Where you spend your money indicates where your values lie, CEA President Kate Dias told members of the legislature’s Education and Appropriations Committees today. “If we look at our checkbook in the state of Connecticut, there’s more we should be doing for education.”
Dias was one of a number of people in the field of education to address legislators during an informational forum today, and all agreed that there is a significant need for more resources to support students and raise the profile of education in Connecticut.
[Above, CEA President Kate Dias and Avon School Counseling Director Todd Dyer share their experiences with lawmakers.]
Todd Dyer, the director of school counseling for Avon Public Schools, said that counselors join many other educators in being on the front lines of addressing students’ needs—and in recent years they have seen a big increase in those needs.
“The last few years have been the most challenging of my career, for sure,” he said. “The more mental health services we can offer in schools, the better our schools will be.”
Superintendents from urban districts shared that the federal funding available in recent years has allowed them to provide resources, such as paraprofessionals in kindergarten classes, considered routine by their suburban neighbors. Hiring additional staff to better support students has been essential since the pandemic, but when federal funding goes away for the 2024-25 school year, without state help, many underresourced school districts will be forced to make big cuts that will negatively impact students.
Schools are already facing a teacher shortage, especially in special education, and Dias said that investments in education must include raising teacher salaries. “We are driving people out of the profession because they can’t financially afford to teach children. That is a crime.”
“We need to be doing better by our educators,” Education Committee Co-Chair Rep. Jeff Currey agreed. “That pay discrepancy we see—we have districts imparting their wisdom for a year or two only to have that person snapped up by a neighboring town where that person can make $30,000-$40,000 more. There’s a problem with that.”
Dias said Connecticut should aim to be a destination for educators and education. “The vision we share is of communities where children thrive and grow, where families want to move, making more people want to move into the state of Connecticut. It’s this very exciting, aspirational effort we are undertaking—but it’s expensive. You cannot do it on the cheap and then say, ‘Why didn’t it work?'”
She added, “I’m excited about this legislative session, I’m excited about the breadth of things we’re going to talk about, and I’m excited we’re not scared to talk about money.”
During a public hearing Friday, the Education and Appropriations Committees will be hearing testimony on HB 5003, An Act Concerning Education Funding in Connecticut. The bill proposes revising the formulas used by the state to allocate funding to public schools. The first part of today’s informational forum explored how the state currently funds public schools. Click here to watch the entire forum.