From a ban on dual instruction to a mandatory 30-minute lunch break for educators and mental health resources for students, CEA succeeded in getting a number of landmark laws enacted in 2022. Still, several priorities remain, and they will be the subjects of renewed focus when the General Assembly convenes on January 4.
One of the key proposals CEA continues to fight for is a pandemic credit toward teachers’ retirement.
“It’s a matter of equity and respect,” says CEA President Kate Dias. “Teachers, school counselors, social workers, and psychologists worked nonstop through incredible challenges and often at great risk during the pandemic. Like others who were deemed essential workers, they should be rewarded accordingly.”
A number of elected officials supported the idea of a pandemic pension credit for educators in the last legislative session, and in a conversation with CEA leaders and members this past fall, Governor Ned Lamont noted that with hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding available to help with pandemic costs, “I think some of that should go to say thank you to the teachers, who showed up every day and made an enormous difference.”
With a major push from CEA leaders, the proposed pandemic pension credit for teachers is poised to make a comeback in the upcoming legislative session.
How it could work
Teachers vested in the Teachers Retirement System are granted a retirement credit of two percent based on the three highest years’ salary for each year of service averaged. CEA recommends that teachers who worked full-time between March 2020 and June 2022, at the height of the pandemic, would accrue those years and months of credit at a higher rate.
“This will not only acknowledge in a real, meaningful way how teachers got their communities through that difficult phase of the pandemic,” says Dias, “but it will also help retain teachers who are frankly ready to leave a profession where they feel undervalued.”
A recent CEA survey found that 74% of Connecticut teachers are considering retiring early or otherwise exiting their profession—a considerable jump from previous surveys, and a trend that threatens to make a serious teacher shortage even worse.
To receive the pandemic pension credit that CEA is proposing, teachers who are not eligible to retire would need to remain in their jobs until at least June 2025.
“Restructuring the pension calculation to account for the pandemic could help stem the tide of educators leaving the profession,” says Dias, “and it would do that without creating a massive fiscal burden for our state. At the same time, it would send a message to those making decisions about prospective careers that Connecticut values its teachers, that we go beyond praise and a pat on the back, and that we acknowledge teachers with the pay and pension they deserve.”
CEA is also asking for a flat payout for teachers who worked through the pandemic and have since retired or are eligible to retire.
“We will be seeking legislative sponsors who agree to introduce our proposals to a committee hearing so that they can be put to a vote on the floor,” says Dias. “I’m urging all of our members to stay engaged with CEA, watch your inboxes, and take action when we ask you to reach out to legislators in the coming weeks and months. They have heard from us, and they need to hear from you about why this pandemic pension credit matters and how it will make a difference.”