6 CEA ADVISOR APRIL 2018 LOBBYING KEEPING PUBLIC EDUCATION FRONT AND CENTER AT THE CAPITOL SUPPORT Full, Fair Education Funding REJECT Education Savings Accounts to Pay for Private Schools CEA President Sheila Cohen asks legislators to restore funding to Connecticut’s schools. She is joined by teachers Shay Lewis (CREC), Cathy Davis (West Hartford), Tim Zeuschner (South Windsor), and Ethan Spinelli (Region 8, Hebron). In testimony before the legislature’s Education Committee, CEA President Sheila Cohen urged lawmakers “to reject even exploring the insidious idea of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) being introduced in our state.” Cohen explained that ESAs are a voucher-like mechanism for privatizing public education and redirecting taxpayer dollars away from public schools. “These neo-voucher plans, together with similar proposals like ‘scholarship’ vouchers, are envisioned to be used for private and parochial school tuition, homeschooling, tutors, online and ‘virtual’ education, and transportation,” Cohen said. “They are ill-conceived and threaten our nation’s commitment to providing public education for all students.” Quality public education does not happen without adequate funding. That was the message from CEA teachers and leaders who held a news conference at the Legislative Office Building and later testified at a public hearing before the legislature’s Appropriations Committee. Teachers pushed for the restoration of • education cost share (ECS) funding for schools • TEAM, a critical program that supports new teachers • a budget that ensures veteran teachers who have dedicated their professional lives to Connecticut’s children can retire with dignity “Our students and teachers are dealing with the destructive consequences of budget cuts, including fewer resources, the elimination of programs, and increases in class size,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “Legislators must restore public school funding so that all students have the resources, tools, and support they need to achieve.” “What’s at stake here today is the future of stable, quality public schools in our state,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. “All during the last session, legislators worked very hard to keep ECS funding whole. Despite their efforts and the resulting bipartisan biennial budget, the governor has since cut almost $67 million in education funding from that budget.” The districts most severely cut have not been in wealthy towns, Williams pointed out, but in those struggling to make ends meet— municipalities that serve a diverse population and have significant pockets of poverty. “The schools in those cities and towns,” he said, “are under attack. We’re here today to ask the Committee to restore critical funding to our schools, or class sizes will increase and quality will decline.” In addition to urban districts, small, rural communities were some of the hardest hit. “We are already doing more with less, and our schools can’t absorb more cuts,” said Ethan Spinelli, a middle school science teacher in Regional District 8. “We must find long-term solutions to the state’s chronic underfunding problem and develop a new, fair funding plan that ensures that every student has the necessary resources and support to be successful.” “These cuts are on top of last year’s cuts, which decimated our school budget,” added Tim Zeuschner, a social studies teacher at South Windsor High School. West Hartford second-grade teacher Cathy Davis observed, “In a year when I see more and more classrooms with students whose needs are so severe that we have to clear the room so that their emotional needs can be attended to in a way that is safe for all students, the governor proposes less funding for schools. Class sizes are so high already that meeting students’ individual needs is a constant struggle. With these cuts, it will become impossible.” “Connecticut must stop underfunding and endangering our students’ futures,” Cohen reiterated. “We must develop a new ECS plan that provides a fair, reliable, sustainable, and equitable funding CEA Leaders, Staff, and Members Testify on Key Legislative Proposals SCHOOL YOUR LAWMAKERS With less than a month remaining in Connecticut’s legislative session, it’s important to make your voice heard on proposed laws that affect you, your profession, and your students. Join your union and your colleagues in making sure lawmakers understand which proposals protect students, teachers, and public education—and which ones do harm. Call your legislators today. Quickly look up your state senator and representative at cea.org . Go to Legislation and Politics, then Find Your State Legislator. House Democrats...... 860-240-8500 House Republicans.... 860-240-8700 Senate Democrats..... 860-240-8600 Senate Republicans... 860-240-8800 SUPPORT Expanding the Rights of Teachers Injured at Work When Schools Fail to Remedy Known Hazards CEA has successfully advocated for a bill that would enable teachers to file a civil action in court against their employers, as well as collect punitive damages and compensation for attorneys’ fees, if they are hurt on the job after a school fails to address a dangerous situation that has been reported in writing. “We have had situations where school administrators who are aware of a real threat to a teacher’s welfare—such as a student who is violent—fail to take steps to ensure the classroom is a safe working and learning environment,” said CEA’s Robyn Kaplan-Cho, who testified in support of the bill that would expand teachers’ rights. “This bill could prompt administrators to take more immediate action to address a known risk.” source for all students, regardless of where they live.” Restore TEAM funding The budget cuts also wiped out state funding for Connecticut’s Teacher Education And Mentoring (TEAM) program, one of the most highly regarded new teacher induction and support programs in the country. Teachers unanimously called for the reinstatement of funds for this key program. CREC Museum Academy fifth- grade teacher Shay Lewis recalled, “I have been in districts with and without mentoring programs, and I found that the districts that supported me as a new teacher were the ones where I was the most successful. When teachers are not professionally supported, nurtured, and given the opportunity to grow, it is difficult to keep them in the profession.” Recruitment and retention of teachers who reflect the diversity of the students they serve is particularly crucial, she said—and particularly challenging without programs such as TEAM. Teachers’ voices are critical. Keep the pressure on lawmakers. Remind them that your issues are important and that their actions have a real, measurable impact. Contact your legislators and urge them to support education funding.