NEW BRITAIN - Candidates for governor Ned Lamont and Oz Griebel met at Central Connecticut State University Wednesday night to talk about early childhood education and family care services in the state.
The candidates participated in the “Investing in Connecticut’s Children & Families for Future Prosperity” event hosted at CCSU in collaboration with several childhood learning-based organizations. For close to 90 minutes, Democrat Lamont and unaffiliated petitioning candidate Griebel answered questions related to education and family care.
“This is a subject that’s sort of close to my heart,” Lamont said of early childhood care and education.
The Democrat was first asked about his support of the state’s Office of Early Childhood. Lamont said he would “absolutely” maintain the office if he was governor.
“You need a state government that’s not in silos but is actually in collaboration with other groups,” Lamont said.
The office is important because it ensures early childhood programs are prioritized and not forgotten about, Lamont said.
Speaking about the salaries and pay for early childhood educators, Lamont said it’s important to pay teachers a fair wage so the profession attracts the best people. It’s important to make people want to become teachers, the Democrat emphasized.
Talking about wages in general terms, Lamont said he supports a $15 minimum wage.
Lamont also spoke about the importance of job training to ensure the state’s youth are the workforce of the future.
“We do have tens of thousands of jobs in this state that we can’t fill because people aren’t trained,” Lamont said.
Griebel said, like everything in the state, he would take a “hard look” at the Office of Early Childhood to make sure it’s using the best ideas and not wasting money.
“Are we doing everything we can to maximize tax dollars?” Griebel said he would ask the office, along with other departments.
When asked about the teacher wage gap, Griebel said he wasn’t sure how much power the governor’s office has to dictate these wages.
Griebel said ensuring tax dollars are used in the right way is important. He said he would bring unions and social service organizations to the table in order to make sure everyone’s priorities are aligned. The candidate said early childhood educators have difficult jobs and he supports their efforts to make more money.
Moderator Christine Stuart from CT News Junkie asked Griebel if he would support a minimum wage increase to $15.
“It’s going to depend on where the money’s coming from,” Griebel said, emphasizing increasing the wage to $15 would mean different things for private sector jobs and government jobs.
Members of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut’s Smart Justice division were at the forum to call for state candidates to pledge they’d veto any criminal justice legislation that would negatively impact people of color.
When asked during the audience question and answer segment, Lamont wouldn’t commit to vetoing everything, but said he wants a “racial impact statement” on any bill that would come to his office door.
Griebel said he wants to learn more about racial impact statements before committing to vetoing everything, but said he wasn’t surprised legislators have passed criminal justice-related bills without looking at their implications.
“The idea that actions are not thought out by the legislature is hardly shocking news to me,” Griebel said.
Lamont said he would support paid family leave legislation, and Griebel said he would like to see legislation acted on but also wants to hear concerns from the private sector.
Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski was also invited to participate, but he had a scheduling conflict and could not attend.
Election Day in Connecticut is Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.