to qualify for a full teacher’s pension and are subject to a large reduction in their Social Security benefit,” Flaherty said. “Teachers also do not qualify for survivor benefits. As teachers are 70% female, this disproportionately affects women. It also affects the ability to recruit second-career educators into the teaching profession at a time when there are teacher shortages.”
“Our Connecticut legislators have sponsored or co-sponsored bills that we consider important and work hard to cultivate support for these bills in Congress,” said Gale. “They always listen to our concerns and the stories we share about the needs of students and educators, and these lobbying sessions were no exception. We could not be more grateful that their doors and minds are open to us and that they want to collaborate with us on the issues.”