CEA Media Release: New Member Survey Paints Grim Picture about Worsening Educator Shortage Crisis in Colorado

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 18, 2021

New Member Survey Paints Grim Picture about Worsening Educator Shortage Crisis in Colorado
Under-funding, lack of resources, and unrealistic workloads to blame

DENVER – Today the Colorado Education Association released the results of an internal member survey that shows nearly 40% of members are considering leaving the profession after the 2020-21 school year. Underfunding and lack of resources are at the root of the top reasons given: unrealistic workload, potentially unsafe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and low pay.

“The member survey reinforced what we’ve known for far too long: Colorado needs to make the financial commitment to ensure all of our students and educators have the resources they need,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, high school counselor and president of the Colorado Education Association. “When educators don’t feel supported, they leave. When educators leave, students suffer. It’s as simple as that.”

“I wanted to retire at the end of next school year but will do so at the end of this year,” said Ann Franco, veteran teacher at Colfax Elementary in Denver. “I don’t feel supported in my classroom and the state and district repeatedly demand more of us without providing resources. The paltry pay increase I receive every year doesn’t offset the continually increasing demands placed on me. Tell me another profession that requires so much with such little respect in return.”

“To see statistics like this is absolutely startling and only amplifies the critical position educators and districts are in,” said Emily Bochenek, high school special education teacher in Estes Park. “Educators are not okay right now and cannot continue at this exhausting rate. To continuously face underfunding on top of the disparities and stressors intensified by pandemic without any resolve is entirely unacceptable. If we believe in the future of our students and this career, if we truly value those who are bearing every burden of life right now, then legislative actions need to begin aligning with words and promises. Our wellness is on the line. Compassionate educators and dedicated districts will not continue to fall victim to a broken system that undermines their dedication and devalues their humanity. We are not martyrs and deserve better.”

Meanwhile, 75% of Colorado voters agree that restoration of school funding cuts should be one of the top priorities for lawmakers. Solid majorities of voters polled prioritize education funding over access to affordable health care, highway and infrastructure upgrades, and restoration of rainy-day reserves.

“The majority of Colorado voters agree that giving educators and students the resources they need should be our legislature’s top priority,” said Baca-Oehlert. “The COVID-19 pandemic certainly didn’t create the funding issues we’re seeing today but it has shone a light on the system of ‘haves and have nots’ that currently exists. It is crucial that we give the schools, students and educators the resources they deserve so that we can provide safe, equitable schools for every student in Colorado.”

Legislators can help avert the crisis of educators leaving the profession through three strategies:

  • Increasing Revenue: Legislators must buy down the current billion dollar Budget Stabilization Factor, which robs public schools of precious resources needed for instruction, textbooks and mental health support. The wealthy few and large corporations must pay their fair share by closing corporate tax loopholes, so every educator and student has an exceptional school to thrive in.
  • Ensuring Safety: Many of the issues educators face are not new but the pandemic has exacerbated these problems. While educators want to be back in schools and classrooms with students, it is critical that educators and students have PPE, COVID tests, vaccines, cohorting and other measures they need to feel safe—and that district-level decisions are data-driven and transparent.
  • Postponing High Stakes Standardized Testing: Every student should be able to thrive—and educators are administering real-time tests and assessments to track their learning. But in a time when students and educators are struggling, bouncing between in-person, virtual and hybrid learning environments, the wisest thing to do is focus every since second on instruction so students can concentrate on learning and maintaining their mental health instead.

The CEA released their full 2021 legislative agenda last month, with increasing revenue the number one priority. Inadequate funding and balancing the state budget have been problems for public education since 2009 and the lack of funding and resources have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, disproportionately affecting low income families and students of color. Other CEA priorities for the legislative session include legislation to:

  • Promote justice and equity that ensures the best public schools for our students, educators and communities
  • Promote professional growth in educator accountability as opposed to punishment and high stakes testing
  • Help educators achieve more time and autonomy to focus on the most crucial aspects of their job, specifically direct instruction, planning and student support
  • Protect the health and safety of our students, their families and educators in the time of COVID-19

Results of Internal Member Survey
Public Polling Memo
CEA 2021 Legislative Priorities

About the Colorado Education Association

The Colorado Education Association is the voice of 39,000 educators, working together in a strong union to ensure all students get the exceptional public schools they deserve, in every neighborhood across the state. As Colorado’s largest labor union, CEA works collectively with all education stakeholders to ensure Colorado’s standing as an excellent state in which to learn, live, work, and raise a family.

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