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Educators Ask New Legislature to Prioritize CO Public-School Funding

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Due to lack of funding, Colorado teachers spend over $695 on average on school supplies, and even food for students from struggling families. (Pixabay)
Due to lack of funding, Colorado teachers spend over $695 on average on school supplies, and even food for students from struggling families. (Pixabay)
January 15, 2021

DENVER - With the Colorado Legislatureback at work this week, the state's largest union of educators is calling on lawmakers to increase funding, make classrooms safe, and help attract and retain top-notch teachers.

Amie Baca-Oehlert, a high school counselor and president of the Colorado Education Association, said she's looking forward to working with lawmakers to ensure that educators get the resources they need to provide students with a quality public education - regardless of their ZIP Code or the amount of money their family earns.

"In a time where we are trying to address the needs in a global pandemic in educating our students," said Baca-Oehlert, "we need the Legislature to prioritize funding for our students, and for our public schools."

Last spring, lost revenues in the economic fallout of the public health emergency led to state lawmakers increasing what's known as the budget stabilization factor - or the amount the state would underfund public education - to more than $1 billion.

Baca-Oehlert said she believes it's time for the state to find new revenue sources. That includes closing corporate tax loopholes, which she said take vital resources out of state during a time of great need for public services, including schools.

"Prior to COVID-19, we had one of the strongest economies in the country, but one of the most underfunded public education systems in the country," said Baca-Oehlert. "So, we know that we have to do better."

Baca-Oehlert said more than half of educators are set to retire in the next three to five years, and thinks more needs to be done to improve working conditions.

She noted teachers spend almost $700 out-of-pocket, on average, for school supplies and even food for hungry students. She said she's also looking to lawmakers to invest in adequate Personal Protective Equipment and other measures to keep kids and teachers safe.

"We know that ventilation is key to ensuring a safe and healthy environment," said Baca-Oehlert. "Many of our school buildings are in a state with very poor ventilation systems, and that's going to require funding."

Disclosure: Colorado Education Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO