Nearly 420 teachers gathered at Mohegan Sun Convention Center tonight to begin setting policy and electing new leaders at the 170th Connecticut Education Association Representative Assembly (CEA RA). The CEA RA is the Association’s highest policymaking body.
On day one of the two-day assembly, CEA Executive Director Donald Williams remembered the teacher and nine students who lost their lives in the latest school shooting, at Santa Fe High School in Texas, earlier that morning. Williams also noted the 22 separate school shootings that have occurred so far this year in the United States, and urged, “We cannot normalize this in our country.”
Pointing out Connecticut’s leadership on the issue of gun safety legislation in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Williams also noted the strong rights and freedoms Connecticut teachers enjoy.
“We may take for granted the ability to bargain for good wages, benefits, working conditions, and the many freedoms that teachers fought for in cities such as Bridgeport 40 years ago,” he said. But he urged CEA members to look around at what is happening in other states, where teachers’ voices at the table have been taken away and the only option is to go on strike, often without pay and at the risk of being jailed.
“There are those who want to turn the teaching profession in Connecticut into a similar revolving door of low-paid jobs,” he said, pointing out various harmful proposals that were brought before the 2018 General Assembly. “Those proposals in Connecticut were defeated,” he said, “and CEA staff and members were successful at protecting teachers’ rights.”
Also addressing the crowd this evening was Missouri NEA President Charles Smith, who shared the story of his state, which has become a right-to-work state and is now, in his words, in “the worst of times.” With an upcoming vote that could overturn the decision to make Missouri a right-to-work state, Smith vowed that his association will continue to vigorously fight for students and the teaching profession.
“CEA, you have been a watchtower for students and public education,” he said, urging CEA to “continue to make Connecticut a shining example for this nation.”
Smith also thanked CEA President Sheila Cohen not only for cultivating his own leadership as an Association president, but for her own service and leadership, which he said “will serve many generations of educators to come.”
Bridgeport Education Association (BEA) President and NEA Director Gary Peluchette, together with BEA Vice President Ana Batista and a proud Bridgeport delegation, stood to commemorate the anniversary of the teachers’ strike in that city 40 years ago this month. To a standing ovation, they displayed a framed listing of all 274 names of striking teachers who were jailed during that historic movement.
The CEA RA continues tomorrow, when delegates elect a new president and vice president; vote on a new budget that supports strategic objectives, programs, and services for members; and discuss new business items.