CEA teachers, staff, and leaders were among hundreds of Recovery for All coalition members gathered outside the State Capitol last evening to send state legislators and leadership a strong message: You must do better for our students and their families.
Wearing #RedforEd shirts, carrying signs, and waving flags, teachers marched from CEA’s office to the Capitol steps to urge elected officials to pass a state budget that provides equitable funding for communities and schools, particularly those hardest hit by the pandemic.
“May 17 is Tax Day, and that serves as an important reminder that our current system of revenue and spending doesn’t work,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “We know our schools don’t have equitable or adequate funding, and that must change.” “As teachers, we’ve been asking ourselves to imagine what we could give our students if schools were fully funded,” said CEA Secretary Stephanie Wanzer, a Cooperative Educational Services special education teacher. “We’ve come up with so many ideas, including more social, emotional, academic, and mental health supports; more teachers, paraprofessionals, school counselors, and psychologists; additional custodial staff; updated HVAC systems so that our buildings have clean, safe air; meals, school-based health clinics, and enrichment activities for students; reliable technology; and so much more. We are also asking ourselves, ‘Why should these be wish-list items? Why are having to fight for these things?’”
Leake, Wanzer, and other educators were interviewed by several news media. See the coverage here.
School social worker Kate Davis and teacher Carrie Cassady, both of whom work in Torrington, said attending the rally on a school night was a priority for them.
“I want everyone else to see how important we think this is,” said Davis. “We need more school staffing and smaller class sizes for our students.”
“Our students have needs that can’t be met with the current funding levels,” Cassady explained.
Holding a sign that read “Equity for All Students,” Bridgeport teacher and CEA board member Marilyn Della Rocco said, “Connecticut needs to find a different way of funding public schools, and the Recovery for All initiative has one of the best plans I’ve heard in a while to do that.”
Daniel Piper, who teaches at CREC’s Metropolitan Learning Center in Hartford, said, “People were hit so hard last year, not just by the pandemic itself but by the policies surrounding it. I’ve seen it with my students and families. We live in one of the richest states in the wealthiest country in the world, and there’s no reason people should be worried about being evicted or losing their health insurance. This past year, so many people worked harder than ever and sacrificed more than ever, and asking wealthy residents to contribute a little more is really just a modest request. Under our current system, there is no way public education can fully serve its students. Students will need more—more literacy support, more emotional and academic support, more tutors. I am here to fight and make sure these goals are supported.”
Manchester Middle School social studies teacher Greg Vickers agreed. “I’m here to raise the call to fully fund education so that we have full staffing and the resources our students need.”
Speaking in favor of Recovery for All’s moral budget at the May 17 rally were Finance Committee Senate Chair John Fonfara and State Representatives Anne Hughes and Geraldo Reyes.
“Back in January or February, Recovery for All helped me understand better than I had before the issues our state is facing,” said Fonfara, who has proposed legislation that would create a fair budget and updated tax system that would equitably fund public schools. “There is debate in the building behind me that Connecticut’s economy will bounce back to where it was, but for many people it was never really that good. These needs existed long before COVID.”
“Today is Tax Day, and a day of reckoning,” said Hughes. “We have economic segregation as the status quo in this state. This is our Recovery for All moment. The power of the public demands that the legislature do its job and reform our inequitable tax structure.”
Other legislative champions attending the Recovery for All rally were State Representatives Kate Farrar, Bobby Gibson, Greg Haddad, Jack Hennessy, Edwin Vargas, and Michael Winkler.
“I want CEA members to know you are making a difference,” said Leake. “By making phone calls, sending postcards and emails, and showing up for rallies like these, you’ve done an amazing job of educating your elected officials about the issues in your communities and classrooms. As you can see, many of them are listening, but we need to keep the pressure up so that we have enough votes to pass a fair budget as the legislative session nears its end on June 9. Watch for CEA Action Alerts in your inbox, and together we can make this happen.”