Teachers hold Freedom to Thrive rally in Hartford

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Hartford teachers rallied before a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, demanding respect and value for educational professionals and bringing attention to their needs.

Eight different unions were at the rally in front of Weaver High School in Hartford, trying to send a message that they would like their share of the $93 million coming from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money, which will be spent over the next three years.

They’re here to make sure their needs are heard and that they are part of the conversation, and it goes beyond that. They’re worried about students re-entering the schools after COVID, their emotional needs, and dense classrooms.

Inside Weaver High School, the Board of Ed meeting was business as usual. Better pay and working conditions for teachers were not on the agenda.

Outside, hundreds of union members gathered, demanding better pay, safer working conditions, and more staff. Over the summer, the superintendent hired 111 more people to work in the schools and in the classrooms for this year, but teachers say this isn’t enough.

“We have 40 schools so 111 gives you two people in each school, maybe three, and so we have schools that do not have an art and music teacher. Every kid should get art and music,” said Carol Gale, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

The teachers say they want to see every elementary school have one paraprofessional per classroom.

“To bond with children, to help out zipping coats, to [do] one on one reading. We don’t do that anymore, and that’s one of the things we would recommend going back to,” Gale said.

Many of the eight unions present at the rally haven’t had a contract in a while. They say they’re just trying to get a contract and equity for everyone.

“We want parity for their credentialing, just like Dr. King said ‘every labor has dignity’ and that is where I stand..” said Stuart Beckford, second vice president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

It’s also about safe working conditions for teachers and students, the youngest of whom are not vaccinated.

“We have been told three feet where we can manage,” said Tiffany Moyer-Washington, a teacher. “Three feet is nearly impossible so now I have 28 students in front of me and if one is quarantined, you have to do a Google meet for one kid.”

This is just one of many protests they have scheduled as they head into bargaining.

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