CEA Advisor: May-June 2018

MAY - JUNE 2018 CEA ADVISOR 7 ADVOCATING CEA Issues Report Cards for Legislators Teachers have the power to create change by electing lawmakers this November who will make public education a top priority. If you’ve ever talked to your elected officials and told them you’re a teacher, you know that local lawmakers often mention family members who are teachers too. “Both my parents were teachers.” “My wife taught for thirty years.” “Two of my kids teach.” Most lawmakers believe they understand the challenges teachers face and say they support public education. But how well do their actions match their words? • Did they vote to roll back the one-percent teacher tax this year? • Did they demand greater protection for teachers against aggressive student behavior? • Did they uphold the standards for teacher certification that you worked so hard to achieve—or are they willing to fast-track certification for less- qualified candidates? CEA is introducing a report card and honor roll system that evaluates legislative candidates’ voting records on issues that matter to you. Just in time for the 2018 election this fall, you’ll see who’s a true ally in the fight for quality public education and whose campaign promises fell short. All Constitutional offices and all 187 Connecticut General Assembly seats will be in play this Election Day, as will five Congressional House seats, one Congressional Senate seat, and the office of governor. It’s important to fill those seats with representatives and officials who will look out for you and your students. Look for details at cea.org . TEACHER ADVOCACY RESULTS IN MULTIPLE WINS AT THE STATE CAPITOL Protection against student assault, restored TEAM, ECS, retiree healthcare funding among big wins; more work ahead T hanks to strong lobbying and advocacy efforts from staff, leaders, and members, CEA was able to get several important bills past the goal line this legislative session. They include bills that protect educators against student assault, maintain high teacher certification standards, safeguard teacher pensions and retiree healthcare, restore TEAM funding for new teachers, and preserve critical state dollars for our public schools. Throughout the legislative session, CEA emailed members, alerting them to key bills making their way through the General Assembly and action needed to defeat negative proposals and advance those that support public education. Members responded in force to CEA’s Action Alerts, with tens of thousands of teachers reaching out to local lawmakers and legislative leaders to explain how various bills would either help or harm their schools and to urge the best action on those bills. Communication such as this makes a difference. When legislators fail to hear from their teacher constituents, they may not understand the positive or negative effects certain legislation could have in the classroom, or they may think the issues are unimportant to teachers. Here are some key achievements this legislative session that would not have been possible without strong CEA advocacy. CLASSROOM SAFETY SB 453 (PA 18-89): An Act Concerning Classroom Safety and Disruptive Behavior ensures daily classroom safety for teachers and their students and provides supports for disruptive students. Thanks to hundreds of letters, emails, phone calls, and oral testimony, the bill passed both the House and Senate and, as of press time, awaits the governor’s signature. Daily classroom safety is defined as “…a classroom environment in which students and school employees are not physically injured by other students, school employees or parents, or exposed to such physical injury to others.” If this plan is signed by the governor, districts must have a plan in place for implementing and enforcing daily classroom safety by September 1, 2019, while certain required actions become law July 1, 2018. In summary, the new law: • Allows teachers to remove violent students from the classroom and prevents them from returning to the classroom until measures to address their behavior have been taken • Ensures administrators implement a plan for responding to violent incidents and includes teachers in crafting appropriate responses to a student’s violent actions • Ensures that parents of students who witnessed an aggressive act (and who may have experienced trauma) are notified of the incident • Requires that the local board of education be informed of each incident and annually report the number of violations to the State Department of Education • Requires schools to address violent classroom behavior and its impact on classroom learning • Prohibits discrimination and retaliation against teachers for removing violent students from their classroom TEACHER RETIREMENT Health Insurance There is good news for retirees, as the state will contribute $35 million to the retiree health insurance fund, keeping it from becoming insolvent because of years of underfunding by the state. Separately, the state will conduct a study of the teachers’ retirement system to analyze alternative funding streams, including using the Connecticut Lottery to pay down the state’s unfunded liabilities, or reamortizing—that is, refinancing— the bonded debt that supports the retirement fund. The study must be completed by January 1, 2019. Retirement Fund Thousands of CEA members flexed their political muscle among state legislators in support of HB 5430, which would have reversed the one-percent increase in teachers’ retirement contributions. The bill passed out of committee with overwhelming (50-1) support. The bill died in the House without a vote, however, when the legislative session ended on May 9. CEA will continue to fight hard on rolling back the one-percent teacher tax increase. BUDGET ECS and Education Funding A new formula phases in changes for allocating monies to towns from the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant. For FY19, $88 million was added to ECS to carry out this phase-in, and most towns will have their ECS funding restored to levels similar to FY17. In addition, a measure passed that prohibits cuts to next year’s school funding—avoiding the damaging rescissions to ECS funding that the governor made during the 2017-2018 school year. Hurricane Maria Included in the state’s education funding was $2.9 million for towns that have taken in students displaced by Hurricane Maria. TEAM Teacher Education And Mentoring (TEAM), Connecticut’s nationally recognized program that supports new teachers, also received a boost when $1.5 million was restored to reinstate this critical mentoring effort. Stability of State K-12 Education Budget Starting July 1, 2018, the state cannot cut ECS funding to individual towns below the level appropriated by the legislature, regardless of the state’s budget situation. Municipal Budget Dates Without needing legislative approval, towns can now wait until after the legislature has approved funds for the upcoming fiscal year before adopting their own local budgets. MINORITY TEACHER RECRUITMENT The legislature passed SB 455 to promote minority teacher recruitment and retention. CEA staunchly opposed an earlier version of the bill that would have weakened teacher certification and introduced student test scores back into teacher evaluations. Many teachers provided expert testimony on how such a bill would undermine the teaching profession and public education in our state. CEA was instrumental in deleting many harmful parts of the original bill while proposing many more promising strategies. While the final bill is a good first step, it fails to provide resources for minority teacher recruitment or retention. In the next legislative session, CEA will continue to push for innovative ideas, many of which have been successfully implemented in other states. BILLS DEFEATED BY CEA Education Savings Accounts CEA successfully defeated a bill that would have required the state to do a study of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which are state monies given to households for their children to attend a private school and are not legal in Connecticut. Virtual Learning Studies repeatedly show virtual classrooms to be far less effective than traditional public schools. CEA successfully defeated a bill requiring the State Department of Education to conduct a feasibility study on the use and expansion of virtual learning and distance learning in Connecticut classrooms.