It’s been five years since the Supreme Court decision in Janus that allows public-sector union members to opt out without penalty, and one new organization wants to make sure teachers in Connecticut know their rights.

Outside the Connecticut Education Association’s summer conference at Foxwoods Resort Casino, Americans for Fair Treatment, purchased a roaming billboard that read: “CT Teachers Can Opt Out.” 

“Teachers have been through so much in the past few years, the last thing they need is trouble from their union,” Elisabeth Kines, national executive director at Americans for Fair Treatment, said. “Unfortunately, CEA limits teachers’ ability to leave the union to only a small window each year. Teachers should know that if they want out, we can help.”

CEA members can leave the union during the month of August. 

Connecticut’s largest teacher union sees no reason why teachers would want to opt out. 

“CEA members joined together fully aware of their rights and benefits,” CEA President Kate Dias said. “They enjoyed two days of leadership training and time to develop their voice as advocates for fair wages, improved teaching and learning conditions and professional development.”

Dias said her members were in the casino conference rooms and didn’t see the billboards. 

“If there were billboards, I didn’t see them, and they made no difference. We stand united and stronger together,” Dias said. 

Regardless of union status every teacher in Connecticut is covered by the contract negotiated by the union. 

The COVID-19 pandemic complicated teaching over the past two years and arguably made the job more difficult. 

Throughout the pandemic, educators have been applauded for the vital role they’ve played in maintaining the highest-possible standards of school safety, social and emotional support, and academic progress despite significant challenges. 

The pandemic also raised serious concerns about school staffing shortages and education budget shortfalls that have left students in overcrowded classrooms and in under-resourced, poorly maintained buildings.

A recent survey found that about 11% of the $1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding has been spent, mostly on staffing. An estimated 20% has been spent on helping students catch up on their academic performance.