ctnewsjunkie file photo
Sheila Cohen, president of the Connecticut Education Association (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants the General Assembly to address the $208 million budget deficit when they return next week to restore the Medicare Savings Program and the state’s largest teacher union wants them to restore $58 million in education cuts.

The legislature has gathered enough signatures to return for a special session before Dec. 29 to restore $54 million in funding for the Medicare Savings Program, which helps the elderly and disabled purchase their Medicare Part B premiums and co-pays. The petition used to call them into special session specified that the only reason they were reconvening was to address the Medicare Savings Program.

The Connecticut Education Association and its members have been sending letters to lawmakers asking them also to restore the $58 million in education cost sharing funds Malloy withheld after he signed the budget on Oct. 31.

“While we appreciate legislators standing up for our senior citizens, our youngest and most vulnerable citizens are also facing peril with continued school funding cuts that must be addressed,” CEA President Sheila Cohen said. “The time for action is now. Our children can’t wait until next February. Legislators must take up the issue in special session.”

But legislative leaders have already reached an agreement over the Medicare Savings Program and adding anything else to the agenda at this point would require much more negotiation.

Legislative leaders are expected to meet today and the issue might come up, but sources close to those discussions don’t believe they will take it up.

The budget deficit is expected to worsen on Jan. 15 when the new revenue estimates are released, so restoring funding for anything more than one program could cause all sort of problems for lawmakers who have been forced to work on a bipartisan basis to balance the budget.

But the letter writing campaign continues.

As Connecticut’s cities and towns struggle to make up these costs, many are planning to cut school resources, eliminate educational programs, and lay off teachers, according to CEA officials.

“These funding cuts are creating chaos in our schools and causing disruptions for students, parents, teachers, and communities in the middle of the school year,” Cohen said. “Every day our teachers are being asked to do more with less, and every day our students are being shortchanged by cuts in education funding. Education funding is being strangled in a budget nightmare that has created an economic crisis in our schools.”

Hundreds of teachers have also reached out to legislators. In phone calls and emails, teachers are asking legislators to restore the funding.

Cohen stressed, “Without providing critical funding, the state is irreversibly jeopardizing the future of Connecticut’s students and the future of our state. Our children and our public schools are too important to cast aside and just hope for the best. We need to support the education of our children.”