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Educators Speak Out in Force at Budget Meetings

New London and Groton teachers and community members discuss a budget planning activity with State Rep. Joe de la Cruz.

“We need more revenue, but we may also need to cut some spending, just not in education,” New London Board of Education member Peg Curtin told legislators last night at a State Budget Forum in New London.

That was the general message State Representatives Joe de la Cruz and Chris Soto heard from more than 40 teachers, parents, and community members, who filled the community room at the New London Library to speak out against budget cuts.

The representatives engaged attendees with the budget process by giving them the opportunity to try to balance the state budget. The attendees were split into groups, given cards containing spending and revenue categories and told to decide how to proceed on each budget item.

“This exercise is meant to engage them in the budget process and help them understand the challenges we face as we work on trying to reach consensus to balance the state budget. We either have to look for new revenue or cut programs,” said de la Cruz.

Groton Education Association President Beth Horler and New London Education Association President Rich Baez brought half a dozen teachers to the New London budget forum with State Representatives Chris Soto and Joe de la Cruz.

“These are extraordinary times and reaching a compromise is more difficult than it has been in decades,” said Soto, referring to the 18-18 even balance in the Senate and the close margins in the House.

Attendees acknowledged the difficulties facing legislators, but urged them to do what’s right for Connecticut’s future, and that means not cutting critical services, including education.

Two plans currently being considered would hurt students and teachers. They would:

  • increase teacher contributions to pensions by 30% (from 6% to 8% of salary); and
  • shift state costs for teacher retirement plans onto cities and towns, resulting in higher property taxes and cuts to local public school funding, layoffs, larger class sizes, and fewer resources for communities across the state.

New London Education Association President Rich Baez and Groton Education Association President Beth Horler urged lawmakers not to target teachers.

State Representatives Joe de la Cruz and Chris Soto heard from more than 40 people gathered for a state budget forum in New London.

“This is just another tax, but it’s just on teachers,” said Baez. “We pay more for healthcare than average workers, we pay our pension contributions, and in addition we pay out of pocket for classroom supplies that our schools don’t provide.”

“Public school teachers have been taking cuts for more than eight years, and we strongly urge you in your caucuses to not increase taxes on teachers and not shift costs onto our cities and towns,” said Horler.

“We don’t want to shift teacher retirement costs onto towns. That’s a definite, no,” said New London teacher Diane Holohan.

“I can tell you, we are giving back, but you can’t just balance the state budget on our backs. You need to go after revenue,” said a state employee and teacher at Grasso Technical High School in Groton.

Stratford Education Association President Michael Fiorello spoke with State Rep. Joe Gresko at a budget forum in Stratford.

State Representative Joe Gresko heard the same message from educators at a Town Hall forum he hosted in Stratford last night.  Stratford Education Association President Michael Fiorello urged him not to balance the state budget on the backs of students and teachers.

Soto encouraged everyone to share their stories. “I implore you to get us information about how cuts to programs would impact you and what we would lose.” He said it’s the stories that  demonstrate the true impact of cuts and the vital nature of programs.

“I am pleased that the legislators are listening,” said Groton teacher Sherri Facas.

“It’s reassuring that they are supportive of teachers and education, but we need to reach legislators who don’t agree with us,” said Groton teacher Michelle Gaiewski.

“All teachers need to take an active role. Teachers need to be at these events and speak out against cuts,” said Facas.

“I encourage all my colleagues from across the state to come out and speak out. We all need to know what’s happening and to be heard,” said Gaiewski.

Attend a forum in your town

Last night’s forums were just two of nearly a dozen public forums being held by legislators across the state.  If you live or teach in East Hartford, Hartford, Wallingford, Cheshire, or Southington please attend a forum and share your views about how proposed budget plans would hurt students and teachers.

Wallingford Budget Town Hall Meeting
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
4 – 5:30 p.m.
Wallingford Public Library
200 North Main St, Wallingford

East Hartford Citizen’s Budget Workshop
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
6 – 8 p.m.
Raymond Library
840 Main Street, East Hartford

Cheshire Budget Town Hall Meeting
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
6:30 – 8 p.m.
Cheshire Town Hall
84 Main St, Cheshire

Hartford State Budget Forum
Thursday, July 13, 2017
5 p.m.
West Indian Social Club
3340 Main Street, Hartford

Southington Budget Town Hall Meeting
Thursday, July 13, 2017
6:30 – 8 p.m.
Southington Town Hall
75 Main St, Southington

One Comment
  1. Paula Sweeley #

    As a retired teacher who paid for 40 years into my pension account, now it looks like I will be asked to pay higher taxes on my modest retirement income because of short-sighted budget decisions which totally disregarded the future of Educators who gave many years as public servants, frequently spending their own money to make up for items not provided in their schools. This certainly is not an incentive for young people to enter the teaching profession and is like a slap in the face to retirees.

    July 12, 2017

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