More than 125 retired educators gathered at the Aqua Turf on May 17 for the CEA-Retired Annual Spring Business Meeting to hear about legislative and Congressional updates regarding teacher retirement as well as other issues relevant to retired and active educators.
Repealing WEP and GPO
CEA President Kate Dias, who traveled the previous day to Washington, D.C., to continue lobbying for the repeal of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), gave an update on several bills aimed at doing that and explained the challenges, pitfalls, and potential of each.
“We are very fortunate in Connecticut to have the strongest player on this issue—Congressman John Larson—in our corner,” Dias said, adding, “The conversation has been elevated, we are spreading the word to every state, and the interest is bipartisan, which is key to getting things moving. We are working hard to be the leaders on this issue.”
WEP and GPO unfairly penalize teachers and many others by drastically reducing or erasing Social Security benefits they would be entitled to from second jobs, previous employment, or spousal contributions.
“When we started, we decided to make Connecticut a force to be reckoned with,” said Dias, “and I pledged that every time I went to D.C., I would be the ‘GPO WEP lady.’ That’s how I’m known there. This is not a moment, but a movement, and I am proud of where we are today. We see WEP GPO not as a retired issue but an every teacher issue. No one is exempt from its detrimental impact until we get the repeal—our active and aspiring educators included.”
CEA-Retired Treasurer Pat Jordan, who has spent considerable time working to ensure the repeal of WEP GPO, has collected and shared personal stories of CEA members impacted by it and encouraged all members to make their own stories heard.
“Connecticut has put together a coalition of impacted states working together to repeal WEP GPO,” said CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancey, adding that CEA will be making resources available for members to share clear, comprehensible information and compelling arguments for a repeal of WEP GPO.
“This is not just about equity and fairness but about recruitment and retention, and it’s not just about teachers but also many other public service professionals,” she said.
Mentoring, supporting the next generation
DeLancey and CEA-Retired President William Murray also reflected on the special partnership retired teachers have with CEA Aspiring Educators and discussed ways to continue enriching those connections.
“You have done this and lived this,” said DeLancey, “and you have so much to offer those who are just coming into our profession.”
“CEA-Retired has a longtime connection with our Aspiring Educators—something that our former CEA-Retired President Gloria Brown started,” said Murray, “and we are happy to honor her legacy with an Aspiring Educators scholarship in her name, as well as a fund where we can sponsor an Aspiring Educator for only $25.”
The scholarship named for Gloria Brown will support aspiring educators in their roles not only as teaching professionals but also union activists.
“There is a synergy between retired teachers, who have the most experience, and today’s students becoming tomorrow’s teachers,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. “That connection, that handoff, that mentorship, that passing on of not only knowledge but also the passion and commitment that you brought to your classroom and that you still have today—I want to thank you for dedicating your professional lives to teaching, to being part of CEA, and to helping move our future forward in Connecticut.”
He added, “Now that you’re retired, you could be taking it easy. But you have chosen to be a part of the CEA-Retired organization because you are concerned about the profession you have dedicated your life to. We appreciate that so much. The fact that you’re involved now could not be more important, because the teaching profession is under tremendous pressure, with educators retiring sooner than they thought or leaving the profession entirely, and declining numbers of young people going into the teaching profession. We thank so many of you who have come out to the Capitol to push hard this legislative session for CEA’s agenda to improve things in the classroom and for retirees.”
CEA lobbyist Louis Rosado Burch gave an update on teacher priorities for the 2023 legislative session and fielded questions from CEA-Retired members about maximum retirement benefits, proposed pandemic pension enhancements, and current ratios of students to school counselors and social workers. With two weeks left of the session, CEA-Retired teachers’ voices can play a crucial role in elevating teachers in the classroom and beyond.