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Posts tagged ‘Sheila Cohen’

Governor Outlines Commitment to Funding for Many Public Schools

CEA President Sheila Cohen joined Governor Malloy and other state and teacher union leaders

At a State Capitol news conference today CEA President Sheila Cohen said she is happy that the governor recognizes the need for increased funding for public schools.

Despite the state’s fiscal woes, Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced a proposal to increase Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding to 117 of the state’s 169 cities and towns, while maintaining level funding for the remaining municipalities.

CEA President Sheila Cohen, CEA Vice President Jeff Leake, CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, AFT-CT President Melodie Peters, and AFT-CT First Vice President Stephen McKeever joined the governor, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, and State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor at a news conference at the State Capitol for the announcement.

The governor said that education is a priority and the state needs to provide additional money, especially to build on the Alliance District, Commissioner’s Network, and other school improvement efforts. Malloy said, “We have an obligation to each and every student in our schools to provide them with a quality public education so they can compete in the 21st century economy.”

Cohen said, “Connecticut is fortunate to have a governor who understands that investing in public education will bring future economic, social, and fiscal returns. Too often decisions about our children’s future are driven by budgetary realities, rather than what would ultimately be best for public schools students in the long term. Connecticut can’t build a strong local economy unless it provides high-quality education, and the state can’t have high-quality schools without adequate funding.”

Under the plan, ECS funding will increase by more than $50 million in 2014, and more than $101 million in 2015.

The governor also announced a new collaboration between the State Department of Education and CEA and AFT-CT.  According to state officials, the new partnership is aimed at promoting the teaching profession by attracting top teaching candidates to Connecticut schools, retaining our best teachers, and providing advancement opportunities for teachers over the course of their careers. The plan calls for several million dollars in competitive grants to fund recruiting and retaining programs in two or three districts.

“We are pleased with this partnership, which appears to create the conditions necessary to further the teaching profession,” said Cohen. “It is imperative that Connecticut do all it can to recruit, attract, and keep the best and brightest teachers in the classroom. These professionals need to keep growing and learning, increasing their effectiveness so that they can elevate achievement and prepare students for the future challenges in our 21st century workforce.”

The governor will outline specifics of the proposal during his budget address to the legislature tomorrow afternoon.

Teaching Labor History in School

Blind weavers at work circa 1910-1915. Photo by Byron, New York, N.Y. From the George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).

We’ve come a long way since early unions fought for and Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, improving labor conditions and the well-being of workers. But today’s students don’t have adequate opportunities to learn about the importance of the labor movement and the role workers have played in our nation’s history.

A new bill, HB5713, An Act Concerning the Inclusion of Labor History in the Public School Curriculum, is being considered by legislative committees.

It would set standards to teach labor history in Connecticut’s public schools so that students can learn the role labor unions have played in our state’s heritage.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney introduced the bill to support a well-rounded education by including labor history and law in the courses of study in Connecticut’s public school curriculum.

CEA President Sheila Cohen submitted written testimony supporting the bill.

Our job, the job of teachers, is to educate children and help them grow into productive members of society. They will be responsible for our future. It’s critical that they know the history of America’s working class, and understand the activism that allowed for the emergence of the middle class.

The labor movement is closely aligned with the civil rights movement, which is taught in our classrooms. While our students know about the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his fight for civil rights, many don’t know that Rev. King was a strong labor advocate and that he delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., the day before he was assassinated.

The late great Rev. King said, “History is a great teacher.”

We should teach our children about this history. We should help ensure that they realize their responsibility to preserve the hard-fought quality of life that over time, American workers won.

Legislation requiring that history of the labor movement be taught in public schools has already been passed in several states, including California, Illinois, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Governor Opposes Guns in Schools

CEA President Cohen talks to reporters

CEA President Sheila Cohen praised the governor for his tough stand to keep guns out of schools. She spoke to reporters, including the Courant’s Kathy Megan and CT Radio Network’s Mark Sims, at the State Capitol today following the Governor’s State of the State Address.

The 2013 legislative session got underway today. While legislators face a number of major issues, including a looming budget crisis, all thoughts were on the horrific Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown.

During his State of the State Address Governor Dannel P. Malloy fought back tears while speaking about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took 26 innocent lives.

Malloy said we need to “do everything in our power to ensure that Connecticut never again suffers such a loss; that we take real steps to make our kids and our communities safer.”

But he added, “more guns are not the answer. Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom.”

CEA President Sheila Cohen praised the governor for his tough stand to keep guns out of schools. “As educators our duty is to provide safe and secure public schools for every child. We can’t treat our schools like prisons with armed guards on patrol, but we must take action to stop more tragedies like the one in Newtown from occurring.”

Cohen added, “We must all work toward stricter legislation to control the manufacture, distribution, and sale of guns and other deadly weapons.”

The governor praised teachers for putting the interests of their students first. “In the midst of one of the worst days in our history, we also saw the best of our state. Teachers and a therapist sacrificed their lives protecting students,” he said. He added that as children return to classrooms teachers are “providing stability and continuity that has never been so important and so needed.”

While the gun issue will be debated in Connecticut and nationally, the governor formed the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, to develop recommendations to help improve school safety, mental health services, and gun violence prevention in the state.

During his speech, Malloy also addressed the state’s new education reform initiatives and the cooperative efforts from educators to get reform done right.

“Reform could not be complete without supporting our teachers. They have dedicated their lives to our children, and for the first time in a very long time, we’re dedicating new resources for them,” said Malloy.

Wallingford Teachers Bring Families Together Through STEM

A new Wallingford initiative is “all about bringing families together through STEM,” according to Greg Colonese, one of the teacher organizers. The Wallingford STEM Enrichment Academy will offer evening and weekend activities for students and their families to build interest in STEM and increase family involvement in children’s education.

The new program is the vision of Wallingford Education Association (WEA) Vice President Chris Stone, who has been running a Young Astronauts Club in the district for the past 15 years. He applied through the WEA for a CEA grant that will help allow him to take his existing program to another level.

Stone joined several community leaders in announcing the new initiative to a room full of Wallingford families last night.

STEM WEA Chris Stone Sheila Cohen

CEA President Sheila Cohen thanks Wallingford families for their commitment to a new STEM Academy. At her left is Wallingford Education Association Vice President and Academy organizer Chris Stone.

“Funding from CEA really allows us to develop this program in ways we couldn’t have fathomed two years ago,” said Stone. “There’s been astronomical growth in interest from parents in the family science nights.”

The new STEM Academy will allow at least 100 Wallingford students to be involved with STEM enrichment activities over the next two years. Students will take part in design challenges and deepen problem solving and leadership skills through team-building challenges at a Wallingford low ropes course.

The WEA is collaborating with the Wallingford Youth and Social Services Department and the Spanish Community of Wallingford (SCOW) to implement the initiative. A long list of teachers and community members has already signed on, and many local organizations will also take part.

Stone talks to a Wallingford family following the announcement about a new STEM Academy for the district.

Wallingford Superintendent Salvatore F. Menzo credited Stone with making the new program possible for Wallingford families. “This program would not have been possible without Chris. He is amazingly dedicated to this initiative,” he said.

“We really appreciate CEA’s support,” Menzo continued. “It means a lot, and shows how dedicated teachers are to children in this district.”

CEA President Sheila Cohen thanked families for their commitment to the program. “As teachers, we can’t do it alone,” she said.

Cohen added that the CEA grant to the Wallingford STEM Academy “is part of CEA’s concerted effort to be right in the  middle of education reform that is going on in Connecticut.”

State Senator Len Fasano said that the Wallingford Academy is a great example of a program that works due to parental involvement. “We need more community commitment like what you have here in Wallingford,” he said. “Teachers have so much to do in the classroom, we’ve go to do our part to help them.”

Colonese, a Hamden High School teacher and Wallingford resident who is helping lead the program, said that the family engagement is a really unique aspect of the program.

WEA President Louis Faiella agreed, saying, “Look around the room. You can really see the family connections this program inspires.”

Faiella said that SCOW has been instrumental in helping some Spanish-speaking families feel comfortable joining the program. “SCOW is a bridge for families,” said Faiella. “And once families are involved with the STEM Academy, they feel more connected with the entire education system.”

Stone said, “The collaboration with SCOW has us really bursting at the seams. We’re thrilled.”

Alyssa Ferrone, a school counseling student at Southern Connecticut State University, participated in the Young Astronauts Club when she was a Wallingford student. Now she’s returned as a facilitator.

Ferrone says the hands-on STEM activities really get the kids to think and engage with the subject matter in a way that workbooks can’t. At a recent Wallingford Family Science Night that drew over 100 people, Ferrone said, “Kids were so excited and surprised by the activities.”

Parent Benita Lopez said the Young Astronaut program Stone has led has been great for her children, Frida and Brian Hernandez, who have both taken part. “They’ve enjoyed it so much that they asked to come tonight to sign up for the new STEM Academy,” said Lopez.