Special to The Herald
NEW BRITAIN - â€śThere is money out there. The questions we need to ask are who has it and what are they doing with it?â€ť said Barbara Madeloni, a member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, during a panel discussion Wednesday at Central Connecticut State University.
Dozens of students, teachers, faculty members and others from the community, attended CCSU-AAUPâ€™s â€śSave Our Schools, Defend Our Communities.â€ť
CCSU-AAUP is the CCSU unit of the American Association of University Professors, who advocate for all full-time and part-time faculty members, including librarians and athletic coaches.
Other speakers included the American Federation of Teachersâ€™ Dan Durant, Tom Swan of the Connecicut Citizen Action Group and Richard Wolff, a professor at The New School, a university in New Yorkâ€™s Greenwich Village.
During the forum, experts weighed in on issues impacting public education - among them, funding, diversity, immigration, curriculum and teacher benefits.
The speakers shared their experiences in public education and warned of how destructive the weakening of the higher education system through budget cuts could be.
â€śDefunding restricts our imagination and restricts our sense of self,â€ť Madeloni said. â€śIn Massachusetts we saw a 32 percent reduction in public education in 2002. Class sizes were increased, art and music courses were removed and health insurance for teachers was diminished.â€ť
Durant, an organizer for the American Federation of Teachers in Connecticut, said, â€śBased on the numbers from 2015, 3 percent of $3.8 trillion federal spending money went toward education. Sixteen percent of that same spending went to military funding. This highlights Americaâ€™s priorities and the lack of will to invest in certain areas.â€ť
He said public schools need to do a better job of hiring black and Latino teachers
â€śOut of a population of roughly 325 million, about 11 million are undocumented immigrants,â€ť Wolff said. â€śThese 11 million immigrants are not the problem. They canâ€™t be, and they wonâ€™t be. Beating up on foreigners is such an easy way to distract ourselves from the real problem. Sending them out is crazy.â€ť
Swan told the audience, â€śWe encourage all of you to take risks. Hold public officials accountable. Build alliances, thereâ€™s power in numbers. Register to vote. Be activists and leaders. But most importantly, have fun and be creative.â€ť