In a victory for public school students, East Hampton teachers’ efforts paid off yesterday when voters turned out on a hot July day to pass the education budget.
The East Hampton Education Association and community supporters had been organizing and rallying for months, strongly objecting to cuts that the Town Council and Board of Finance tried to make to the education budget. They successfully rallied the community to vote “no, too low” in a budget referendum in May, resoundingly defeating a budget that would have eliminated a number of teaching positions, increasing class sizes.
“Because the education budget passed, we can now move forward to the next school year without the district laying off any teachers,” says East Hampton Education Association President and middle school music teacher Neil Shilansky. “We’re very pleased that student class sizes, especially at Memorial Elementary School, will remain at a favorable level.”
Shilansky says that EHEA, with the help of CEA, mobilized teachers and members of the East Hampton community in many ways. EHEA members attended Board of Education, Board of Finance, and Town Council meetings, and members that live in town spoke during public comment. On school days when there were important Board of Finance or Town Council meetings, EHEA mobilized teachers to wear their Red for Ed shirts as a reminder to attend that evening’s meeting. CEA Communications created signs for EHEA members to hold at busy intersections in town, reminding the community to attend meetings and vote in referendums, while CEA Government Relations staff supported EHEA with sending out emails and texts at crucial moments to all CEA members who live in town.
EHEA members were also proactive in communicating with the East Hampton Board of Education and with district administrators in planning how to pass a budget that retained staff and resources.
“EHEA and parents in the community stood side by side holding signs before the initial referendum vote in May, encouraging residents to vote ‘no, too low,'” Shilansky says.
“Passing this budget means that the students of East Hampton will not have their ability to learn affected by larger class sizes or fewer course offerings,” says EHEA Vice President Richard Storrs, a social studies teacher. “It also demonstrates what can happen when a teachers’ union works with its town citizens to ensure that an underfunded budget proposal that does not serve students’ needs is defeated and a budget that restores funding is successfully passed.”