CEA Advisor: October-November 2017

2 CEA ADVISOR OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 2017 LEADING OUR PERSPECTIVE Sheila Cohen CEA President Donald E. Williams Jr. CEA Executive Director IT ALL STARTS WITH US The fall is supposed to be a time of renewed energy and optimism as we begin a new school year, but this year, without a state budget, our lives have been turned upside down. Many of our communities are being stripped of millions of dollars in education funding, wreaking havoc on our schools. At the State Capitol it has been more of the same. More attacks against public education. More attacks against teachers. More attacks against students. Legislators are trying to tax teachers, shift the cost of teacher retirement onto cities and towns, and cut education funding. We have been very clear with legislators and have outlined our opposition to any plans that balance the budget on the backs of students and teachers. We are going to fight any proposals that will negatively impact us. We will not sit back and let this happen to us or our profession. If this is going to be done to us, it will not be done without a fight on our end. We are taking every possible measure to prevent legislators from implementing a tax on teachers. We are taking every possible measure to prevent a shift of the cost of teacher retirement onto cities and towns. We are taking every possible measure to protect students and teachers from massive education cuts that would cause irreversible damage. CEA fighting for you To that end, CEA has gone to court to block the governor’s cuts to education. The governor’s executive order cutting $557 million in education funding will cause irreparable harm to our schools. CEA, teachers, parents, students, the city of Torrington, and the towns of Plainfield and Brooklyn filed a court order seeking an injunction against the cuts to keep education funding in our schools, prevent teacher layoffs, and protect resources and the financial well-being of our communities. All of the major TV and newspaper reporters covered our October 11 news conference on the steps of the Hartford Superior Court and reported on our efforts to reverse these destructive executive order cuts to education— the worst in Connecticut’s modern history. Filing this injunction is the first step toward stopping the attacks on our public schools, and we hope it will serve as a catalyst to investing in our students, their futures, and the future of the state. (Read the story on page 5.) CEA fighting with you We all need to take action—every one of us. Collectively we must muster the courage to step up and speak out. These are shared expectations of every one of us, as teachers, as leaders, as citizens. We cannot count on legislators to do the right thing without hearing from teachers. We all need to communicate our displeasure directly to them. If we do not contact our legislators directly, they will do what they want and think what others tell them. For instance, there were rumors going around that the tax on teachers was not a tax. Legislators were actually telling teachers that CEA was misleading them—that is why we sent out the speaking points and all the specifics for you to take these facts and communicate them directly with your legislators—and you did. Armed with the facts, many of you successfully shared our position on the issue and helped legislators understand that this was indeed an unfair tax, only on teachers. And when the governor misspoke and said he had not heard from teachers regarding the tax on teachers—when in fact, more than 2,000 of you had already emailed him—we called him out, and you sprang into action. More than 3,000 of you sent emails to the governor, for a total of 5,000 emails. Because of your activism, he could no longer misstate the facts and say teachers were in favor of the tax because they had not contacted him. We have reached out to you numerous times through our Action Alert email system regarding our retirement, the cost shift, and the teacher tax. We asked you to contact your legislators, and we thank the 12,000 of you who responded, but we need more of you to take a stand. While 12,000 is an impressive number, it is less than one-third of our 43,000 members. If we are going to succeed and truly use our collective voice, we must all stand up, speak out, and get involved, because if we do not, no one else will. We cannot express how critical this is to all of us. The fight is not over yet The past few months have been incredibly hard for everyone, but we are not out of the woods yet. Together we have fought off the cost shift and the teacher tax in several iterations of the state budget. But once again, legislators worked behind closed doors to come up with a way to balance the state budget. And once again, public school teachers are in the crosshairs. The new budget proposal includes a teacher tax. Though many legislators are claiming this is not a tax, it is indeed a payroll tax. That means we must rev up our advocacy. We need to double our efforts and keep the pressure on lawmakers to reject the teacher tax as well as any plans to shift teacher retirement costs onto cities and towns. CEA leaders have contacted legislators directly and opposed the tax, and members have joined in the response. Within 40 hours of receiving CEA’s most recent Action Alert, nearly 4,100 members sent 19,394 emails to legislators. Their message? We have faithfully made our contributions to our retirement fund, yet the state has not done so. It has not funded the retirement obligation, and as a result, it has sacrificed the future of its teachers. This is nothing new. The state has underfunded its retirement obligation for years. Now, the state wants to force teachers and cities and towns to pay for its mistakes. To that we say no. We have worked hard day in and day out. We have contributed our fair share to the fund. We should not be penalized because the state did not fulfill its promise to us. We know that many of you are feeling the fatigue that comes with relentless self-advocacy and advocacy for public education, but we cannot give up. Remember those who came before us, and the union’s 40-year struggle for better wages and working conditions—a fight that was won because of the involvement of individual teachers across the state, working together, with one unified voice. Today, we have different issues, but we all have an opportunity to truly make a difference. When you receive an Action Alert email, we need every one of you to take action and contact your legislators. We cannot sit back and allow bad things to happen to our profession and to our students without a fight. We have told you this before, and we will tell you again. You do make a difference. You make a difference in the lives of your students. You make a difference in our profession. We are in this together, and together we will make a difference. We are all counting on you. October 19, 2017 We are taking every possible measure to protect students and teachers from massive education cuts that would cause irreversible damage. Though many legislators are claiming this is not a tax, it is indeed a payroll tax.