With six weeks left in the legislative session, it’s crucial for teachers to reach out to their legislators to advance education priorities. This Thursday, CEA’s #RedforEd Day of Action offers opportunities to visit the capitol, call or email your legislators, and wear red and share your photos on social media. Find out more about how you can take action.
Teachers in Newington let their legislators know what they and their students are facing during a virtual back-home meeting yesterday. Teachers met with Senator Matt Lesser, Rep. Kate Farrar, and Rep. Gary Turco and shared the urgent need for the state to address the crisis facing the teaching profession in Connecticut.
“This year by November we had lost, through resignations and retirements, the same number of teachers we lost during the entire 2021-22 school year,” a local leader said. “That is really concerning as we’re struggling to find replacements, whether they’re long-term subs or certified teachers.”
“So many people are saying, I can’t do this anymore,” a teacher said.
Many teachers told the legislators that the COVID pension credit remains their highest priority for the session and see it as a way of addressing low morale and the lack of appreciation for teaching during COVID.
They told legislators how disappointed they are that a bill with the COVID pension credit failed to make it out of the Appropriations Committee on Friday.
“It would have sent such a clear message that teachers are valued,” a teacher said. “It’s the number one thing that teachers are looking for. We’re following it very closely. I hope for the future it’s something that can still be a possibility.”
Another teacher said that, unlike some frontline workers who received hero pay but whose jobs are no longer significantly affected by COVID, teachers continue facing the ongoing impact the pandemic has had on their students. “As a high school teacher, I will see the effects of COVID for at least 10 more years,” she said.
“I think it’s a priority for the three of us, and I don’t think it’s a priority for some of our colleagues,” Senator Lesser told the teachers, saying he doesn’t understand why other frontline workers received a COVID bonus while teachers have not. “I was really frustrated we didn’t move forward on that bill on Friday.”
Addressing stress and burnout
Other teacher priorities in the bill rejected on Friday that Newington teachers spoke in favor of included a minimum statewide starting salary for teachers and requiring children to be five before September 1 to start kindergarten.
The high school teachers among the group said that when they ask their students who is considering a career in teaching, zero hands go up.
“I’ve been teaching here for 27 years, and I can honestly say that things are getting worse than I’ve ever seen in public education, and I’m very concerned,” a teacher said. “My two daughters are college-aged and neither are considering a position in education. That really bothers me as my family has been in education for a long time.”
“As far as attracting people to the profession, college costs so much these days and then teachers are required to get a master’s degree, too,” said a teacher. “Students now are savvy and they’re looking at financial security. When looking into a career, even if it’s a calling, they’re not going to go into teaching if they can’t pay their bills.“
A teacher who lives in another district shared, “My daughter has no science teacher and no Spanish teacher. She hasn’t had them all year and the school has no applicants.”
“Raising the kindergarten start age would help with some of the issues with mental health that our students are facing,” a kindergarten teacher said. “We are dealing with a population of 4- to 6-year-olds in kindergarten when the rest of the country has 5- to 6.5-year-olds. This is the first year I’ve had all of my students turn five before the start of the school year, and I see a difference in their maturity. The kids are at the right age for the demands being placed on them.”
“When I hear you talk about the amount of stress teachers are under and the burnout, I’m worried that even if every one of these items were passed we’re still going to have a problem,” said Rep. Turco. “I’m worried more needs to be done.”
Turco said that he had proposed a $1,000 tax credit for teachers that was cut down to $500 in the bill to offset some of the expenses teachers have in the classroom. “Going door to door in Newington, I hear from teachers that they have to buy all kinds of school supplies. It’s small, but I thought it would be a thank you.”
Acknowledging teachers’ frustrations, Rep. Farrar assured them, “Your voices do matter. There are six weeks to go still in the session and a lot of opportunities to make sure teachers are not forgotten.”
Are you interested in having a back-home meeting with your legislators? Reach out to your local president who can work with CEA’s Government Relations Department to set one up.