Newly elected CEA President Jeff Leake welcomed more than 300 Connecticut teachers to CEA’s annual Summer Conference in Cromwell, featuring workshops for educators at every stage of their career looking to strengthen their profession and their collective voice.
Showing archived photos and footage of the 1978 Bridgeport Teachers Strike, including recollections of those who were jailed for speaking up for their rights, Leake thanked teachers for “understanding the importance of standing together as a union and working hard to make sure that every teacher and student has the resources they need to be successful.”
Once again, he added, “We face those whose intent is also to break this union. We must confront them and defeat their decades-long campaign to destroy public education, collective bargaining, and even the middle class. We must stand strong against the millionaires and billionaires who see education as a giant pool for profit. We must not let our voices be diminished.
“We are indeed in a war—for public education, for the working class, and possibly even for our democracy. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME this year is not the final battle in the struggle. It’s time to stand strong, to resist, and to maintain the strength of our union, advocating for our students and our schools, and making certain that our members receive the compensation, healthcare, and pensions commensurate with the responsibilities of our profession. Few careers ask more of their professionals. Few enterprises invest so little with so many expectations. All we ask for are the resources to deal with our students as they come to us academically, emotionally, and psychologically. We know why we are teachers. We are teachers because we care—we are all about creating men and women capable of doing new things, nurturing the diverse talents of our students, and empowering them to reach their true potential.”
Leake asked teachers, “What will CEA members be saying about us 40 years from now? Will they say we defended public education from those who wanted to destroy it? Will they say we triumphed over the assault on collective bargaining? Will they be able to say we did not give up? They will if we stand together.”
Thanking CEA members for dedicating time out of their summer break to enhance their skills as educators and leaders, CEA Executive Director Donald Williams reiterated, “Today we face many challenges. Your rights as union members are under attack—the right to be heard, to have a collective voice to advocate for your students, your classrooms, your salary, your benefits, your working conditions, and your retirement. The good news is that despite court decisions and billionaires who want to take away your rights, the teachers of the Connecticut Education Association are standing strong and together. The old expression, ‘United we stand; divided we fall,’ has never been truer than today, and in the face of great challenges, CEA teachers are united. Together, we will make a positive difference for our profession, for our children, and for education—which is truly the hope of the world.”
CEA’s two-day Summer Conference offers training for current and future teacher leaders in advocating for their profession as well as workshops on topics ranging from social-emotional learning to preventing and addressing student assault. The conference is free and open to CEA members only.