CEA Advisor: May-June 2018

2 CEA ADVISOR MAY - JUNE 2018 LEADING OUR PERSPECTIVE Sheila Cohen CEA President Donald E. Williams Jr. CEA Executive Director THIS IS OUR MOMENT. THIS IS OUR MOVEMENT. Forty years ago, when teachers in Bridgeport stood together and went on strike, 274 of them were sent to jail. Hundreds of others stood by their jailed colleagues, marching in the streets and showing their unity and support. Because of these teachers advocating together, Connecticut enacted binding arbitration, paving the way for every teacher to belong to a union and work in an environment of professional respect and dignity. Teachers’ bravery spoke volumes then, and it still speaks volumes today. The lessons learned in Bridgeport 40 years ago are empowering today’s educators across this nation to say, Enough. (See story on page 5.) Never has the message been more significant than during these tumultuous times—as teachers from West Virginia to Colorado stand in solidarity to fight for their students, their schools, and their profession. Together, tens of thousands of teachers marching through the streets in state after state, wearing red for ed, have succeeded in turning a moment into a movement. That is power. That is influence. That makes a difference. These actions—a unified voice and collective strength—have resulted in funding for public schools, long-overdue pay raises for educators, much-needed resources, and more. Our colleagues right here in Westport, Stratford, and Bridgeport have shown us the importance of stronger together. They are just a few of the recent examples of the continuing and building movement here in our state to stand up for public education and funding for our students and colleagues. (See stories on page 4.) You have been empowered to become strong advocates and to speak up and speak out loudly and clearly, not just in your locals but at the State Capitol. CEA’s Action Alerts resulted in tens of thousands of you sending emails, making phone calls, meeting with your legislators, and writing testimony. Your advocacy has made a huge difference. We broke new ground and moved legislators to take historic action by passing Senate Bill 453, which protects teachers from student assaults and ensures that disruptive students get the supports they need to succeed. We were also instrumental in securing more ECS funding and restoring TEAM and retiree health insurance funding, but there is still much more work to be done. (See stories on page 7.) Our combined advocacy put the face of CEA on the political map and let our adversaries know that we are a strong, united force and will not sit idly by while our freedoms and our rights are attacked. Make no mistake about it—there were many anti-union bills this past legislative session that would have stripped us of our collective bargaining rights. We fought back on bills that would have denied us our rights to fair wages, a secure retirement, good health benefits and working conditions, and so much more. We know that many of these same bills will be back again, and that is why we have to continue to step up, answer the challenges, and keep moving forward, for the sake of our students, our profession, and our belief that together we can change public education for the better. With the November elections just months away, it is imperative that we stick together and support candidates who will stand up for us and who will fight for issues that make a difference for our schools, our students, and our futures. It is one of the reasons CEA has moved away from endorsements to a new report card and honor roll system that evaluates legislative candidates’ voting records on issues that matter to us. Just in time for the 2018 election this fall, the report card allows you to see the true friends of education who deserve your vote. (See story on page 7.) Electing pro-education legislators is only half the battle. We are also up against dozens of reform groups, financed by corporate interests, attacking public education and teachers. Many of these groups are active right here in Connecticut and are working hard to discredit our union and divide us, in essence, trying to weaken our collective voice and our power. (See story on pages 10-11.) These corporate reform groups are behind the Janus case, trying to break public-sector unions in this country. As we await the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Janus case, it is imperative for all members to understand that the work we do benefits not only us but our students and our communities. CEA’s Because campaign amplifies the work that locals are involved in by explaining all of the benefits of our union and encouraging members to become active in ways they feel most comfortable. (See story on page 16.) We know that strong unions are the best vehicle working people have to level the economic playing field for all Americans. In the words of “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen, “Unions have been the only powerful and effective voice working people have ever had in the history of this country.” When we stick together—making our collective voice heard— nothing can stop us. We need to make that difference outside the classroom as well. Just as the striking Bridgeport teachers did 40 years ago, and again now, we will fight for what is right. We will not go away. We will not disappear. We will survive and thrive and stand shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart in unity, together, forever. This is our moment. Make this moment our movement. May 22, 2018 On a personal note As most of you know, I will be retiring this summer. As I contemplate the last few weeks of my term, I am not dwelling on the difficulties we face, the hardships we have endured, or the sacrifices we have made. Instead, I am reveling in the many ways all of you stepped up, answered the challenges, and kept moving forward for the sake of your students, your profession, and our belief that together we can change our public education for the better. Teaching is a calling. We devote our entire lives, our entire being to it. Even when faced with daunting challenges, constantly changing mandates, frustrations that can bring us to tears, funding cuts to education, and political attacks on our profession and our union, teaching is still the best job in the world. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be the president of this remarkable Association. I am grateful from the bottom of my heart to all our leaders, members, and colleagues who have supported me and worked diligently to advocate for students and our profession. I will miss the moments I have spent with all of you, working to improve our profession and public education. My achievements are our achievements, and they would not have been possible without you. Thank you for your passion, dedication, strength, and inspiration. But mostly, I thank you for what you do each and every day. You do indeed make a difference in the lives of your students. Sheila Cohen, CEA President “Unions have been the only powerful and effective voice working people have ever had in the history of this country.” Bruce Springsteen