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Child Care Centers Could Close if Union Agreement Not Ratified

Jobs are in danger of being lost at Middlesex, Manchester and Tunxis community colleges.

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under Malloy's budget balancing plan, which he developed after state employees rejected the agreement in June, would be rescinded and any workers who lose their jobs before the ratification of the deal would be rehired under the agreement.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.

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Bob Sullivan August 06, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Fear not folks. If the government run child care facilities close, that opens the door for a privately owned facility to open or expand. The good news is that privately owned facilities are usually friendlier, as they NEED your business, and the government run places don't need you. Think of how you are treated at any government controlled institution; not too well I'm sure. So relax
jane August 07, 2011 at 04:37 AM
Mr. Sullivan... I have been treated extremely well at this daycare by the staff. They need my business too,, as I pay tuition here. To assume that they provide care in a way DMV would is an ignorant and incorrect statement. My 23 year old son graduated from this school, my 8 year old and my three year old is registered to attend in the fall. Maybe before making quick uninformed comments like what you wrote, you should research the facts.
deb kleck August 08, 2011 at 12:34 PM
It is beyond the scope of common sense to try to justify the closing of childcare centers at community colleges. The childcare centers are a valuable resource to students students who are working to improve their employability. Many students have transportation problem which makes the on-site childcare even more important. To use childcare centers as a pawn in union disputes/negotions is unacceptable. While there are many difficult fiscal choices which need to be made eliminating childcare centers and program for the most vulnerable of the population are not among the choices. Perphaps the Legislature and the Governor's office and even state commissions have some "pork" which can easliy be removed. Deborah Kleckowski (member of Middletown Common council)

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