2 CEA ADVISOR FEBRUARY - MARCH 2018 LEADING OUR PERSPECTIVE Sheila Cohen CEA President Donald E. Williams Jr. CEA Executive Director Protecting public education and the teaching profession: Together, we have the power The 2018 legislative session is in full swing, and because it is a short session, legislators are moving quickly to get things done in just 92 days. That means we have a short timeframe to advocate for the things we believe in. The coming year promises to be an important one for our union, our members, and the students we serve. The session began on February 7, in much the same way as last year, with the state’s public schools and the Teachers’ Retirement Fund under attack. While the governor did not mention education in his final State of the State address, he released several proposals that are detrimental to students, teachers, and public education. One would continue to reduce school funding, totally eliminating state aid for more than 30 school districts—a plan we adamantly oppose. The state must increase funding for our schools and get serious about investing in K-12 education and public school teachers. That means legislators must keep their promise to teachers who have dedicated their lives to public education and provide them with a stable, secure retirement fund. Protecting the Teachers’ Retirement Fund is a top priority for CEA, and together we are committed to repealing the increase in the teacher payroll tax and restructuring the Fund so that it is sustainable for both active and retired teachers for decades to come. (See story on page 5.) The State Board of Education is also doing its part to diminish public education with ongoing proposals that put charter schools, run by corporations profiting off our students, ahead of neighborhood public schools. Your colleagues, along with CEA leaders and staff, are standing up and urging board members to reject charter school expansion and to support the restoration of funding eliminated in last year’s budget for Connecticut’s Teacher Education And Mentoring (TEAM) program, one of the most highly regarded new teacher induction and support programs in the country. This month the board sided with public school teachers and rejected expanding three charter schools. In the coming months, we will remain vigilant and continue advocating for TEAM and school funding and fighting plans that divert public school funds to private reform profiteers. (See story on page 5.) We know there is no silver bullet when it comes to balancing the state budget and growing the economy, but we also know that attacking teachers and the middle class is not the direction Connecticut should be taking. On this front, a legislative commission made up of wealthy business leaders is making recommendations on March 1 for moving the state forward. Their plan is expected to attack pensions and collective bargaining. CEA leaders joined other labor unions calling for the right reforms to truly move Connecticut forward—including a 21st century revenue stream that will sustain Connecticut and its residents without cutting vital services to public education or harming the Teachers’ Retirement Fund. (See story on page 5.) One of the major threats to the teaching profession comes in the form of a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court— Janus v. AFSCME —which could change the way unions do business for decades to come. We were encouraged to see so many new faces at our County Forums last month— teachers gathering to learn how we can work together to ensure our freedoms are protected, our voices are heard, and our union remains strong. We will continue to work together to fight passage of any legislation that will take away the rights and freedoms of teachers to bargain for salary, health insurance, benefits, and good working conditions. (See story on page 8.) Together, these challenges may seem like the perfect storm, but we are educators, committed to doing what is right and fighting for what we believe in, and that is exactly what we will continue to do. We will not sit back and let things happen to us, but will fight to protect our rights. We will fight to protect our students. We will fight to protect our pensions. We need to make sure that our lawmakers understand they must lift up every student and every district with funding levels that improve public education for all students, not just some. We must work tirelessly, not only for our own well-being, but also for the well-being of our students and their families. Collectively we hold great power to bring about change. When speaking together, we have always been a force for good in education. Our goal of providing adequate funding for every student is noble and just. Take action Our adversaries are vocal on issues that will impact us. We must be, too. As the weeks pass and legislators get to work on the issues, we must be ready to jump into action. When we send out Action Alert emails or the CEAgo, we encourage you to take a minute and send an email or make a phone call. You can also attend meetings and let legislators know what is important to public school educators and ask them to support public education and fight back against a battery of bad proposals. We encourage you all to join us and use your voice to create a positive narrative around the world’s greatest profession and the needs of all our colleagues and our students. When we are successful in organizing our members and the public in support of our mission, we make a difference in policies that impact the lives of our students and our members. We have the power to make good things happen. February 14, 2018 CEA members stay active and informed at County Forums. Collectively we hold great power to bring about change.