Elections and activism took center stage at today’s CEA-Retired meeting at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington, where members voted for leaders to represent them and learned more about federal and state policy issues facing educators.
CEA-Retired members elected William Murray, currently CEA-Retired vice president, president. He succeeds Gloria Brown who was unable to run again due to term limits. Brown was voted in as CEA-Retired vice president, Karen DiMenna will serve as secretary for another three years, and Mary-Beth Lang was elected treasurer.
Brown, who received a standing ovation for her years of service, thanked members for giving her the opportunity to be their president. “I want you to know how much it has meant to me to be your president these last six years. It has been an honor and a joy. I’m grateful every day that we have a CEA-Retired organization that allows us to continue to be advocates after we retire.”
Retirees also recognized Ina Smernoff for her six years as CEA-Retired treasurer.
“You’ve elected an experienced team,” said Murray, who will begin his term as president July 15. “As president, the first thing I’d like to see is continued increases in membership. I’m asking everyone to help recruit more members.”
CEA President Jeff Leake told retired members that CEA is concentrating on the continuum of membership, which starts with aspiring educators, continues through educators’ years as active teachers in the classroom, and extends to membership in CEA-Retired. “We’re focusing on the importance of continuous involvement in the union,” Leake said. “I look forward to continuing to work together with CEA-Retired members in the years ahead.”
CEA-Retired activism has included involvement in the political arena, and many members helped elect pro-education candidates last fall. Murray said, “We won 11 out of 13 targeted seats in the state legislature, and a big part of that was due to the activism of retired members. We’re moving in the right direction—let’s continue to get more people involved.”
Bob Brown, who serves on the CEA-Retired Legislative Commission and as chair of CEA’s Political Action Committee, echoed the importance of members staying in touch with their legislators. He said that turn out at CEA-Retired lobby day was high, and that members need to keep up the pressure on lawmakers.
“The cost shift is a big issue,” said Gloria Brown. “If this passes, property taxes will go up and staff and services will be cut in our schools. We all know, with the population of students in our schools today, how detrimental those cuts would be to our children.”
NEA Lobbyist Dr. Sylvia Johnson shared national issues of interest to educators and shared that NEA’s current legislative priorities include education funding, immigration, the Equality Act, and the Higher Education Act.
Johnson said that a bill to repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)—federal policies that deprive Connecticut educators of the Social Security benefits they have earned—currently has 170 cosponsors in the House, but needs 290 to get to the House floor.
“Please contact your friends in other states—educators who have retired to Florida or Arizona—and ask them to reach out to their member of Congress and Senators to become cosponsors of this bill,” Johnson said. “You all know how to get things done—you’re retired teachers.”
Retired members also heard from Helen Sullivan, who took over as the administrator of the Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement Board (TRB) a year ago. She told retirees that she, the board, and her limited staff are working hard to make sure that educators and retired educators have the information they need. The TRB posts information and events to its Facebook page and has added a health insurance section on the right-hand side of the TRB webpage.
“It’s very important that we keep everyone informed about what’s taking place at the TRB,” Sullivan said. “We do appreciate your feedback.”
CEA-Retired members will hold their fall meeting September 23. In the meantime, subscribe to BlogCEA to stay up to date on news for active and retired teachers.