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At a rally this weekend, Jahana Hayes thanks teachers and other union members for their support.
August 13, 2018
Chanting "Labor is your neighbor," dozens of union members—including fellow educators—gathered on the Meriden town green Saturday to show their support for teacher-turned-Congressional-candidate Jahana Hayes. Hayes is vying for the House seat in Connecticut's 5th Congressional District.
A former Waterbury educator and Connecticut Teacher of the Year, Hayes was named National Teacher of the Year in 2016 and spent the following year traveling across the country, advocating on behalf of public education, and listening to educators, administrators, community leaders, and others about issues that impact students, families, and communities.
"Jahana is a strong champion and advocate for Connecticut students and teachers," said CEA President Jeff Leake. "She has overcome numerous challenges and has taken every opportunity to improve her own life and the lives of others. She is exactly the type of person we need fighting for all of us in Congress."
Hayes, whose mother struggled with drug addiction, was raised by her grandmother in a Waterbury housing project. Hayes herself became a mother at 17, but with encouragement from teachers, she not only raised her daughter but also pursued her dream of earning a master's degree and becoming a teacher. She taught for ten years at Waterbury's John F. Kennedy High School.
"It took that experience for her to realize that by running for office, she could have an even greater impact on students, public education, and our communities," Leake said.
Hayes is joined by CEA President Jeff Leake, Treasurer Kevin Egan, and Secretary Stephanie Wanzer. In the background, at right, is Southington Education Association President Daniel Hart.
Hayes promises to 'show up' for teachers, students
"I am an educator. I was born to be an educator," Hayes said at the rally, adding that she knows what it feels like to have a dream and be in an environment where you're not expected to thrive. Teachers, she has often said, can make all the difference, because they are not visitors in the lives of their students but have an enduring presence and make a lasting impact.
At the rally, she mused, "Some wondered if the rain would stop people from showing up today. I said, 'These are teachers! Of course they'll show up!'" She similarly promised to "show up" for teachers and students if elected to Congress. "Your vote is your important right. You can trust me with your vote. You can trust me with your voice. Who will speak up for students? I will. Who will speak up for union workers? I will. My job is not just to improve the lives of my students and the future of those students but to elevate my profession. This is a profession. Everyone talks about how wonderful teachers are, but when we advocate for ourselves, our profession, and funding for public education," she suggested, we need to take note of who stands with us and who doesn't.
Waterbury teacher George Flaherty recalls, "Having taught with Jahana at Kennedy High School, I know that she can bring her approach of reaching out to everyone to be involved. She inspired students to become better and to keep working toward improving the world in which they live. She is someone who knows education issues and the value of public education and our union. She will bring those values with her to Congress."
Hayes joins a growing number of educators who have decided to hit the campaign trail and run for public office in response to decreased funding for public education. At least 70 public school teachers are on the ballot in states where teachers' strikes have been held, including Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
Hayes has the endorsement of the National Education Association (NEA) Fund for Children and Public Education, CEA, and AFT.
Speaking at the rally, AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker expressed her excitement at "the prospect of a teacher in D.C. representing all of us. Every day in the classroom, she was meeting the needs of her students not only academically but in ways that stitched together the community, which is exactly the attitude she will take as a congresswoman in D.C."
She added, "Like Jahana showed up for her students, we show up as a union for candidates who support our values." Ricker also challenged wealthy corporate interests working to take down unions, noting that backers in the Janus case "are no match for our collective voice. They are learning that there is power in our unions, and we are here for good!"
Also speaking at the event were Lindsay Farrell, executive director of the Connecticut Working Families Party; Meriden Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona; ACT-Connecticut President Jan Hochadel; State Senator Gary Winfield; and Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, candidate for lieutenant governor. Following the rally was a labor walk and door-knocking campaign to urge community members to vote for education-friendly candidates.
The rally drew support from teachers unions and other labor groups.
There are those, including current U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who argue that spending more on public education doesn't lead to better outcomes. School finance expert and Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker begs to differ, and he has research to back his position up.
Teachers are a selfless group who choose their profession because of a love for children and teaching, not for any expectation of accolades or honors. And that makes those times teachers are recognized and have a chance to be in the spotlight all the more special.
Once again, the Connecticut Education Foundation's Board of Directors invites you to support the Children's Fund by joining Association members and CEA staff at the 25th Annual Hands Across the Green Golf Tournament on Monday, July 15.
Teachers have a lot to say on issues from their pensions to classroom safety this legislative session, which is why local associations around Connecticut are meeting with their legislators and making their voices heard.
Speaking to hundreds of students at Harding High School in Bridgeport today, Governor Ned Lamont encouraged his audience to pursue a career in teaching and be role models for the next generation of students.
Wearing #RedForEd T-shirts, several hundred Waterbury teachers showed their strength as a union, their dedication to their profession, and their value to the community they serve when they packed a March 7 Waterbury Board of Education meeting.
Community schools, minority teacher recruitment and retention, the opportunity gap, and school literacy were just some of the issues members of the legislature's Education Committee heard public input.
"Our students would only benefit from having more opportunities to learn about the culture, struggles, and contributions of African-Americans and Latinos throughout history," Waterbury teacher Sean Mosley told the legislature's Education Committee
"Teachers become teachers because we want to help kids," says Danbury building rep Lori Woodruff. "It's the same with our union—we are here to help each other. As teachers, when we're involved with the union we can do more to help one another."
Connecticut Education Foundation's (CEF) second annual Read Across America Reading Bus Tour kicked off on February 25, featuring a customized blue bus decorated with well-known Dr. Seuss characters and outfitted with bookshelves, benches, carpeting, and hundreds of new books.
At a public hearing of the legislature's Education Committee today, classroom teachers—along with CEA leaders and staff—gave powerful testimony urging lawmakers to address the crisis of violent student behavior in rural, urban, and suburban schools throughout the state.
Teachers, CEA leaders, and staff testified before the Connecticut General Assembly's Black and Puerto Rican Caucus on issues critical to teachers this legislative session. These issues included school climate, classroom safety, the persistent shortage of ethnic minority educators, and funding for public schools.
CEA supports sensible ways of assisting the state in its efforts to make up for decades of underfunding teachers' retirement, including the governor and treasurer's plan to smooth out the state's payments to the fund over a longer period of time and lower the investment earning assumption to a more realistic rate.
"We reject the idea of cutting our way to prosperity. That has never worked," said Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano. His remarks came at a press conference yesterday where members of the labor community, including CEA, called on the state to adopt a pro-growth, investment budget.
Project Oceanology and New England Science and Sailing are partnering to offer "Sound Education: Working with NGSS and STEM in Long Island Sound". This is a FREE two-day PD event from April 5 - April 6 for teachers in grades 4-12, with overnight accommodations provided in Project Oceanology's waterfront hostel.
Legislation passed late in 2015 made many "tax extenders" semi-permanent, but there are still a few esoteric items that keep everyone on tenterhooks when, as once again this year, Congress fails to pass the tax bill by the end of the year.
Marks the inauguration of a new governor and the beginning of the 2019 session of the Connecticut General Assembly. It's likely to be a busy session with many issues for legislators to tackle over these next five months.