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
When coronavirus struck Connecticut, teachers and students had their worlds turned upside down almost overnight. Schools were closed, and homes became de facto classrooms. Through all of the uncertainty, Connecticut teachers did what they always do: they rose to the occasion to take care of their students, keeping them engaged and learning.
Now, another crisis looms on the horizon. Cities and towns across the state are discussing drastic cuts to education budgets that will eliminate critical resources for students and limit teachers’ ability to help them succeed.
For our state to recover, our schools must remain high priorities. That is the core message of a new CEA television ad featuring Connecticut teachers and students engaging in virtual learning.
“Throughout this health crisis, our teachers have been working harder than ever to keep their students learning in this uncertain world,” says CEA President Jeff Leake. “As we try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, our students will require more resources, not fewer. Proposed budget cuts will jeopardize their education, their emotional well-being, and their future. The television ad is a reminder to cities and towns to turn their efforts from making cuts to fighting for resources to educate students safely when they return to the classroom.” Read more
Despite hundreds of emails, letters, heartfelt comments during virtual meetings, car caravans, and other activities protesting proposed school budget cuts, the Stamford Board of Finance last night voted unanimously to cut the education budget by more than $15 million.
“It’s unbelievable that our voices were not heard throughout this process,” said Stamford Education Association President Diane Phanos. “Teachers rose to the COVID-19 challenges, as they always do, to take care of their students and keep them engaged and learning. The consequences of the crisis cannot be budget cuts that limit teachers’ ability to help their students or cuts to resources students need.”
Prior to the vote, Board of Finance members commented about the process. Saying that the board has been transparent, member Mary Lou Rinaldi remarked, “This should be no surprise to anyone.” Read more
Hundreds of Stamford students, teachers, parents, and other community members showed their opposition to plans to cut the school budget by more than $15 million during a car caravan rally yesterday afternoon and at a virtual Board of Finance meeting last night.
“The community’s show of support is amazing,” said Stamford Education Association President Diane Phanos. “Thousands of residents have been actively involved in speaking out at four virtual town budget meetings, and hundreds attended today’s car caravan, urging city officials not to cut the education budget.”
Increased class sizes and the reduction or elimination of positions—including reading teachers, media specialists, technology teachers, social workers, school counselors, EL specialists, and art, physical education, and music teachers, as well as security personnel and paraprofessionals—are just some of the changes in store if Stamford Pubic Schools Superintendent Tamu Lucero’s budget-cutting plan is adopted. That plan has been proposed unless teachers accept $15 million in concessions, including a two-year salary freeze and $4 million in unspecified additional cuts or a 10% increase in the teacher health care premium cost share.
“As we try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, our students will need more resources. These proposed cuts will jeopardize their education, their emotional well-being, and their future. We urge our elected leaders to listen to the public and do what’s right for Stamford,” said Phanos. Read more
Increased class sizes, the reduction or elimination of positions, including reading teachers, media specialists, technology teachers, social workers, school counselors, EL specialists, and art, physical education, and music teachers as well as security personnel and paraprofessionals are just some of the cuts Stamford Pubic Schools Superintendent Tamu Lucero outlined last night during a virtual Board of Finance (BOF) special budget meeting. Lucero threatened the cuts if teachers refuse to accept $15 million in concessions, including a two-year salary freeze and $4 million in unspecified additional cuts or a 10% increase in the teacher health care premium cost share.
“Penalizing teachers by requiring concessions and eliminating essential positions—including social workers—when we need them more than ever is penny-wise and pound foolish,” said Stamford Education Association President Diane Phanos. “Making drastic cuts is not the right course for our residents or our community during these unprecedented times. When we return to school, our students will need more resources, not fewer, and we have to be prepared to provide remediation and handle students’ emotional trauma caused by the pandemic.”
The SEA successfully organized members to participate in last night’s BOF virtual meeting, with hundreds of teachers among the 800 participants. Despite the record numbers, however, the board allowed only eight participants to speak, cutting off public comment after just 40 minutes. All eight speakers were Stamford teachers who spoke out against the budget cuts, while dozens of others submitted written comments echoing concerns that the cuts would be devastating to students now and in the future, compounded by the trauma and chaos caused by the coronavirus. Read more
Keeping school buildings closed for the academic year “breaks my heart,” Governor Lamont said at a press conference this afternoon. However, despite the governor’s hope that students might be able to return to school for a few weeks, after hearing from superintendents, parents, and teachers, he concluded “this was no time to take that risk.”
“While this decision to cancel is not welcomed by students, parents, or educators, we know that we have to continue to look at this as a safety issue,” said Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona.
He continued, “For students listening, your school year has not ended, your teachers and district school leaders and staff are committed to supporting your learning through the remainder of the school year. While we know it’s not the same, on this Teacher Appreciation Day, I want to acknowledge all the educators who have given tirelessly to their students while tending to their own families and caring for their loved ones—thank you. We have a month left of classes. Let’s finish strong, Connecticut.” Read more
Teachers are reaching students in creative ways during these difficult times and doing all they can for them. As cities and towns consider school budgets for next school year, teachers must be part of the conversation.
During his State of the State address today Governor Ned Lamont made a series of pledges aimed at increasing support for Connecticut’s students, families, and teachers and continuing to build on the strides the state has made over the last year.
“Our budget provided predictability to those counting on it most,” he said, adding, “I have heard from school principals, city and town leaders, small businesses and families, all saying, ‘Finally, we can now plan for our future.’” The budget, he noted, made Connecticut’s largest-ever investment in K-12 education, reducing some of the burden on cities and towns and providing teachers with more of the resources they need. Read more
Legislators are still considering a proposal to shift the cost of teacher retirement onto cities and towns—and they need to hear from you. If this plan passes there will be less money for our schools, higher property taxes (especially in middle-income towns and Alliance districts), and districts with more experienced teachers will be penalized.