Letter To The Editor: Teacher furlough days are harmful to helping state budget

Teacher furlough days are harmful to helping state budget

by Drew Michael McWeeney

After speaking with Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark E. Ojakian last month, it is positively sinful that he and Governor Malloy are continuing to support the idea that state teachers in the state should voluntarily use unpaid leave as a kind of “furlough day,” in order to close the budget gap for our state’s economic crisis.

This is fantastic when some people, like Ojakian, get a free car, car insurance, an over $300,000 salary and free vehicle repairs.

Ask a teacher who makes under $90,000 a year, has $500 a month in student loans, pays for their own car and insurance, to take unpaid “days off” – and see what they have to say.

Furlough days do not work for state teachers; classes need to be taught. Students need feedback and help with material that is being taught. Teaching positions are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. generally, but that is only part of a teacher’s workday.

When I become a teacher, would I even dare to furlough the almost countless hours I spend after my students have left school and I am planning for the weeks and months ahead? Would I take a furlough day when my papers are due to journals on tight deadlines? Would I furlough the hours when I sneak out of bed the next day at 5 a.m. to squeeze in another hour or two of work? What about when I have to give up my time on weekends to work on writing IEPs, 504s, behavior modification plans and lesson plans? (Which teachers currently do, and are not paid for.)

Teachers in this state donate hundreds of hours a year beyond what their contract requires, and now CSCU President Ojakian and Governor Malloy want more. They both need to stop calling this situation a “budget crisis.” It has been this way since I entered college four years ago. A crisis cannot be permanent by definition, and the budget cannot be fixed by having all state teachers work for free. They do enough of that already.

I love how some, such as Governor Malloy and President Ojakian, assume that shared sacrifice means simply getting just a little bit more out of those who cannot afford it. Teachers in this state already donate a large portion of their salary to pay for retirement health benefits they might never see. Literally, teachers have to fork over cash twice a month because the state made promises they knew they could never afford.

Not to mention, President Ojakian and Governor Malloy forgot to say how much of their earnings they will give back to the state. How many furlough days for you, Mark Ojakian and Dannel Malloy? Check your privileges, for your salaries are too high for the work you both do.

No wonder why people – especially teachers – want out of Connecticut.

Drew Michael McWeeney, 21, of Wolcott is majoring in early childhood education and music performance and is a teacher candidate at Southern Connecticut State University. His website is www.drewmmcweeney.com.