State news roundup for June 15, 2013

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Connecticut – Sandy Hook community in our thoughts

Some of the donations to CEA’s Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund are going toward the creation of a bronze sculpture memorializing the heroism and sacrifice that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Today marks the six-month anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and our hearts remain heavy with grief for everyone touched by the tragedy.

CEA President Sheila Cohen said, “We each remember the lives lost in our own individual way. The families of those lost are very much in our thoughts.”

Communities around the state are marking the anniversary today and this weekend with a variety of remembrances. These include the debut of Victoria Soto’s memorial playground at Stratford’s Penders Field and the kickoff event for Ben’s Lighthouse, a foundation working toward helping and healing Newtown’s children.

The Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association is inviting residents and visitors of all ages to A Community-Wide Gathering For Healing and Hope-Building at 7:30 tonight, and houses of worship around Newtown have a variety of services and remembrances planned.

Read the complete article and find out how you can donate at BlogCEA.org.

Wisconsin – Senator Tim Cullen: Expanding vouchers earns the joint finance committee a failing grade

WI Senator Tim CullenLast week, I expressed my extreme disappointment when the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines to create a statewide unaccountable school voucher program.

Make no mistake – this plan creates two separate school systems in Wisconsin, both paid for by taxpayers.

In 1954, late Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Earl Warren said, “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” His words hold true today.

While the agreement creates a 500-student cap during the program’s first year and a 1,000-student cap in subsequent years, the cap could be lifted in the future or may be line-item vetoed by the governor. The ultimate goal of voucher supporters is not to open the voucher program to 500 or 1,000 students, but an unrestricted expansion of vouchers.

The private school voucher effort is a political movement, not an educational movement. It is a top-down movement funded by tens of millions of dollars in out-of-state campaign contributions and the hiring of several highly-paid lobbyists.

The voucher expansion is not just a loss for public education, but also for state taxpayers like you and me.

Visit WEAC.org to read the Senator’s complete article.

Illinois – Changes to Early Retirement Option pending, bill waiting for Governor’s signature

retirement ballA bill that would renew the Early Retirement Option, but with some changes has passed both the House and Senate and is currently awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.

Here is the IEA Fact sheet on the bill.

For further information, please see the letter below from the Teachers’ Retirement System:

On May 31 the Illinois General Assembly approved legislation that extends the Early Retirement Option for active members until June 30, 2016. That measure, Senate Bill 1366, now awaits action by Gov. Pat Quinn. The governor must sign the bill in order for the extension to take effect. TRS cannot predict what action the governor may take.

Find out more about the ERO changes at IEANEA.org.

Florida – Franklin County educators organize to defeat 19.5% pay cut

FEAlogo“It’s scary”, said Cathy Wood, president of Franklin County Teachers Association (FCTA). “If it’s happening in Franklin County, it can happen anywhere in the state. We are fragile because we are a small county. We have just one school, less than a thousand students, and less than 150 teachers and support personnel.”

“Last year, citizens voted to continue the half mill referendum in order to retain a quality workforce and improve public education opportunities for Franklin’s kids,” said Wood. “But even with this help the Franklin School District expected ending the 2012-13 school year with a negative fund balance.” The half mill made up most of the gap created by the Legislature and the economic effects of the BP oil spill and the recession. But a $400,000 error by the former local tax collector lead the district to declare “financial urgency” in mid-January.

The financial urgency statute allows a public employer to open a 14-day window for negotiations following an unforeseen change in finances. When the teams came back to the table they were greeted with district proposal to take 19.5 percent of school employees’ pay for the rest of the year to correct the shortfall. The proposal ignited the leaders and members of Franklin’s school district unions. Wood and Franklin ESP Association (FESPA) President Tammy Sasnett organized members and others.

“We understand the emergency,” said Sasnett. “At the last school board meeting we packed the house. Most in the audience wore signs that read ‘I AM A TEACHER’, ‘I AM A BUSDRIVER’, ‘I AM A PARENT’, ‘I AM A STUDENT’ to show that this proposal would have a real effect on real people in Franklin County.” Wood told the Board directly, “This is not the employee’s fault. We have done our job, now it is time for the board and administration to find the money somewhere else.”

Visit FEAWeb.org to find out more.

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