The morning of May 26, the state capitol served as the grounds for a car and school bus parade put together by Colorado education support professionals. The parade was a kickoff of two weeks of …
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The morning of May 26, the state capitol served as the grounds for a car and school bus parade put together by Colorado education support professionals.
The parade was a kickoff of two weeks of action organized by the Colorado Education Association (CEA), which unions from Denver and across the state, as well as local unions Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) and Jeffco Education Support Professionals Association (JESPA), are affiliated with. JESPA rented school buses from Jeffco for the parade, which then drove in front of the capitol building.
The goal of the parade was to put pressure on legislators to mitigate some of the economic struggles school districts are facing.
Because of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, Colorado school districts have been told to expect significant cuts in state funding. Jeffco Public Schools' chief financial officer, Kathleen Askelson, said at a May 13 study session that for the 2020-2021 school year, the district could see around $74.3 million in reductions from the state.
Support professionals are particularly worried what this may mean for their jobs next year, said Lara Center, JESPA president, during a May 26 press conference. Support staff include educational aides, food service workers, custodial staff and others.
Staff cuts are being made at each individual school, and while the organization did not have data on how many support professionals have lost their jobs for 2020-2021 so far, “there have been staff told they will not have a job in August,” she said. “Support staff can frequently be the place administrators go to cut.”
First-grade teacher Jon Cefkin from Lukas Elementary shared that he has seen support professionals cut throughout his 26 years of teaching, which has resulted in educational aides spending fewer hours helping students in the classroom.
“It really cuts down on the one-on-one time with the students and the time (staff) get to listen to students and help with their mental health needs,” he said
Jenn Muñoz, secretary with Jeffco's Community & Family Connections office, said when support staff are cut, students who are already facing hardship may find themselves in an even more difficult situation.
“We have students who struggle with homelessness. We have students who struggle with transportation to and from school,” she said at the May 26 conference. “Students now more than ever deserve more support, not less.”'
The CEA is asking legislators to pass an emergency tax; not increase the Budget Stabilization factor; make use of some of the state's budget reserves; and pressure the federal government to provide additional aid to the state.
“Our lawmakers have a tough job,” Center said, “but they need to be brave, they need to be bold and they need to protect our students.”
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