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Union urges passage of bill focusing on CT teacher retention and recruitment

Educators and paraeducators gathered outside of the state Capitol in Hartford Wednesday to advocate for two bills focusing on teacher recruitment, retention and pay.

The Connecticut Education Association, which advocates for teachers and students, organized the event in Hartford.

Currently, there is an overwhelming amount of vacant teacher positions, said Mary Yordon, a middle school teacher who is also the president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers Union.

Yordon believes many teachers are leaving the field because they are expected to teach multiple subjects and address various traumas and emotional needs of their students. But many are only paid an annual salary of $45,000 to $50,000, with a required master’s degree.

One of the proposed bills would raise the starting salary to $60,000. Another proposal would establish a teacher income tax credit and enhance COVID pension benefits.

“It used to be that you could have one or two lesson plans within the same lesson because you need to be able to teach to the high achievers and the middle ground and then bring up some of the kids who needed remediation," Yordon said.

“These days it’s not unusual for the expectation to exist that you have an individual plan for each individual student," Yordon said. "You can have 22 students in your classroom and you’re expected to serve every single student.”

Meanwhile, many schools across the state have a shortage of paraeducators and they also have a high turnover rate because they typically make minimum wage, said Cynthia Ross-Zwige, a paraeducator at New Fairfield High School and CSEA SEIU Paraeducator Council President.

“As much as they love the students and they love this job, they just can’t afford to pay their mortgage and work at these jobs," Ross-Zwige said. "They have to either work two or three jobs to make ends meet.”

Ross-Zwige said the state needs to step in to make sure that students, teachers and paraeducators are being treated fairly across all districts, not just the wealthy ones.

Lesley Cosme Torres is an Education Reporter at Connecticut Public. She reports on education inequities across the state and also focuses on Connecticut's Hispanic and Latino residents, with a particular focus on the Puerto Rican community. Her coverage spans from LGBTQ+ discrimination in K-12 schools, book ban attempts across CT, student mental health concerns, and more. She reports out of Fairfield county and Hartford.

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