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Scholarship Opportunities — January 16, 2017

Scholarship Opportunities

AFT Scholarship

AFT National is happy to announce the opening of the 2017 Porter Scholars Program. There are two great opportunities for our members and their dependents. There is a one-time grant being awarded to ten members in the amount of $1,000 each and four $8,000 scholarships for high school seniors who are dependents of active members in good standing. To access the online application and read more about eligibility, please visit about/member-benefits/ scholarships. Deadline to apply is March 31, 2017.

2017 Union Plus® Scholarship Program

New and returning applicants:  Click here to create a new application or to login.
Logged in users:   click on “Continue with Application” link.
Application deadline:  12:00pm (noon, Eastern Time), Tuesday, January 31, 2017.

Since 1992, the Union Plus Scholarship Program has awarded more than $4 million to students of union families. Over 2,700 union families have benefited from our commitment to higher education.

This program is offered through the Union Plus Education Foundation, which is sponsored by Union Privilege.

The Union Plus Education Foundation is funded in part by donations from Capital One N.A., the provider of the Union Plus Credit Card (You do not need to be a Union Plus Credit Card holder to apply for this scholarship.)

Award amounts:  $500 to $4,000.  These one-time cash awards are for study beginning in the Fall of 2017.  Students may re-apply each year.

Award date:  May 31, 2017. During the first week of June 2017 award recipients will be notified by postal mail, and all applicants will be sent email notification.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Current and retired members of unions participating in any Union Plus program, their spouses and their dependent children (as defined by IRS regulations) are eligible. Grandchildren are not eligible unless a legal dependent (as defined by IRS regulations).  At least one year of continuous union membership by the applicant, applicant’s spouse or parent (if applicant is a dependent). The one year membership minimum must be satisfied by May 31, 2017.
  • Members of participating unions from the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada.
  • The applicant must be accepted into a U.S. accredited college, university, community college, technical or trade school at the time the award is issued.  Awards must be used for the 2017 – 2018 school year.
  • Undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to apply.
AFT CT Offering Free Financial Planning Workshop — January 15, 2017

AFT CT Offering Free Financial Planning Workshop

We know union members have financial needs at every stage of your career, whether you’re just starting out or approaching retirement. Plan to attend a workshop later this month designed to help you improve financial literacy and achieve your life goals:

WHEN: Tuesday, January 31 from 5:00 to 7:00PM.
WHERE: The Soifer Conference Room on the second floor of AFT Connecticut union headquarters, located at 35 Marshall Road in Rocky Hill.
HOW: Click here to RSVP online — there is no cost for members to attend, but please sign-up in advance because a light dinner will be served.

The presenters are Merrill Lynch financial advisors Barnaby Horton and Andrew Aubrey. They will help you learn skills for organizing your financial life in order to help you take control of your personal finances and achieve important life goals.

AFT Prepares Fight Against Betsy DeVos Nomination — January 9, 2017

AFT Prepares Fight Against Betsy DeVos Nomination

AFT is strongly opposed to the nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, as well as several other Trump cabinet appointees. After making significant wins for public education the past year, such as the replacement of NCLB with ESSA, education policy appears headed off the cliff, and the very existence of public education and unions is being threatened.

To keep members informed and mobilized, the AFT has created a single web page with updates and ways for members to get involved.

Staying informed and sticking together we can withstand this storm. Talk to your fellow teachers and contact state and federal representatives to tell them to support public education and the unions that give teachers a voice.

How to Push Back — January 5, 2017

How to Push Back

Legislative 101 Workshop

 Thu, 01/19/2017 – 5:00pm7:00pm

Being a Union member means advocating beyond just within the walls of your workplace. In fact, many decisions effecting our work and lives are decided in Hartford at the Capital. Many of our members don’t volunteer to become engaged in the political and legislative process because they have no idea what it is about. They are intimidated, scared, and don’t think they know the answers. This workshop will provide the foundation for both new and old volunteers to learn about political messaging, writing and giving testimony to support legislation and how to mobilize members, friends and family to support the issues most important to our Union.

Topics covered include:

  • Supporting Legislation
  • Writing & Giving Testimony
  • Effective Labor Phone Banks
  • Member Mobilization
  • Local Union Mail

Light dinner will be served.

Click here to register, or call 860-257-9782.

AFT CT – Soifer Room

35 Marshall Road

Rocky Hill, CT

CT Legislative Session Begins; Education Funding, Pensions on the Chopping Block — January 4, 2017

CT Legislative Session Begins; Education Funding, Pensions on the Chopping Block

Today the legislative session begun in Hartford, and Governor Malloy gave his annual “state of the state” report. Education funding and pensions are once again being targeted. With a legislature split almost equally between the two parties, it will be more urgent than ever for teachers to stay aware of legislative developments and actively participate in contacting their representatives.

Here are some highlights from today’s media coverage:

Hartford Courant

Wall Street Journal

Fox 61 (with video)

CT News Junkie

Everyone in Connecticut will be impacted by the issues raised today at the Capitol in Hartford in Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s annual “State of the State” speech. For our union members who provide education, health, safety, and other vital public services that depend on lawmakers to adequately fund them, his words carried particular resonance. That’s because the budget the governor proposes next month will have significant consequences for their students, their patients and their communities.
Click here for the governor’s full speech.
IB Image
His reference to “state employee concessions” may give some the impression that the governor expects a small minority of the population to resolve Connecticut’s fiscal challenges. The reality is that the scope of the problems facing us all requires a broader, far more comprehensive approach.
“As always, we are willing to work with state elected leaders to find a way forward in a difficult economic environment,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “But we are not willing to be scapegoats or political cover for politicians unwilling to make better choices. We are not willing to abandon our defense of public services — and the women and men who provide them — that make Connecticut a great place to live, work and raise a family,” added Hochadel, who previously taught physics and science in the Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS).
Click here for recent reporting on a study of the state’s positive business climate.
Members of the unions in the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) are already providing over $1 billion dollars annually in ongoing budget savings. Over the past eight years they have ratified two separate agreements to sacrifice wages and benefits in exchange for protecting the vital services they provide for residents.
Click here for the 2011 cost-savings agreement with the Malloy Administration.
Additionally, middle and working class families — including state employees — bear a greater share of the burden to provide students with textbooks, plow roads and highways, and care for the elderly. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Connecticut’s state and local tax system is the 26th most regressive in the nation.
Click here for more on our state’s unfair tax system.
That simple fact alone is reason enough to demand real tax fairness — and for an adequately-funded state government that is able to provide the services that everyday people need.
While union members have time and again been willing to do their part, Connecticut’s budget issues cannot be resolved solely on the backs of middle class families. Nor can they be fixed by passing the burden to local communities or by decimating public health, safety and other vital services our citizens deserve. The governor today underscored that point in his remarks on the need for a more equitable system of funding public education — particularly for communities “that are struggling the most.”
Last year’s experience here in Connecticut proved that it is impossible to balance budgets — let alone improve economies, grow jobs or reduce inequality — through cuts alone.
Click here for an economic analysis on the failure of austerity policies.
The governor today also acknowledged the importance of all stakeholders “working together” to address the fiscal challenges facing Connecticut. Unfortunately, Republican lawmakers had already “pre-filed” legislation to undermine the ability of state employee union members and the executive branch to negotiate fair and effective solutions. They went a step further and this morning proposed an unnecessary amendment to further undercut the collective bargaining process.
Click here for the language of the proposed rule change.
In a video message to members of AFT Connecticut-affiliated unions last night, President Hochadel called for the voices of everyday people — and especially union members — to be heard. In addressing the importance of urging state lawmakers avoid the mistakes of 2016 she said “perhaps more than ever, we must raise our voices together” in 2017.
Click here to watch Hochadel’s message to union members.





CT Cuts Education Funding Mid-Year — December 30, 2016

CT Cuts Education Funding Mid-Year

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s administration announced $50 million in new cuts in state aid to municipalities Thursday, including a $20 million reduction in education funding that local officials said could result in school layoffs.

The announcement comes as a bitter New Year’s gift for financially hard-pressed cities and towns that are already halfway through their fiscal and school years. Administration officials said the cuts had to be made now to achieve the savings goals included in the current 2016-17 state budget.

Malloy’s budget chief, Ben Barnes, said he doesn’t believe the school funding cuts will result in local layoffs. “Certainly there is nothing about this that will force any of these communities into layoffs or cuts that would significantly affect students,” Barnes said.

Barnes added that he expects cities and towns will see “minor adverse consequences” as a result of the loss of state aid.

The school aid cuts for Connecticut’s 48 most distressed cities and towns, including Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, are capped at $250,000, and the funding reductions represent less than 1 percent of what those cities and towns are receiving in total state education aid.

Connecticut’s wealthiest towns are taking the biggest hits in school aid: Greenwich is losing more than $1.3 million, or 90.5 percent of its education cost-sharing money. Salisbury will see its school funding reduced by 81.9 percent and Sharon will suffer a 76.3 percent cut.

“What’s going on is a redistribution of the burden,” Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei said. “The perception of Greenwich is that it’s a super-affluent community. And yes, there’s affluence, but there’s also citizens living at or below state poverty levels.”

Darien’s school aid was chopped by $368,850, a 47.6 percent reduction.

“They’re whittling us down to zero, I’m pretty sure,” Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said. “It’s challenging for Darien, like any town that drafts a balanced budget for July 1 every year and then to have to try to make midyear adjustments.”

The move was criticized by Senate GOP leader Len Fasano.

“This is yet another example of the Democrats’ budget continuing to fail our state and the need to change our approach to budgeting and begin addressing problems now,” Fasano said. “The administration has known since August that they would need to hold back these funds from municipalities. But they chose to wait until now to let towns know how much they would lose … making these cuts more difficult for towns to absorb.”

A similar budget reduction plan was floated earlier this year in which education cost-sharing grants for 28 of the state’s wealthiest school districts would be eliminated with many others being reduced. Under the plan, pitched by Malloy, the funds for the 30 lowest-performing school districts would have been spared. It was never approved after intense criticism from legislators and school officials.

“This is really horrible timing,” said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who is also president of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. He said that reducing aid in the middle of a fiscal year means layoffs may be the only way many communities can immediately deal with the loss of funding.

“Education is one of the most important things we do,” Boughton said. “I was shocked to see that.”

Danbury is losing $250,000 of its $31.5 million in education grants.

“I’m going to have to tell our school superintendent he’s going to have to cut $250,000 or start laying people off,” Boughton said.

Barnes said he doubts Danbury will need to lay off school employees, noting that the aid reduction is .8 percent of the $31.5 million the city receives.

Betsy Gara, executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns, said, “Towns facing cuts in municipal aid will have little or no choice but to delay or suspend critical projects and/or lay off personnel.”

CT School Reform — December 18, 2016

CT School Reform

A U.S. Department of Education official has issued a warning that a portion of the September Superior Court court ruling in a Connecticut school funding case could potentially lead to violations of federal special education law.

“Contrary to the lower court’s view, Connecticut and its school districts may not choose to provide special education and related services only for those students whom local educators believe may ostensibly benefit more from a traditional, elementary or secondary academic program,” Ruth E. Ryder, acting director of the federal Office of Special Education Programs wrote in a letter received earlier this month by State Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell.

“Rather, they have an obligation to provide special education and related services,” the letter continued, “to all eligible children with disabilities, including children with more severe or significant disabilities.”

In her letter, Ryder said her office has been in conversations with the state Department of Education and asked for Wentzell’s “immediate attention to this important matter.”

A spokeswoman for Wentzell referred all calls to state Attorney General George Jepsen, but the spokeswoman for Jepsen said the office is declining to comment. The state has appealed the controversial, wide-ranging 90-page decision in the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Educational Funding case.

At issue in Ryder’s letter are portions of Superior Court Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher’s ruling in which he called for a change in the “irrational” way Connecticut funds special education services and raised questions about the state’s responsibility to educate extremely disabled children.

“The call is not about whether certain profoundly disabled children are entitled to a ‘free appropriate public education,'” Moukawsher wrote in the Sept. 7 decision. “It is about whether schools can decide in an education plan for a covered child that the child has a minimal or no chance for education, and therefore the school should not make expensive, extensive, and ultimately pro-forma efforts.”

In her letter, Ryder noted that the decision states that “… the education appropriate for some students with disabilities may be extremely limited because they are too profoundly disabled to get any benefit from an elementary or secondary school education.”

“The decision states that ‘schools [should] identify and focus their efforts on those disabled students who can profit from some form of elementary and secondary education,'” Ryder’s letter continued.

Finally, Ryder wrote, the court ordered the state to “submit new standards concerning special education which rationally, substantially and verifiably link special education spending with elementary and secondary education.”

Ryder said under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Congress noted that “improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element to our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.”

The Act requires the state to provide special education and related services to children with a broad array of “physical, emotional and intellectual impairments and conditions,” Ryder wrote.

Ryder said that a child’s education performance under IDEA “encompasses both academic and nonacademic areas.”

She wrote that it may be that an appropriate program for a child with more significant or severe disabilities would include “many skills that are not part of a traditional, elementary or secondary academic program or curriculum.”

Moukawsher’s ruling called for far-reaching reforms, declaring that “Connecticut is defaulting on its constitutional duty” to fairly educate its poorest children, and ordered the state to come up with a new funding formula for public schools.

The decision also directed the state to devise clear standards for both the elementary and high school levels, including developing a graduation test. Moukawsher also ordered a complete overhaul of Connecticut’s system of evaluating teachers, principals and superintendents.

The portion of his decision on special education came under immediate criticism from parents and advocates for children with disabilities.

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