During the legislative session, matters concerning education frequently come before lawmakers serving on not just the Education Committee but many other committees as well. Today the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee considered the reappointment of Charlene Russell-Tucker as commissioner of education, the Committee on Children heard testimony on bills to extend free school meals and provide grief counseling to students, and the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee looked at bills to provide loan forgiveness to educators and tuition waivers to paraeducators seeking education degrees.
Testifying in favor of Russell-Tucker’s reappointment, CEA President Kate Dias said, “As commissioner, Ms. Russell-Tucker has excelled at bringing people together from various points of view to better inform decisions that affect public education in Connecticut.”
She added, “I most appreciate her unapologetic commitment to mental health and wellness for all students and staff. The work we have done has not been easy, seamless, or lacking controversy. However, Ms. Russell-Tucker has always kept the lines of communication open and been willing to consider many points of view.”
CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancey told legislators on the Children’s Committee that expanding the school meal program to all students would prevent children from going hungry. “Many children who qualify for free or reduced-priced meals refrain from applying or participating to avoid stigmas associated with being identified as low-income. Even though teachers often reach into their pockets to buy meals for students, many others go silently hungry from class to class.”
Concerning a bill that would establish a statewide grief counseling program, DeLancey said that, as a teacher in Darien, she has experienced a school community rocked by preventable tragedies associated with children’s mental health.
“My neighborhood is not unique in experiencing the loss of a student to suicide or the impact of adverse childhood experiences on the school community,” she said. “Providing resources to children for grief counseling through a statewide effort would be wise and help to ensure seamless access to counseling regardless of a student’s address.”
With unfilled teaching positions exceeding 1,200 at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year and nearly three out of four teachers in Connecticut considering leaving the profession early, the shortage of teachers needs urgent action, Dias explained to members of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. The number of educators graduating from the state’s teacher preparation programs also continues to decline, she said. “Establishing a loan forgiveness program for aspiring educators is one of many strategies that should be implemented to attract more young people to the profession.”
She added, “CEA also supports tuition waivers for paraeducators and further advocates that free tuition be added as an incentive for aspiring educators.”
CEA is also advocating for additional policies to attract aspiring educators including eliminating edTPA and giving student teachers a stipend for their time and work so that more lower income students can afford to go into the teaching profession.
Tomorrow the governor will unveil his budget proposal in an address at noon. Subscribe to the CEAdaily for the latest on education proposals from the governor and legislators as well as updates on how you can get involved to advocate for your students and your profession.