It is not just Arizona teachers who are walking out today. Colorado teachers are also walking out today.
The first wave hits Thursday, followed by a bigger one Friday.
In all, thousands of teachers from mostly Front Range school districts are expected to march to the state Capitol on both days to demand more state funding for schools and a fix for the state’s pension plan for public employees.
Teachers from Douglas County and Jefferson County school districts are rallying at the Capitol on Thursday, while teachers from Denver Public Schools — the state’s largest district — will join educators from Aurora, Boulder Valley and Cherry Creek and 20 or so other districts at the statehouse on Friday.
Douglas County parents were notified over the weekend that classes would be canceled Thursday because so many teachers were walking out to join the “Days of Action” at the Capitol. The district made its decision reluctantly, Interim Superintendent Erin Kane told parents.
“However, with over 500 or our educators out, we will simply not be able to provide a safe and effective learning environment for all of our students,” Kane said.
At least four Colorado school districts will be closed Thursday and almost 30 will be shuttered Friday because of teacher walkouts as educators demand that more money be sent to schools to help pay for the most basic classroom supplies, CEA members said.
Other school districts are planning other events, besides walkouts, to support the effort, the Colorado Education Association said.
“Now is the time to build on Colorado’s economic growth and focus on a future where all Colorado families and communities can thrive,” said Kerri Dallman, president of the CEA. “We need to make sure we have great public schools in all our communities, where every child has the opportunity to succeed.”
Colorado’s schools are underfunded by $822 million and are $2,700 below the national average in per-pupil funding, the CEA said. The positive state revenue forecast clearly shows that there is substantially more money available this year for classrooms, Dallman said.
Teachers on Thursday and Friday will specifically ask legislators to make a down payment on the budget stabilization factor — also known as the negative factor — of at least $150 million this year and pay if off by 2022.
Lawmakers also will be asked to reduce or freeze corporate tax breaks of all kinds until school funding is restored and per-pupil funding reaches the national average, according to the CEA.
The CEA also supports Initiative 93 “The Great Schools, Thriving Communities Initiative,” which will raise $1.6 billion annually in support of public education, while 92 percent of taxpayers will not see an increase in their taxes.
The National Education Association’s 2018 report said the Colorado teachers were paid on average $51,808 in 2017 compared to a national average of $59,660. That ranks 31st among the states and Washington, D.C.
The teacher’s union surveyed 2,200 of its members and found that teachers on average spend about $656 a year out of their pocket for supplies, such as books, pencils, glue, binders, food, toothpaste, teaching materials, lunch money and field trips.
Colorado has 55,298 teachers, according to the NEA’s 2018 Rankings and Estimates report. There are roughly 16.4 students for every teacher, which is slightly above the national average of 15.9 students.
In the 2012-2013 school year, Colorado ranked 40th in per-pupil spending, according to the Colorado School Finance Project. The state spent $8,893 per pupil compared to the U.S. average of $11,001. Spending per pupil varies per district, though.
The state currently underfunds schools by $822 million annually, said Kerrie Dallman, president of the teachers union Colorado Education Association. Since 2009, the state has shorted schools $6.6 billion, she said.
The shortage plays out in each district differently. Districts have implemented four-day weeks, increased student fees and cut the number of teachers while growing class sizes and decreasing the number of courses. It’s also led to a lack of adequate staffing of counselors, social workers and school psychologists, she said.
On top of this, low salaries have contributed to a teacher shortage, especially in rural areas.
Although lawmakers have set aside $150 million to reduce the shortage, it’s not enough, teachers say. Dallman said teachers are asking lawmakers to commit to paying schools what they are supposed to within four years.
By way of comparison, the most recent figures by Governing Magazine, The States That Spend the Most (and the Least) on Education, put per student funding in Arizona at $7,205 from all sources, compared with a national average of $11,392.
Education Spending by State
Nationally, the most recent data suggests $11,009 is spent on public education per student. Amounts shown cover public elementary-secondary school systems and represent per pupil spending for fiscal year 2014.