Tax Day Lesson Takes On Austerity

by Laura Glesby, New Haven Independent, April 18, 2023

Connecticut is the wealthiest state in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Wilbur Cross junior Dave John Cruz-Bustamante told a crowd of educators gathered across the street from their school. “But you wouldn’t know that from looking at our desks.”

On Tax Day Tuesday afternoon, Cruz-Bustamante joined 50 educators and allies at a rally to call on the state to tax the rich — and pour more funding into public education. The rally featured unions representing New Haven teachers (New Haven Federation of Teachers, or NHFT), paraprofessional educators (AFSCME Local 3429), and community and state college professors (AFT Local 1942 and SEIU Local 1973) — all of whom called for the state to address aging facilities, low wages, and rising tuition across public education institutions in the state.

Ahead of the deadline to file taxes, ​“I scraped together my pennies to pay what I owed,” said Eric Maroney, a Gateway Community College English professor and union leader, as attendees began to gather. ​“I don’t mind paying my share, but I’d like it go to toward helping people in my community.”…
NHFT President Leslie Blatteau and 4C’s faculty union President Seth Freeman offered a Tax Day ​“lesson” to rally supporters.

They started with two vocabulary words: ​“austerity,” or severe restraint in government spending, and ​“equity,” or fair and just opportunities. After Blatteau and Freeman defined the terms, the speakers who followed illustrated their own experiences of what austerity looks like.

For Cruz-Bustamante, an elected student representative on the Board of Education, ​“austerity” means leaky roofs and broken bathroom locks in the Wilbur Cross building.

For Wilbur Cross teacher and counselor Mia Comulada, it means overcrowded classrooms and growing teacher burnout.

For paras [paraprofessional educators] union President Hyclis Williams, austerity means ​“low-wage exploitation” of her colleagues, many of whom live below the federal poverty line….

At Wilbur Cross, Comulada said, an influx of immigrants from Central America and the Middle East has led to more English language learners and more students recovering from stress and trauma.

Meanwhile, at Southern, Bonjo described, more than half of students are people of color, many are parents, and a large number are the first in their families to attend college. And at Gateway, ​“many of our students work two, three jobs,” said Maroney….

In a state as wealthy as Connecticut, Cruz-Bustamante said, ​“We deserve schools that look like palaces.”

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