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Returning to School: Know Your Rights

CEA’s Legal Department has put together guidance regarding school safety, accommodations, sick leave, and other important issues concerning your rights and COVID-19.

During the pandemic normal rules do not apply, and information is constantly changing—so subscribe for daily email updates from BlogCEA for the latest news and information.

Read guidance from CEA Legal.

Next Friday, July 17, at 3 p.m., NEA’s Office of General Counsel and Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy teams are hosting a webinar about returning to in-person instruction. 

The webinar will cover:

  • Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health experts;  
  • Educator rights related to accommodations, leave, and liability waivers; and  
  • What educators and NEA affiliates can do to advocate for safe, healthy schools.    

Sign up here.

Governor, Education Department Answer Questions About School Reopening Guidelines


During a webinar today State Department of Education (SDE) officials, joined by Governor Ned Lamont and Acting Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Deidre Gifford, answered questions submitted by educators and parents on a range of topics that included many health and safety concerns.

While today’s webinar was a step toward answering teachers’ and parents’ questions about school reopening, many issues remain.

“The health and safety of our students, educators, and staff and the funding necessary for COVID-related expenses are among the top priorities for CEA and our members,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “Having the right resources to protect the health of students and educators is critical. We continue to be concerned about transportation issues and meeting the needs of high-risk students and educators, as well as students with special needs. We look forward to continuing to work with the governor and the commissioner on these important issues.” Read more

How to Request an Absentee Ballot to Vote in the August 11 Primaries

i-voted-sticker-lot-1550340The election this November 3 will be as important as any before it for students and teachers. Elections for federal and state positions will have wide-reaching impacts on everything from keeping our schools safe during the pandemic, to education funding, to involving educators in the decision making processes.

For the first time ever in Connecticut, due to COVID-19, voters can choose to vote by mail via an absentee ballot or in person in the upcoming Democratic and Republican primaries which are being held Tuesday, August 11.

If you are an active, registered voter with a major party affiliation, (Democrat or Republican), you should have received an absentee ballot application in the mail last week from the Secretary of the State’s office.

If you want to vote by mail using an absentee ballot and haven’t sent in your application already, here is what you need to do today: Read more

NEA Webinar: Safely Returning to In-Person Instruction

NEA’s Office of General Counsel and Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy teams will host a webinar about returning to in-person instruction this Friday, July 10, at 3 p.m.

Sign up here.

When school buildings reopen, the health and safety of students and educators must be a top priority. What rights do you have as an educator when schools return to in-person instruction? How can you advocate for your health and safety and those of your students?

The webinar will cover:

  • Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health experts;  
  • Educator rights related to accommodations, leave, and liability waivers; and  
  • What educators and NEA affiliates can do to advocate for safe, healthy schools.    

When you register, please submit any questions you may have about your rights or other considerations.  


CEA Members Join National Colleagues for Virtual NEA Representative Assembly

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García welcomed teacher delegates to the 2020 NEA RA.

This year’s National Education Association Representative Assembly, themed Our Democracy; Our Responsibility; Our time was unlike any other, as more than 7,000 delegates logged in virtually to conduct the organization’s business.

“We have masks, social distancing, and disinfectant,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said, referring to the podium at NEA headquarters she would be sharing only with NEA officers. “Because nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a global pandemic, is going to stop the National Education Association from doing its work.” Read more

Vital to Address Teachers’ Concerns About Reopening Plan

Teachers have numerous concerns about Connecticut’s plan for school reopening, and CEA leaders are talking with members daily and working on ways to make sure these issues are addressed.

There are many additional problems, but CEA’s major concerns about the reopening plan are as follows.

  • No state funding is identified to assist in COVID-related costs, leaving already financially strapped districts on their own to pay for additional expenses to keep students, teachers, and staff safe.
  • Districts are asked to prepare multiple plans and submit them to the State Department of Education (SDE) by July 24, but SDE will not approve the plans—only keep them on file.
  • Masks are required for all students, teachers, and staff and local districts are required to procure and pay for PPE and other COVID-related expenses.
  • Many districts are expected to run buses at or near capacity. There is no requirement for a bus monitor to help enforce protocols.
  • There are no COVID-19 testing protocols, or requirements to take temperatures of anyone entering schools.
  • The social distancing benchmark of six feet is not required, and only a guideline if and when it is feasible.

Read more

New Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate Would Help Schools Reopen Safely

A new bill introduced by U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Chuck Schumer would be an important move toward allowing schools to open safely this fall. The Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act includes $175 billion for K-12 schools, $12 billion for special education, and $4 billion for the E-Rate program to narrow the digital divide that is hitting our most vulnerable students.

“Educators want nothing more than to return to in-person instruction and be back with their students, but they know reopening school buildings and college campuses has to be done safely,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Sens. Patty Murray and Chuck Schumer know that students cannot wait because school districts across the country are working on school reopening plans now. That’s why they introduced the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act, which will go a long way to giving our students and educators the resources they need to rise up from the economic fallout caused by this devastating COVID-19 pandemic.”

Speaking with NBC 30 recently, CEA Executive Director Don Williams said that Connecticut schools can’t reopen safely without additional funding. Districts will incur costs for masks and plastic shields, room dividers, the reconfiguration of common areas into new classroom spaces, and much more. Read more

Supreme Court Decides in Favor of Voucher Supporters, Including DeVos

Supreme Court

Photo by Kate Mereand-Sinha via Flickr.

The U.S. Supreme Court today handed a victory to those seeking to divert money away from public schools and expand voucher programs. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that Montana must reinstate a voucher program and allow parents to use their vouchers at religious as well as secular private schools.

“Let’s be clear about what we’ve witnessed with today’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue—an extreme Supreme Court just joined the far-right effort to undermine one of our country’s most cherished democratic institutions: public education,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

She continued, “At a time when public schools nationwide already are grappling with protecting and providing for students despite a pandemic and mounting budget shortfalls, the court has made things even worse, opening the door for further attacks on state decisions not to fund religious schools.” Read more

Teachers Respond to School Reopening Plan

Bridgeport music teacher Sheena Graham appeared on NBC Connecticut last night sharing her concerns about returning to school.

Teachers are concerned about a plan to return to school in the fall that doesn’t include testing or screening of staff and students, limits on class sizes, or provisions to ensure social distancing. Since the plan was released yesterday, many CEA members have been speaking out and sharing their concerns with Connecticut media outlets.

“There are so many precautions that have to be put in place that all depend on funding,” says Bridgeport music teacher and 2019 Connecticut teacher of the year Sheena Graham. “If they’re not able to be met, then I don’t think we’re able to open up the buildings again.”

Graham and Marlborough kindergarten teacher Amy Farrior expressed their concerns to NBC Connecticut. Farrior said, “I tear up when I think about keeping kindergarteners away from each other, away from me.”

U.S. Congresswoman Jahana Hayes shared many of her former colleagues’ concerns in a Tweet last night to Governor Lamont. Read more

Connecticut Announces Plans to Fully Reopen Schools in the Fall

At a press conference this afternoon Governor Ned Lamont and Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona announced reopening guidelines for schools that raise many questions and concerns for educators and parents. The guidelines include no class size caps, staggered schedules, or requirements for COVID-19 testing.

“The reopen plan that we’re asking all districts to complete must include plans to bring all students in daily given health trends in Connecticut,” Cardona said.

Other aspects of the plan announced today include

  • cohorting students when possible, especially in grades K-8,
  • reconfiguring auditoriums, gymnasiums, and other potential classroom space where necessary and possible,
  • operating school buses close to capacity with heightened health and safety protocols,
  • expecting all students and staff to wear a protective face covering or face mask that completely covers the nose and mouth when inside the school building,
  • developing robust monitoring and containment protocols and plans for school closures should community transmission rates increase.

In a joint statement CEA and AFT Connecticut wrote, “Governor Lamont’s plan is short on specifics and doesn’t address some of the most pressing issues associated with reopening our buildings this fall. The new plan raises many concerns and leaves dozens of unanswered questions regarding how schools will operate in a COVID-19 world. Schools should not represent exceptions to widespread standards of health and safety. Educators and school staff deserve the kinds of standard protections from infection that have become familiar in every workplace across the state.” Read more