From left, retired teacher Gene Schultz, Senator Andrea Stillman, Senator Don Williams, and East Hampton teacher Rob Wyllie.
In an ideal world, state lawmakers would be able to visit your classroom to see firsthand the pace of change and the impact of school reform initiatives. But it’s not a perfect world. So, if you want lawmakers to understand the challenges you face and your students confront, then you have to bring your classroom to them.
Lawmakers adopt legislation that can have a big impact in the classroom. In order to have a say in policy decisions, teachers need to maintain connections with legislators and create opportunities for conversations.
That’s exactly what many CEA members are doing this legislative session. And it’s what you can do if you decide to stand up and speak out for your profession.
CEA members across the state are out talking to their legislators and making sure their voices are heard on important issues that affect the teaching profession. Last week, a teacher and a retired teacher met up with Education Committee Chair Senator Andrea Stillman, Senate President Don Williams, and other lawmakers at a meeting of the East Lyme Democratic Town Party.
The committee gave Senator Stillman an award for her dedication and hard work, especially in the area of public education. CEA Retired Advisory Council Member Gene Schultz and East Hampton teacher Rob Wyllie attended to thank Senator Stillman for her efforts and to talk with other legislators.
Wyllie says that when you meet with your legislators, “It puts a face on CEA and teachers. It makes education issues personal.” Legislators have to deal with lots of different issues, not just education, Wyllie says — which is why teacher input is so important.
Hearing personal stories from their own constituents makes a big difference to legislators. You don’t need to know all the details of proposed legislation to talk to your legislator, you just need to talk about how the legislation will affect you.
At the East Lyme event, Schultz took the opportunity to talk to legislators about the need to protect funding for the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund.
Schultz told legislators that the state made a commitment a long time ago to fund a portion of retired teachers’ health insurance. “I go back 57 years being connected to the teaching profession,” he said. “The state made a deal where we retired teachers pay one-third, active teachers pay one-third, and the state pays one-third.”
“There are teachers who retired a long time ago, before the Education Enhancement Act,” he said. “They receive a very small pension. This proposal would hurt them badly.”
Schultz is frequently in contact with his legislators and says that during last year’s legislative session he talked with them weekly. However, he knows that some teachers are hesitant to meet with their legislators.
“I understand because I’d probably feel the same way if I were to meet the president of the United States,” he said. But he reminds teachers, “Your legislators are regular people. They live in your town, their children go to the same schools as yours. It’s like talking to your next door neighbor.”
And if a legislator asks you a question you don’t have an answer to, Schultz says to tell them, “I will find out and get back to you as soon as I can.”
If you are interested in organizing a meeting with legislators for teachers in your local, contact your CEA Local Political Coordinator, UniServ Representative, or CEA Political Action Specialist Conor Casey.
Protecting the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund is an important issue that CEA members need to be in touch with their legislators about right now. Click here to find out more.