Teachers from all across the state will take part in a May Day march on the governor’s mansion this Saturday and are encouraging their colleagues to join them. Their message is clear: fund our schools, and fund our future.
At issue is Connecticut’s next two-year biennial budget, which is being debated by legislators and the governor now. A final budget is expected before the legislative session ends, on June 9, and teachers are asking that it provide funding to help pandemic-stressed communities recover.
“We are making progress on these goals,” CEA President Jeff Leake told members at a virtual meeting of the Recovery for All coalition on Monday. “We have at least 60 legislators championing two bills, HB 6187 and SB 821, that would ensure fair taxation and an equitable recovery. The vast majority of parents CEA has surveyed—well over 80 percent—agree on what needs to be done. But we need more elected officials, including the governor, fully on our side. We are coming together to make sure the students we are always looking out for are taken care of.”
At rallies held throughout the state, Recovery for All members and supporters—many of them educators—have been speaking out for equitable taxation and funding, increased resources such as mental health supports for students and families, fair wages, and other initiatives that give everyone an opportunity to recover and succeed. They have shared personal stories of family struggles within their communities, and legislators have been listening. Senator Saud Anwar joined Monday’s Recovery for All meeting, and Representative Tom Arnone plans to attend a regional Recovery for All workshop tomorrow.
“Since we’re not in the room where the budget gets decided, it’s important to make our voices heard,” says East Hartford Education Association Political Action Chair Kimberly Knapp, who has doorknocked with Senator Anwar and encourages her colleagues to reach out in similar ways.
“We have some resources coming our way, and this is the time to invest,” Senator Anwar pointed out at Monday’s meeting. “What we have done as legislators, through teachers’ guidance and advocacy, we have started to say we have a lot of responsibilities to invest in our state and our communities and use this opportunity to be better than we were and to address some of our weaknesses. We have a budget that would invest in education without compromising the state’s fiscal position.”
Avon Education Association President Jon Moss, who has been active in Recovery for All events, agreed. “What we accomplish over the next month with our state budget will have impacts over the next two years.”
“As tired as our members may be, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure resources for education,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. “There is $1 billion in federal funding headed to Connecticut, and there is the opportunity at the state level to secure revenue that will continue the progress when that federal funding ends in two years. We have many legislative champions, and we need to bring in a few more, including the governor, to get over the finish line.”
“There’s so much potential,” said Bridgeport school psychologist Ronald Benner. “If we receive these funds, we can do so much.”
Citing CEA’s earlier policymaking successes this school year and its current push to end dual teaching and increase state funding for public schools, Ridgefield teacher Mary Ellen Foley noted, “If you don’t share your voice and tell people what’s going on, they don’t know. The volume of voices, when they hear from so many people, it’s so powerful.”
“Our local association has been working with CEA Political Action Coordinator Gus Melita and other locals to set up back-home meetings with our legislators,” Berlin Education Association President Evelisa Mayette told colleagues at Monday’s meeting.
“We live in a wealthy state, but once federal aid dries up, this pandemic economy will still be with us,” Enfield Education Association Vice President Bill Delaney added. “This is a meat-and-potatoes issue you can sink your teeth into. We’re meeting virtually with teachers from Avon, Cromwell, Farmington, Glastonbury, Southington, Vernon, and West Hartford later this week in a regional discussion. The more people are educated about these economic justice issues, the better. We have to clue them in about what impact we can make with this legislation. If not now, when?” If you teach in one of these towns and wish to join the conversation, register here.
To sign up for Saturday’s rally, click here. Registration is not mandatory, but it helps ensure CEA has enough masks, signs, and supplies for members who attend.