On February 24th, the Justice Reinvestment Coalition, comprised of CSEA SEIU Local 2001, the ACLU, Recovery for All, Stop Solitary CT, Transitions Clinic Network, YWCA, and SEIU District 1199 New England, held a press conference to demand funding to address the staffing crisis, improv medical attention, mental health supports, and reentry programs.
The Coalition is calling for increases of $30 million to address the staff shortages, $20 million to improve inmate medical services, $5 million to train and recruit formerly incarcerated individuals to work in healthcare and reentry, funding and creating a regulatory oversight body over DOC healthcare, and growing effective reentry strategies through education, training, and discharge programs, and fully funding Unified School District #1 (USD #1).
Kevin Devery, an English Teacher at USD #1 and P3B Leader in CSEA, spoke to the press:
I teach English as a second language to the students in Manson. I work my hardest to integrate non-English speakers into a state and country where English is the dominant language, so that when they leave, they can successfully, and lawfully participate in society.
Over my career, I have had students, some for a year at a time and later on when I see them speaking English fluently in the hallways I realize that I did my job and they don’t need me anymore.
The work we do is critical for these students. Oftentimes their best part of the day is during school. But, unfortunately, our school has been chronically short staffed.
We haven’t had a librarian for more than a year, so students haven’t been able to utilize the library. Our second gym teacher retired more than two years ago, so now only under 18 year olds have gym class.
We need a full complement of teachers – including special education teacher, re-entry counselor, art teacher, secretary, and world language teacher. We need more certified and non-certified staff to have a fully operational school, let alone the Directors that should be hired for our school Districts Administration.
With a record surplus and an overflowing rainy day fund, there is no reason for my students to be shortchanged. The funding USD #1 has been receiving is not enough. It doesn’t support the neediest group of students in our state or educators like myself who are in the classroom with them.
In a year when legislators are talking about increasing education funding, USD #1 must be part of that discussion. I urge you to appropriate additional funding for the schools and educational programs in DOC, as well as make USD #1 a line item in the state budget.
I am proud to work for the people of Connecticut and ask you to craft a budget that makes needed investments in public services, the people who provide them, as well as the people who rely on them.
A budget that increases overall funding while creating a dedicated funding stream for USD #1 and other educational programs.