The 2019 Connecticut legislative session ended at midnight last night, and, thanks to your advocacy, we were successful at achieving some of our top priorities.
Watch CEA Executive Director Don Williams’ summary of what we accomplished this session.
Safeguarding Teacher Pensions
The General Assembly has passed a fair, responsible state budget that ensures the long-term security of teacher pensions.
CEA leaders and members lobbied hard to adopt a plan promoted by State Treasurer Shawn Wooden and supported by Governor Lamont that ensures the long-term solvency of the retirement fund without placing an additional burden on teachers or taxpayers.
“This is a plan that we have long supported and that is long overdue,” says CEA President Jeff Leake. “Through continued advocacy—including detailed written and oral testimony from CEA leaders and members—we strongly urged the governor and legislators to keep the state’s promise to teacher retirement. Fortunately, our governor and legislators heard our collective voice.”
The state will now stabilize teacher pensions by restructuring the debt: reamortizing the unfunded liability of the Teachers’ Retirement Fund over a 30-year period to smooth out payments and lowering the investment earning assumption to a more realistic rate.
“This is a win-win for teachers and the state,” says CEA Retirement Specialist Robyn Kaplan-Cho, who worked hard throughout the legislative session to push for sensible options for funding teacher pensions.
No Cost Shift
Legislators had considered a cost shift proposal that would have unfairly shifted the state’s responsibility for funding teacher pensions onto cities and towns. This plan was met with strong opposition from CEA, as it would have resulted in higher property taxes and cuts to school resources.
CEA launched a well-organized educational and advocacy campaign, informing teachers in every district how much their municipal taxes would increase under the cost shift and explaining how the cost shift would impact the schools where they teach. Impacts would include regressive property tax hikes, less money for local school resources and student supports, larger class sizes, and penalties for districts with more experienced and prepared teachers.
At dozens of back-home meetings with their elected officials and in tens of thousands of emails and phone calls, teachers took that information to their legislators and demanded a more sensible solution to the state’s pension debt problem.
“We could not abide a plan that would transfer millions in costs from the state to our cities and towns, putting additional financial strain on taxpayers and pressure on already tight school budgets,” Leake says. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of our teachers—who responded to CEA Action Alerts, met face to face with legislators, called lawmakers’ offices, sent emails and letters, and stepped up and made their voices heard—that proposal is now dead.”
Minority Teacher Recruitment
A bill that aims to recruit more teachers of color to the profession has passed and will help Connecticut grow and diversify its teaching force in ways that better reflect the diversity of its student population.
Key provisions of the new law include expanding teacher certification reciprocity with states that have similarly high standards; expanding mortgage assistance programs to teachers who graduated from public high schools, colleges, and universities that traditionally serve minority students; and removing subject-matter assessment requirements for teachers whose certification has lapsed in certain cases.
“This new law promotes innovative approaches to the recruitment and retention of teachers of color in Connecticut without compromising the high standards our state sets of its professional educators,” says CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas.
An Act Concerning the Provision of Special Education will protect teachers against negative evaluations or retribution from administration when they offer input or recommendations in a planning and placement team meeting. CEA lobbied legislators for this important change allowing teachers’ voices to be an integral part of a student’s special education planing.
African American, Puerto Rican, Latino Studies
African American, Puerto Rican, and Latino studies will now become part of every school district’s high school curriculum, starting in 2021. While students will not be required to take these courses in order to graduate, public high schools will be required to offer them.