“Those of you who went to retired lobby day, who reached out to your legislators, I can’t thank you enough,” CEA Executive Director Donald Williams told members of CEA-Retired gathered for their annual spring meeting this morning. “You made a tremendous difference and had a big impact on the legislature this year.”
In the budget that passed the Connecticut General Assembly late last night, legislators designated $16 million for the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund—contributing their full share for the first time in many years. While the state is supposed to contribute one-third of the fund’s actuarially required amount and retired teachers and active teachers each contribute one-third, the state has not been funding its share recently—putting the fund on the precipice of bankruptcy.
“Full state funding for the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund has been one of our top priorities in recent years,” Williams said. “Thank you for your great work.”
CEA-Retired President Gloria Brown thanked members for their activism. “I urge you to continue to stay in touch with your legislators. When we talk to them, things happen.”
“We went from having 9 percent to 33 percent of our health care paid for this year—that’s a huge success, but we can’t just sit by,” said CEA-Retired Legislative Committee Co-Chair Myles Cohen. “We need to be more focused on voting for candidates that support our health care and our pension.”
Cohen continued, “It’s essential, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, with the primaries coming up this August, look at where candidates stand on our issues. There are candidates for governor who want to eliminate public pensions. Look for candidates that are going to support us.”
“In the last two years we have seen more threats to the basic rights and freedoms of teachers to have a voice,” said Williams. “In places where teachers are going on strike, it’s because they don’t have a voice at the table when it comes to negotiating for a decent salary, benefits, and resources for their students.”
Williams continued, “It’s like Bridgeport 40 years ago before we had collective bargaining and binding arbitration. We can’t take these rights and freedoms for granted. There have been proposals in the legislature to take teachers’ rights away. We fought very hard to block every one of those and have succeeded.”
NEA-Retired President Sarah Borgman gave the keynote address at the meeting, and told members that the looming threat from the Janus Supreme Court Case presents the perfect opportunity for retired teachers to show the power of their ability to organize and stay active.
“I’m challenging you all to be assertive advocates and bold believers. There’s always something that needs to be done,” she said.
“Thank you as retired teachers for being here and for staying involved,” said Williams. “It makes a difference for our future generation of students and the future of the teaching profession.”
CEA-Retired members also honored Darlene Perez, the retiring director of the Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement System, for her many years of hard work on behalf of Connecticut educators.
“Darlene has been an extremely hard-working public servant who had done an excellent job for Connecticut teachers,” said Brown.
“I’ve been proud to serve you,” responded Perez.