16 CEA ADVISOR MAY–JUNE 2019 UNITING THE #REDFORED MOVEMENT IN CONNECTICUT CONTINUES The #RedforEd movement is mobilizing teachers around the country and here in Connecticut. Here are just some of the towns where CEA members are standing strong together to advocate for their students and their profession. Sprague speaks up against cuts Teachers have been out with signs in front of town hall and speaking up during Board of Finance meetings, protesting cuts the board has made to the Board of Education budget. In a town where teachers haven’t received salary increases in three years and took two unpaid furlough days this school year, additional cuts would be catastrophic. The cuts the Board of Finance is proposing would result in the loss of two teaching positions and would force the district’s one school to immediately consolidate classrooms this fall for grades 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6, leaving teachers with no time to prepare or be trained to teach in multi-age classrooms. Sprague Teachers’ League members have received a positive response from the community and plan to continue their activism. Stamford successful in restoring positions After the Boards of Finance and Representatives cut the Stamford Public Schools budget by over $3.3 million, the Stamford Board of Education was left to decide where to cut. The board considered cutting IEP compliance teachers, media specialists, media paraprofessionals, and more. “We rallied our troops, and it really made a difference,” says Stamford Education Association (SEA) President Diane Phanos. She and other SEA leaders urged members to attend a staff forum on the budget to give feedback, and teachers turned out in droves, sharing the effect the cuts would have on their students. They also sent a flood of emails to the superintendent and members of the Board of Education. The Board of Education listened and restored all of the positions that had been on the chopping block, but other issues remain. Norwich solidarity After a city councilwoman disparaged public schools as “subsidized, taxpayer-funded day care,” Norwich teachers, students, parents, and other school supporters turned out at a rally to set the record straight and demand a fair budget for their students’ education. “It is astonishing to see one of our locally elected leaders publicly insult the entire profession charged with educating the children of families who have chosen to call Norwich their home,” said William Priest, president of the Norwich Teachers’ League. Denielle Sandoval, a teacher at Mahan Elementary School in Norwich, organized the rally on social media. Dozens of teachers, students, and parents came out in the pouring rain, holding signs, and community members chanted, “Cuts for schools, that’s not cool!” “I felt that we needed to have a show of solidarity, because we’re all here for our students, and the funding every year is an issue,” Sandoval said. Trumbull fights for funding Trumbull Education Association (TEA) members have packed Town Council and Board of Education meetings this spring wearing stickers that read “Cuts Hurt Kids” and “Fund Our Schools.” Proposed cuts to the district’s education budget originally threatened to eliminate almost 20 teaching positions. “We are deeply troubled by the town’s decision to slash the Board of Education’s budget,” TEA President John Mastrianni told a Board of Finance subcommittee in April. “Seven nontenured teachers have already been notified that they will not be renewed for budget reasons, and the elimination of positions will cause tenured teachers throughout the district to be displaced. We are asking the committee and the Town Council to pledge to restore these critical funds and take any action possible to prevent these cuts.” Thanks to TEA’s continued advocacy, nearly all of the teaching positions that were threatened have been restored, and teachers are hopeful those remaining positions will also be reinstated. Mansfield unity It’s become a regular occurrence to see teachers in the halls of Mansfield schools wearing #RedforEd. “We began wearing #RedforEd to support those teachers around the country who are striking for better funding, working conditions, and wages,” says Rich Weyel, co-president of the Mansfield Education Association. Teachers started off wearing whatever red shirt they already owned, but the Association then decided to subsidize the cost of CEA-designed #RedforEd shirts for members. If your local is interested in purchasing CEA-designed shirts personalized with your local’s name, contact firstname.lastname@example.org . Stratford surplus confounds members “Our members did not agree to furloughs in order for the district to realize a surplus,” Stratford Education Association (SEA) President Michael Fiorello told Board of Education members at an April meeting that had to be moved to the high school cafeteria due to the high turnout from union members. Fiorello was speaking on behalf of all unions working in the Stratford Public Schools, including those representing nurses, classroom instructional assistants, administrators, secretaries, custodians, and more. Board of Education employees accepted two unpaid furlough days and other concessions last school year at great personal cost only to learn in a February 2019 audit report that the district ended the 2018 fiscal year with a $1.659 million surplus. The unions accepted the furlough days and concessions with the understanding that such give-backs were absolutely necessary to realize $700,000 in savings to fill a budget shortfall. Teachers continue to work closely with a coalition of Stratford unions and have been in ongoing discussions with Board of Education and Town Council members.