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Teacher shortages, wages are top education issues for Connecticut voters: Survey

When it comes to teacher shortages, 85% of the survey voters identified it as a serious issue, with 53% ranking it as a "very serious" issue.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Tuesday, state lawmakers and education leaders held a call to action at the Legislative Office Building, asking the General Assembly to address what they say is a rising wave of stress, burnout, shortages, and teachers leaving the profession.

"This is a problem we solve today, so we don't have to solve it again in 10 years," said Kate Dias, president of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA).

CEA cited a new survey it conducted of 800 Connecticut voters. The survey shows many facets of teacher shortages and the mental well-being of students are top of mind as serious issues in schools.

"Powerful public schools draw businesses and families to this state. So we are a phenomenal investment for the state of Connecticut," Dias said.

When it comes to teacher shortages, 85% of voters identified it as a serious issue, with 53% ranking it as a "very serious" issue. There were 85% of voters also considered student mental health and wellness a serious issue, with 52% considering it "very serious."

There were 82% of voters who cited stress and burnout as a serious issue for teachers, with 51% saying it's a "very serious" issue.

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"Hero pay" or other compensation should be given to teachers who worked during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the beliefs of 71% of the voters.

Sixty-three percent of voters said funding for public schools is not enough to meet needs.

Nearly 9 in 10 voters support improving mentoring for new teachers, with 53% strongly supporting it.

Around 95% of voters are in favor of support addressing disruptive student behavior, with two-thirds voicing "strong support."

Around 65% of voters said teachers are not paid enough and 90% said compensation should be comparable to or higher than professions with similar education and training requirements. On that note, 83% of voters support increasing teacher salaries, with 57% giving "strong support."

In terms of funding teacher salaries, around three-quarters of voters are in favor of the state providing more funding to municipalities to support those salaries.

"I could not be more excited to know that stepping into this session education is a top priority for every single caucus in this building," said state Rep. Jeff Currey (D), chair of the Education Committee.

There was bipartisan support for legislative action Tuesday, as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle commented.

"We need to get this right," state Rep. Kathleen McCarty (R-Waterford), a ranking member on the Education Committee, said. "We have to elevate the teaching profession to the level where they deserve and then we look at all the proposals that CEA is outlining for us. We will find the solutions that we can all agree to."

Education leaders are confident these issues can be resolved during this legislative session.

"There aren’t many occasions when the time of great challenge and need also corresponds with the time that resources exist to fully meet those challenges and needs," added CEA's executive director Don Williams. "We're at a watershed moment."

There hasn't been any word on specifics or possible bill drafts yet, but the Education Committee says they’ll consider all CEA’s proposals.

Though lawmakers say there is enough money for various education initiatives, they acknowledge there will be many hands out this session. 

CEA's survey was conducted Dec. 6-11, 2022 with a margin of error at +/- 3.5%. To see the full survey, click here.

Emma Wulfhorst is a political reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at ewulfhorst@fox61.com. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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