Parents, teachers and staff rallied today at Middlesex Community College's child care center after learning yesterday the Child Care and Preschool Centers here, in Manchester and at Tunxis in Farmington could close if the revised state union agreement is not ratified.
"We know obviously things in the state aren't good," said nine-year Manchester Community College child care teacher Brittany Zavaski. "We were actually surprised when the news came through because thinking something in theory and having something actually happen in reality is different."
The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which represents the bulk of the state's more than 45,000 unionized workers, has been holding a series of similar rallies throughout the state in recent weeks in an effort to try and convince rank and file members to vote in favor of a concession agreement with the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and avoid what they say would be painful layoffs and disastrous cutbacks and facility closings.
Under the agreement, the state would save $1.6 billion over the next two fiscal years through a wage freeze and changes in state employees health care and pension plans in exchange for the promise of no layoffs over the next four years. All of the closings, budget cuts and layoffs proposed under Malloy's budget balancing plan, which he developed after state employees rejected the agreement in June, would be rescinded and any workers who lose their jobs before the ratification of the deal would be rehired under the agreement.
That agreement was approved by about 57 percent of rank and file union employees in June, and 11 of SEBAC’s 15 member unions, but under SEBAC’s previous bylaws, at least 80 percent of unionized employees and 14 of SEBAC’s 15 unions needed to approve the agreement for it to be ratified.
"I love teaching young children ... but to be able to share that joy, passion and enthusiasm with other people who want to be teachers — I have a really big impact," Zavaski says.
Not only would teachers and parents be affected by the closing, the Preschool and Lab Schools work with and train Early Childhood Education students.
"I actually did my student teaching at Manchester Community College. That's why I chose to stay in this field," Zavaski says. "I had such a good experience; the teachers really inspired me and showed me that early childhood is a real field of study."
These community colleges are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a stringent process that isn't easy to achieve. "And we just received our accreditation," says Gregg Brohinsky, director of Manchester's Child Development Center. "That's what makes it so frustrating."
Jane Majewski, a clinical social worker at Riverview, says Middlesex's child care program was instrumental in allowing her, as a single mother years ago, when her now 23-year-old son was in preschool, to get herself an education and off state assistance.
"The preschool closing is upsetting to me, I have a 3-year-old son, Sam, who would be attending this fall, my daughter Hannah is a graduate of this preschool," Majewski explains.
When I was a single mom with [Jason], I came to Middlesex Community College. ... It made it affordable and accessible for me to get off of welfare, to come to community college. I went from here to transfer to St. Joseph College, got my BSW and was able to become an employable adult in the community.
"So, when they talk about closing access to people able to work, I get furious," Majewski says.
The SEBAC amended its bylaws July 18 to allow a simple majority of at least eight of SEBAC’s 15 unions, as well as a simple majority of union members, to approve any concession agreement. Unions are expected to begin voting on the agreement again in mid-August.