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Posts from the ‘Legislative session 2013’ Category

The Challenge of Change

The CEA Advisor will be arriving on your doorstep this week. Check out the issue (in print or online) to learn more about teacher evaluations, legislative victories, money for public education and teacher retirement, the latest on the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial, and much, much more.

coverBelow is CEA President Sheila Cohen, Vice President Jeff Leake, and Executive Director Mark Waxenberg’s column in the May– June CEA Advisor.

Our Perspective – The Challenge of Change

As teachers, we’ve never been required to deal with so much change at once. And, as each initiative comes our way, we can’t help asking ourselves if each is change for change’s sake or meaningful change that will help our students.

When Connecticut’s sweeping reform legislation—Public Act 12-116—was enacted last year, we had high hopes. We also had our work cut out for us as advocates for high-quality public schools. We spent last summer and fall going over the law with a fine-toothed comb, conducting meetings to identify intended and unintended consequences of the legislation, and meeting with top state officials to share our concerns.

CEA was ready when the 2013 legislative session got under way in January. We explained to lawmakers what needed to be fixed in Public Act 12-116. We lobbied early and vigorously to generate critical changes.

Elevating the teaching profession is of paramount importance to us. So, it is with great pride that we report our success in securing a statutory voice for teachers in determining effective teacher evaluation plans. Teacher-informed evaluation plans will guarantee that we are the best teachers we can be. With shared goals, shared ideas, and shared solutions—mutually developed—our schools will be even better.

Additionally, the state now mandates a clear link between evaluation and professional development—an improvement that couldn’t have come too soon.

Join us in celebrating the following changes:

•   Local school districts must now treat professional development and evaluation as one entity with one committee overseeing both, so that priorities and needs related to student outcomes will be fully addressed.

•    The Professional Development and Evaluation Committee must include representatives selected by the local union.

•    The revisions promote a robust dialogue regarding local plans for evaluation and support prior to their adoption and approval.

•    The modifications also make teachers statutory partners in developing evaluation plans and give teachers the professional status they deserve on local committees charged with presenting plans to boards of education.

Nipping a very bad idea in the bud Public Act 12-116 mandated that some teachers would have to take and pass a test for their teaching certificates to remain valid. The notion of having their careers hinge on one test—for obvious reasons—didn’t sit well with many of our colleagues. Thanks to teacher advocacy and common sense, that mandate was deleted from the law books. Read more

Funding for Public Education and Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund

Earlier this legislative session retired teachers came to Hartford to urge legislators to preserve the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund today. Pictured left to right are Don Demers, John Battista, Mike Lingaro, Karin Pyskaty, CEA President Sheila Cohen, Jane Shugg, Mary-Jo Vocke, Rhea Klein, Ronald Green, Fonda Green, Bill Murray, and Walt Liplinski.

Earlier this legislative session retired teachers came to Hartford to urge legislators to preserve the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund. Pictured left to right are Don Demers, John Battista, Mike Lingaro, Karin Pyskaty, CEA President Sheila Cohen, Jane Shugg, Mary-Jo Vocke, Rhea Klein, Ronald Green, Fonda Green, Bill Murray, and Walt Liplinski.

Many important bills, including the state budget, were debated and passed in the 2013 legislative session that adjourned at midnight last night. Thanks to the hard work of CEA active and retired members, the House and Senate voted to keep the Appropriations Committee funding for the retired teachers’ health insurance fund in the final budget.

We are heartened that the General Assembly recognizes the importance of maintaining the state’s commitment to the fund and has moved in the right direction by including a 25% contribution that will keep the fund stabilized for the short term. Next session, CEA will continue to lobby the legislature and underscore the critical nature of funding the state’s entire 33.3% required contribution.

See how your senator and representative voted. If your legislator voted for the budget, please call and thank him or her for helping to stabilize the retired teachers’ health insurance fund. You can look up your legislators here.

  • House Democrats: 1-800-842-1902
  • House Republicans: 1-800-842-1423
  • Senate Democrats: 1-800-842-1420
  • Senate Republicans: 1-800-842-1421

In other education budget news, municipalities will receive a slight increase in education funding, with the lion’s share going to Alliance Districts, and there’s a budget increase to implement reforms such as the new evaluation system and the Common Core.

Community Schools Model Passes House and Senate

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, left, and Senate President Don Williams told the Education Committee that the community schools model focuses existing resources to effectively address community needs.

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, left, and Senate President Don Williams told the Education Committee that the community schools model focuses existing resources to effectively address community needs.

Schools in Connecticut will soon have a new option for providing various educational and social services to students, families, and community members. An Act Concerning Community Schools passed the Connecticut House today, has already passed the Senate, and Governor Malloy is expected to sign it into law.

The bill allows any public school to adopt a Community Schools model, and lists the model as one of the choices available to turnaround schools in the Commissioner’s Network.

Speaking before the legislature’s Education Committee in support of the bill, CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said, “Schools today need to be lighthouses of hope for all members of the community. Thriving community school models show progress because they fully address all the needs of the students, parents, and the community as a whole.”

Senate President Don Williams supports the community school model as a different and vitally important approach to turning around public schools. He told the Education Committee that the model “focuses all the programs we consider extras,” including meal programs, healthcare services, special education, and English as a second language.

“This is a great model that will help us build on reforms created last year,” said Senator Williams.

The community schools model has been proven effective in various communities across the country, including in California, Washington, Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Washington, D.C.

Teachers Continue to Meet with Legislators

RHAM High School teachers meet with lawmakers

RHAM High School teacher Pete Joseph shares his concerns and ideas with Senator Cathy Osten (at left) and Representative Pam Sawyer.

Educators from around the state have been meeting with their legislators this spring to talk about the issues that matter to them. One issue that continues to be of concern to teachers is funding for the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund.

Teachers from Regional Hebron, Andover, and Marlborough (RHAM) High School met with their legislators recently to explain why the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance fund needs to be funded properly. Senator Cathy Osten and Representative Pam Sawyer listed intently to the teachers, including Pete Joseph, Mary Rose, Amy Schiller, and Amy Farrior.

Read more about the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund here. Find out more about recent budget negotiations at the State Capitol from the Hartford Courant here.

If you’re interested in setting up a meeting with legislators in your district, contact CEA Political Action Coordinator Conor Casey.


State Board of Education Hears About Funding Concerns

Top Connecticut lawmakers continue to hammer out details of the state budget that will be put before the full House and Senate sometime in the upcoming weeks. One of the issues on which they will have to reach agreement is funding for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the state’s new evaluation system.

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor told the State Board of Education this week that there are significant differences in the amounts designated for implementation between Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget and the budget proposed by the legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

“One item in the governor’s budget that the Appropriations Committee zeroed out was the Common Core,” Pryor said.

Pryor said that the governor proposed $18.3 million for both the implementation of the CCSS and the full roll out of the state’s new evaluation system.

The Appropriations Committee’s budget includes no funding for the CCSS and only $5 million for the full implementation of the new evaluation system. The state has budgeted $6.3 million just for the purposes of piloting the evaluation system this year.

Pryor acknowledged that the Appropriations Committee’s budget is a draft and that legislators are actively working to revise it.

“All the same, this would seem to be a significant problem,” Pryor said.  “The exclusion of CCSS dollars would appear to be a major oversight.”

Pryor said that there is support in the General Assembly for CCSS. As Governor Malloy also strongly supports the proper implementation of CCSS, indications are that funding will be restored in the final state budget to make for a smoother transition to CCSS and the new evaluation system.

Pryor said, “It’s essential we at least partially match districts’ financial effort.”

CEA leaders are monitoring budget negotiations at the Capitol carefully. It’s paramount to teachers that new education initiatives receive appropriate funding and support.

Budget Includes 25% Contribution to Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund

The legislature’s Appropriations Committee today released its budget, which includes a 25% state contribution to the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

State law requires the state to make a 33.3% contribution to the fund, but the governor and legislature can override this law. The original budget proposal would have completely eliminated the state’s contribution to the health fund for the next two years — short-changing the fund by over $70 million.

We are heartened that the Appropriations Committee recognizes the importance of maintaining the state’s commitment to the fund and has moved in the right direction by including a 25% contribution that will keep the fund stabilized for the short term.

The Appropriations Committee budget still has to be considered by the full Senate and House of Representatives and much could change. Please continue to be in touch with your legislators to underscore the critical nature of funding the state’s entire 33.3% required contribution.

Thank the members of the Appropriations Committee for taking steps in the right direction, and continue to call your state representative and state senator and ask them to ensure that the final state budget includes the state’s full 33.3% contribution to the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund. You can look up your legislators here.

  • House Democrats: 1-800-842-1902
  • House Republicans: 1-800-842-1423
  • Senate Democrats: 1-800-842-1420
  • Senate Republicans: 1-800-842-1421

Read additional details about the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund here.

Stay tuned for more details on other aspects of the Appropriations Committee budget.

Governor Signs Historic Gun and School Safety Law–Honors Victims of the Newtown Massacre

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“Through our efforts today we honor those we lost,” said Governor Dannel P. Malloy, before he signed into law an historic gun and school safety bill, developed in response to the Newtown massacre that left 20 children and six educators dead.

Several Newtown parents, including Nicole Hockley, who lost her son Dylan in the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook School shooting, joined the governor, legislative leaders, members of the state’s congressional delegation, CEA, and AFT for the ceremony at the state capitol today.

Hockley said she is grateful for this sensible solution. “We want Newtown to be known not for the tragedy, but for transformation, and this law marks the beginning of that transformation,” she said.

CEA President Sheila Cohen, who was invited to today’s ceremony, said, “While we can never undo this senseless tragedy, it spurred bipartisan collaboration and courage for legislators to develop one of the toughest gun and school safety laws in the nation. We are proud of their efforts to protect our children and our teachers.”

The governor said this new law makes Connecticut’s cities and towns safer, and he hopes it will serve as an example to the rest of the nation, and to our leaders in Washington.

Teachers Praise Legislative Actions to Keep Students and Public Schools Safe

The Connecticut Education Association (CEA) applauds the governor and top legislative leaders for their leadership and bipartisan collaboration in developing a strong bill to address gun violence and keep Connecticut schools safe. The bill is before both chambers of the legislature today.

“The Sandy Hook tragedy spurred legislators to develop one of the toughest gun and school safety laws in the nation. We are proud of their efforts to protect our children and our teachers,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “This is a good day for students, teachers, parents, and the state of Connecticut,” she said.

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said the governor and top Democrat and Republican leaders recognize that school safety is complex, but they persevered and came together in the best interest of Connecticut’s schoolchildren in drafting legislation that protects lives. “The bill keeps our children safe and promotes safe learning environments in all of our public schools,” he said.

The bill is responsive to CEA polling data that show educators support tougher gun laws and actions to provide safe and secure public schools.

Cohen said the bill creates a productive foundation and puts Connecticut at the forefront of school safety for students, teachers, parents, and our communities. “We are especially pleased that lawmakers took a tough approach to keep guns out of our schools and included school safety committees to develop standards for school buildings to keep our children and public schools safe,” she said.

“Legislators recognized that we can’t treat our schools like prisons,” said Cohen. “Instead, they took action to provide safe and secure public schools for every child to help stop tragedies like the one in Newtown from ever happening again.”

Teachers Continue to Contact Their Legislators and Urge You to Do the Same

Naugutuck teacher Anthony Scorge told Governor Malloy

Naugatuck High teacher Anthony Sorge asked Governor Malloy why he had proposed eliminating funding to the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund at a recent meeting in Naugatuck.

Your colleagues have made numerous calls urging legislators to continue the state’s contribution to the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund. Please join your colleagues and keep up the effort.

The legislature’s Appropriations Committee is still weighing  whether state dollars will be put into the fund for the next two years and every call makes a difference.

Naugatuck teachers are among the many who are speaking to elected officials about this important issue. At a recent town hall meeting in Naugatuck, teachers told Governor Malloy about the impact the cut in funding would have on them.

Naugatuck High School teacher Anthony Sorge asked the governor why he has proposed eliminating state funding to the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund. The governor said that the state is still experiencing difficult economic times and mentioned that the legislature can decide to move money around and reinstate dollars to the fund.

Retired teacher Jeanne Scheithe told Malloy she is concerned about the impact on teh

Retired teacher Jeanne Scheithe told Malloy she is concerned about the impact on the fund of eliminating the state’s contribution for two years.

Jeanne Scheithe, a retired Naugatuck teacher, raised concerns about the impact that the elimination of state dollars two years in row would have on the fund  — especially on top of the reduced state contribution to the fund this year and last.

Thank you to the Naugatuck teachers and everyone else who have been calling, emailing, and meeting with your elected officials. Teachers’ voices are being heard.

Please continue to call your state representative and state senator and ask them to ensure that the budget restores state funding to the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund. You can look up your legislators here.

  • House Democrats: 1-800-842-1902
  • House Republicans: 1-800-842-1423
  • Senate Democrats: 1-800-842-1420
  • Senate Republicans: 1-800-842-1421

Read additional details about the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund here.

Watch Video to Find Out Why Teachers Are Alarmed About Their Health Insurance

The legislature’s Appropriations Committee is deciding the future of your retiree health care benefits. The committee is meeting to decide whether to continue the state’s funding to the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund.

If the legislature decides to eliminate the state’s contribution to the fund as the governor has proposed, you will likely be paying more for your health insurance in retirement.

Watch the short video below to hear from your colleagues about why it’s so important to contact your lawmakers on this vital issue.

Call your legislators today

Call your state representative and state senator and ask them to ensure that the budget continues the state’s funding to the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund. You can look up your legislators here.

  • House Democrats: 1-800-842-1902
  • House Republicans: 1-800-842-1423
  • Senate Democrats: 1-800-842-1420
  • Senate Republicans: 1-800-842-1421

Additional details:

  • All teachers—both active and retired—need to call their legislators and tell them to continue the state’s contribution to the fund.
  • The Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund provides a subsidy to retired teachers that covers a portion of their health insurance costs.
  • Active teachers contribute 1.25% of their salary annually into the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund—this represents the largest contribution to the fund—over $45 million in 2012-2013.
  • Retired teachers also contribute to the fund—nearly $38 million in 2012-2013.
  • The law requires the state to pay a portion of the medical costs for retirees. The governor’s budget proposal overrides this law and eliminates the state’s contribution to the health fund for two years, short-changing the fund by over $70 million.
  • The elimination of the state’s contribution to the health fund would negatively affect its long-term solvency. Active and retired teachers have been paying into the health fund with the understanding that it will be there for them when they retire.