Hundreds of educators, parents, lawmakers, healthcare professionals, and others marched on the governor’s residence this weekend to demand a budget that provides the funding Connecticut’s children, families, communities, and working people deserve. Teachers from every corner of the state—and some as far as Boston—came to show their support and send a strong message: a fair recovery for students and their families is a Recovery for All.
Recovery for All is a coalition of education and civic-minded organizations as well as faith-based groups pushing for economic reforms that make a meaningful difference in the lives of Connecticut’s poor and middle class, fully fund schools, and require the wealthy to pay their fair share. Proposed legislation that would help the state accomplish those goals has been championed by several lawmakers but not, so far, by Governor Lamont.
“We are very fortunate to be getting federal emergency dollars, but that money will eventually disappear, and to invest well in our schools we need a lot more teachers, paraprofessionals, and mental health resources,” said Avon Education Association President Jon Moss, whose district is considered one of the wealthier ones in the state.
Like Moss, educators in well-resourced districts understand that significant gaps exist between the supports available to their students and those in underfunded communities. “It’s important to think about equity for all students and all our faculty, and now is the time,” said Farmington kindergarten teacher Tricia Galvin.
Hall High School social studies teacher and West Hartford Education Association Associate Vice President Elise Hendrix observed, “Our students are struggling with mental health needs like never before. They are lacking adequate nutrition. They are lacking technology. We need more social workers. We need to lighten the load of our special education teachers. All of this takes funding, but the current pool of Education Cost Share money is too small. We need a bigger pie, and we need to provide for public schools by raising taxes on those who can afford to pay.”
Bridgeport third-grade teacher and reading specialist Patricia Miller works in a district that has experienced chronic equity gaps. “We need our governor to support all schools and help us bring back reading coaches, math coaches, paraprofessionals, schools counselors, and social workers and give students the help they need with social and emotional challenges,” Miller said. “A lot of children need help after being out of school for a year or longer.”
Fellow Bridgeport educator Sheena Graham, Connecticut’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and a choir teacher at Harding High School,
spoke to these issues in her remarks before the entire May Day gathering. Standing at the gates of the governor’s residence, Graham described similarly breathtaking mansions too tall to see over.
“And outside of those gates, at the foot of the driveway? Indescribable, heartbreaking poverty,” she said, adding, “Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states whose average hides the extreme wealth of some compared to those of us outside the gates begging for a properly funded educational system.” (Watch the entire speech here.)
“We are so proud of our CEA members and staff for taking what precious little time they have to spend relaxing with their families and instead coming out to Hartford on a Saturday—many of them with their spouses and children—to stand up for our school communities and demand a better future for all students throughout the state,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “CEA members have long known the power of a collective voice and standing strong together. We’re here making sure the governor understands the needs of Connecticut. We’ve got another month to go before the legislature closes down, and we need to get this done. We are into a conversation that should change the way we do business in Connecticut. In the wealthiest state, in the wealthiest country in the world, we can get this done. We can do better for all of our students and all of our citizens.”
“Before I went into teaching, I looked at teachers as superheroes—which, in a lot of ways, they are,” Torrington teacher Michael McCotter recalled. “But a few years in, and I’m seeing that there is only so much we can do without funding. We need additional funding to really make it work.”
East Hampton Education Association President Neil Shilansky added, “More funding from the state would relieve some of the pressure on our towns. Our towns and schools need help.”
State Representative Jillian Gilchrest was one of a number of legislative champions who joined teachers at the rally calling for a fair, adequate budget. “We need this funding, and we need to make sure it’s spent on our schools and other critical services. The money is there for us to invest.”
State Senator Jorge Cabrera agreed. “We must not miss our moment to reform our tax system in a way that helps our public schools. This is a once-in-a-century opportunity, and that’s why I’m here. Unless we address these underlying structural problems, unless we invest in education, childcare, mental health, and more, we will do immense damage to our children.”
The May Day rally received widespread media attention, including coverage by all major TV networks—WFSB Channel 3, WTNH Channel, WVIT Channel 30, and Fox61.
In addition to Gilchrest and Cabrera, other legislators participating in the May Day event included Senator M. Saud Anwar and Representatives Anne Hughes, Robyn Porter, Edwin Vargas, and Michael Winkler.
The next major Recovery for All event will be held on Tax Day, May 17. Watch your inbox in the coming days for details.