Thousands of educators from Jefferson and Douglas counties descended on the state capitol April 26 to demand better funding for public education in the state of Colorado.
“I am fed up with living paycheck to paycheck,” Rhiannon Wenning teacher at Jefferson Junior/Senior High said while standing on the steps of the capitol building. “I am fed up that my students don't have the resources they need to be successful. I am fed up with the attacks on our profession and public schools. And I am honored to stand in solidarity with all of you. To stand up for our kids and demand the schools our students deserve.”
The educators, dressed in red, chanting “you have left me no choice, now I use my teacher voice,” joined the hundreds who have already lobbied at the Colorado State Capitol this month pressuring lawmakers to address education funding and protect the Public Employees' Retirement Association (PERA).
In Jefferson County, the number of teachers that called in to take the day off was great enough to close schools for the day.
Over the past several months, school superintendents across Colorado have been working in partnership with school boards and community groups to call attention to the dire public school funding issues in the state.
Colorado currently ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil funding, approximately $2,500 per student less than the national average.
A letter singed by 16 Colorado superintendents, including Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Glass read, “We strongly believe that our students, our communities, and our educators should receive the supports and compensation they deserve”
The letter also lays out some statistics, including that 95 percent of teacher salaries are below the standard of living in rural Colorado and that there is close to $18 billion dollars in school construction needs across the state.
“Our teachers' voices deserve to be heard in the fight for fair and equitable state funding,” the letter reads. “We honor our teachers, and all of the educators who serve our students and our communities each day. As they take action over the next several days, and into the future, we urge parents and all concerned Coloradans to contact state legislators to ask them to increase funding for K-12 education in Colorado.”
On the steps of the capitol building the morning of April 26, Colorado Governor candidate Cary Kennedy — endorsed by the Colorado Education Association — told educators that their voice matters.
“We need to give teachers and educators a raise and the professional pay that you deserve,” Kennedy said. “We need to reward you and compensate you for your skill and your experience and you commitment to supporting all of our kids. We need to give you the retirements security you have earned. We need to give you the support and resources so that you can support your kids' learning. So that you can give them the opportunity and inspire in them a love of learning.”
Wenning also spoke about the lack of resources.
“We have great public schools in Colorado, but in too many communities they are not given the resources they need for their students to be successful,” she said. “This has created haves and have-nots among our children and that is not right. Today we are here to send our message loud and clear to the Colorado legislature, to the voters, to our cities and towns, and to our entire community that we do not have enough money for our schools and that needs to change now.”
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