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Coming Together to Ensure What Kids “Need to Succeed”

After successfully encouraging the General Assembly to allocate funding towards Middletown Public Schools (MPS) in 2023, educators and support staff are continuing their push for resources during this year’s legislative session. Members of affiliated local unions in AFT Connecticut and their colleagues in AFSCME Council 4 are also renewing their call for accountability and transparency from the state’s private education partners.

Outsourcing of public school resources has become even more concerning in recent years due to instances of fiscal mismanagement, which diverted taxpayer dollars to charter management organizations (CMOs). The biggest concern is the impact this has on learning opportunities for students.

“Public schools are foundational to a healthy, thriving democracy – and you can’t have democracy without transparency,” said Leslie Blatteau (in collage, above at far right, middle row), president of our affiliated New Haven Federation of Teachers. “That requires decisions affecting students to be made out in the open by elected representatives accountable to their communities. Too often, that is not the case with the privately appointed boards behind charters,” added Blatteau, who also serves as AFT Connecticut’s vice president for PreK-12 educators.

Click here for reporting on the latest developments in Connecticut’s highest profile CMO scandal.

With two affiliates representing certified teachers and non-certified paraeducators in MPS, our members advocate for resources on behalf of all the city’s children, not just a select few. Before the General Assembly convened earlier this month, local leaders began encouraging parents and voters to make their voices heard as it pertains to real solutions for kids and communities.

Last fall they launched a collaborative effort with parents and advocates to develop a long-term plan for strengthening the city’s traditional neighborhood schools. The president of our Middletown Federation of Teachers, Janice Pawlak (middle row, far left), weighed-in on the importance of uniting to secure further investments for all the community’s children.

“Coming together is the most effective way to make sure that there are abundant resources available for the district,” said Pawlak, a third grade teacher in Middletown’s Wesley Elementary School. “That’s how we ensure our students get what they need to succeed.”

Click here for Pawlak’s recently published opinion piece on the impact of legislative advocacy.

Additional school support staff in the district’s schools have teamed up with our members to amplify this grassroots effort. The president of AFSCME Council 4’s local union representing school nurses, custodians, food service professionals and administrative staff addressed the threat to equitable sources of education posed by CMOs.

“This disparity is the definition of inequity, and is what charter management organizations seek in every location they operate in,” said Brooke Carta (bottom row, middle), a secretary at the city’s Farm Hill Elementary School. “As school support staff, we have a unique responsibility in ensuring our school system is fair and accountable to our community, fosters a sense of belonging in students, and provides opportunities for them to flourish, no matter their background. A fully-funded public school system is the only way to achieve that.”

A 2023 legislative proposal would have diverted millions in state funds to a new CMO-operated school in the city, siphoning significant resources from the students served by MPS.

Click here for reporting on the potential impact of the proposed new private facility.

Pawlak urged fellow Middletown residents to contact their state lawmakers and ask they continue allocating those limited dollars to the PreK-12 youth in local and regional public districts.

“Our schools remain at risk of losing limited resources to a private charter management organization that has backing from some parents unhappy with student outcomes. We are committed to addressing those families’ legitimate concerns and uniting with them to achieve what we believe are shared values.”

Click here to look up your community’s state lawmakers and obtain their contact information.

Editor’s note: edited from copy by Alyssa Seidman, Hearst CT Media published in The Middletown Press

Matt O'Connor
Matt O'Connorhttp://aftct.org
Communications Coordinator for AFT Connecticut, a labor federation of over 30,000 hard-working women and men in the Nutmeg State.
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