Teachers’ union makes budget push

Teachers’ union makes budget push

The Connecticut Education Association is upping the pressure on both Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and lawmakers with plans for an advertising campaign and lawsuit, both on the ongoing budget stalemate, this week.

CEA announced Monday a campaign that included television, radio, and internet ads featuring teachers from around the state in an effort to “underscore the vital role of teachers in our public schools.”

“During these uncertain times facing our public schools and with devastating cuts to education budgets across the state, the ads are a reminder of the need to support Connecticut’s public schools and the passionate teachers who help our students achieve,” CEA President Sheila Cohen said in a press release.

The teacher’s union, the largest in Connecticut, also continues to look for municipalities looking to join the lawsuit it intends to file this week in Hartford Superior Court seeking an injunction on Malloy’s executive order. So far only three towns have agreed to join.

Connecticut remains under Malloy’s executive order as lawmakers continue to negotiate on a two-year budget that plugs a $3.5-billion deficit over the timeframe. The legislature did approve a GOP-crafted budget on Sept. 15, with support from eight Democrats, but Malloy vetoed that spending plan and send legislative leaders back to the drawing board.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said after a meeting with the leaders of the other three caucuses Monday that “progress was made in a number of areas today, and everyone was engaged and committed to keep the momentum going. These were some of the most productive bipartisan talks we have had in some time, and that is an encouraging sign toward to getting to a final agreement.”

CEA’s new campaign, which launched Sunday, features teachers from seven towns, including Evan Krawiec, a teacher at Sheehan High School in Wallingford.

“Teachers are constantly thinking about ways to help our students learn,” Krawiec, a social studies teacher, said in a press release announcing the ads. “I like to give my students a chance to try new things and figure out who they are and help them grow.”

One of the ads campaign, which is expected to last of the next month, states that “Well-resourced public schools and dedicated teachers unlock our children’s potential, and that spells success for all of us.”

At the same time, CEA continues to search for towns willing to join its lawsuit seeking an injunction that would block Malloy’s executive order, which includes the elimination of Education Cost Sharing grants to 85 towns and cuts to those for 54 others.

In total, the executive order would result in $557 million in municipal aid cuts if it remains in place for the entire fiscal year. Plainfield officials last Thursday agreed to join Torrington and Brooklyn, but so far no other municipalities have done so.

CEA Executive Director Donald Williams said last week that “more than a dozen towns” have expressed interest in joining. Local elected officials said they haven’t had such conversations, though.

Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpatti said he “personally (has) not been asked or approached to do anything with it.” He also pointed out that Meriden’s funding is cut to the levels seen by other towns in Malloy’s executive order — ECS remains flat for the city —, but he understands why CEA and other towns would consider legal action.

“Towns and municipalities are being hurt, and I can appreciate where teachers are coming from,” he said.

Wallingford Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said his town also hasn’t talked about joining the lawsuit, but he is interested to see what will happen. Wallingford stands to lose a total of $20.5 million in municipal aid if the executive order stands for the full year.

“I expect in this rare situation, we have a common interest,” he said of CEA. Southington Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio and Cheshire Town Council Chairman Robert Oris couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

A spokesman for Malloy said the governor would “review” the injunction if it’s filed and “respond accordingly.” He also said that Malloy, who has stated his own dislike for the executive order, agrees on the need for a swift budget resolution.

“It is incumbent upon state leaders to come together and reach an agreement on a biennial budget that the governor can sign right away,” the spokesman, Chris Collibee, said in a statement. “The governor remains committed to safeguarding funding to the greatest extent possible in communities with concentrated pockets of poverty and the highest student needs.”

Attorney General George Jepsen, responding to a request from Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North, said earlier this month that it is unclear how a judge would rule if asked about the constitutionality of Malloy’s executive order.

The precedent comes from a 125-year-old ruling, which Jepsen said makes it difficult to determine how a court would apply that standard in the current situation.



Twitter: @reporter_savino

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