“It’s 2023 in the United States of America, people get lunch breaks,” said Leslie Blatteau, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers AFT Union 933.
It comes among the strong reaction from state educators who say an effort to repeal their protected 30-minute lunch break is harmful to teachers and students.
“I think it's a distraction from the real issues,” Blatteau said. “The real issues are that we have a teacher retention crisis, we need to do more to listen to the needs of teachers. No teacher is asking for this.”
Before the bill was passed, teachers across the state had different lunch breaks by district. Some were less than 20 minutes, and some were just short of 30.
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Last legislative session, the teacher’s union Connecticut Education Association included the measure in its legislative agenda. Members lobbied widely for support.
“We sought this through the legislature, we announced it last January, we walked around handed out our legislative agenda to everyone and anyone who would listen,” CEA President Kate Dias said.
It was attached to another bill and was passed without a full legislative process, including a public hearing.
“It was just a basic need that we recognize needed to be met legislatively. So that was taken up in a larger package, dealing with sort of lots of different issues, which is not uncommon,” Dias said.
State Representative Tammy Nuccio proposed the bill to repeal the lunch protection.
“I just want everybody to know I have absolutely, positively no intention of trying to take lunch away from teachers. Teachers work very hard, they deserve a lunch,” Nuccio said.
Instead, she says she’s acting on behalf of members from her district.
“This proposal was brought to me by two of my superintendents, Tolland and Vernon, and they were concerned because it didn't go through the legislative process, there was never a public hearing, there was never legislation that was proposed,” Nuccio said.
If it is repealed, she’d want it resubmitted so superintendents can voice concerns over how the required meals shift class times and impact student instruction times.
“If it were to be raised [in the legislature] -- which there are thousands of bills proposed and doesn't mean they're all going to get raised -- it would have a public hearing. And at that point, if these superintendents were still concerned, or anybody else in the public were concerned, they could come forward through the legislative process be heard which is really a big thing to me,” Nuccio said.
Meanwhile, Fran Rabinowitz, the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, says they were initially pushing back against the short timeline for implementation, but now that everything is in place, they won’t support doing away with the law.
“As far as I know, all districts are now complying with that, and I have not heard one thing from superintendents about asking for it to be recalled,” Rabinowitz said.
The sentiment is shared across both the American Federation of Teachers and the Connecticut Education Association.
“I would argue that if we can't concentrate and say 'you, you're entitled to a 30-minute lunch,' we're working against our own best interest which is to have qualified, well-respected educators in the classroom,” Dias said.
“I think that the first impact would be more teachers will be looking for other jobs,” Blatteau said. “We should absolutely be working with the Connecticut General Assembly to figure out ways to support teachers, to support students, not micromanage our time even more.”