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CO Teachers Challenge Lawmakers to Fully Invest in Education

A new national poll found just 25 percent of respondents believe teachers are paid fairly, and three in four think teachers have the right to strike. (Galatas)
A new national poll found just 25 percent of respondents believe teachers are paid fairly, and three in four think teachers have the right to strike. (Galatas)
April 27, 2018

DENVER – Teachers from across Colorado say they'll rally outside the State Capitol again Friday, urging lawmakers to fully fund the state's public schools.

Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, says educators are taking a personal day to stand up for students, schools and their profession. He notes Colorado has one of the top economies in the nation, but schools are underfunded by $822 million, and the state's investment per-pupil is $2,700 dollars below the national average.

"We have great public schools in Colorado, but in too many communities, we are not giving the schools the resources they truly need for every child to be successful,” says Roman. “Fifty percent of the school districts, I believe, are on four days per week, and it's impacting the education that our students are receiving."

Colorado's teachers join educators in a number of states – including Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia – who are also demonstrating to demand increased pay and school funding. Critics say the actions are disruptive, leave kids and parents in the lurch, and argue that the moves are a calculated effort to bolster teachers' unions.

According to a new NPR/Ipsos poll, only one in four people think teachers are paid fairly, and three-quarters believe teachers have the right to strike. Roman says, despite systemic hurdles – including the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights – it's time for lawmakers to make a multi-year funding commitment.

"What we're doing right now is exercising our First Amendment rights this week, to stand up for our students who have suffered more than a decade of under-funded schools," says Roman.

He adds Colorado teachers spend $650 of their own money on average per year to buy school supplies, and many take on second jobs to make ends meet. A recent Rutgers University study ranked Colorado last in the nation in wage competitiveness for teachers.

Ashley Hecker and her two children were among the crowd on the west steps of the State Capitol on Thursday. Hecker isn't a teacher, but says she made the trip from Highlands Ranch because she's a parent.

"We're here to support teachers and get funding for our schools and our children,” she says. “I have two kids, and even if I didn't have kids, I would still be here, because it's important to educate our youth."

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO