Connecticut must invest in students, in democracy, in our future. John Tully testifies to the Higher Education Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, February 15, 2018

Hector wanted to be a teacher. He admired his teachers in high school. He wanted to help give kids a better chance at life, just like his teachers did for him. Only one of his parents had graduated from high school, but they wanted a better education for Hector. Did he struggle a bit? Yes. Did he overcome his struggles? Yes. He is now well into a career of teaching students in Hartford. He is a role model. He is an inspiration. Did I help him? Yes. But more important, WE helped him; YOU helped him. And now, he is helping kids stay in school. He is helping kids learn to understand their past so they can make their futures.

Every time you think about where the hard-earned money of our taxpayers should be spent, think about Hector. When you fund Central Connecticut State University, you are NOT “spending” money. When you fund CCSU, we, as citizens who understand the importance of an educated citizenry for the very survival of democracy, are funding our future and our children’s future.

Each and every one of you had a teacher in your life who inspired you, or helped you be more than you thought you could be. Think back to that teacher. Maybe he or she showed you an area of the world you never knew existed. Maybe that teacher was the only adult who challenged you, supported you, and encouraged you. Even if you can’t remember that one teacher, you know in your heart of hearts that you would not be the leader you are if that person were not in your life.

And where did that teacher get trained? Where did that teacher learn the skills to deal with adolescents all day long? Probably at CCSU, or a place like CCSU. And they were able to attend CCSU because the generations before us valued OUR futures. All we are asking is that you do what you know is the right thing to do: pay them back by valuing our children’s future.

I help prepare those teachers through the Department of History at CCSU. My position as social studies coordinator and my work with the State Department of Education and the CT Council for the Social Studies means that I work with aspiring teachers like Hector and practicing social studies teachers across our state. My scholarship, published through the University of Wisconsin Press, is improving classrooms across the nation.

This morning, I had a long, painful discussion with some of those future teachers about the mass shooting in Florida. Every one of them reaffirmed their commitment to teaching and to sacrificing themselves if needed to keep their students safe. These are the people who will be teaching your kids and grandkids.

Invest in them. Invest in democracy. Invest in our future. Invest in people like Hector.