FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 14, 2019
CEA Calls For Increased Educator Pay in “State of Education” Report
Polls Show Public Supports Raising Teacher Pay
DENVER – Colorado teachers could immediately increase their standard of living by 50% by moving to Louisiana. Colorado’s worst-in-the-nation wage competitiveness for educators is just one of the grim details explained in State of Education, the first-ever report of its kind released by the Colorado Education Association.
High school counselor and CEA President Amie Baca-Oehlert presented the findings today to about 200 CEA members and some state legislators at the CEA Fall Conference at the Denver Marriott West in Golden.
“For too long, it has been told to us what is happening in our public schools, and not told by us – the experts doing the work of educating students,” Baca-Oehlert said in her presentation. “The time is now. We held Red For Ed forums all across the state this fall to hear the voices of educators so they could tell us what is happening in their public schools.”
The report captures educator voice from a statewide “Final Countdown” listening tour of CEA members held in 13 forums across Colorado in October and November. Educators spoke candidly in these meetings about the ever-increasing demands to do more with less resources: more testing, more unfunded mandates, more mental health challenges and larger class sizes, all while taking home less pay as their cost of living increases.
The report concluded educator pay is not a living wage in Colorado, and raising educator pay is the main priority the Colorado legislature should take on in 2020. “I made more money as a 21-year-old enlisted member in the military with no college than I do now as a 37-year-old teacher with a master’s degree,” said Amanda Connelly, a teacher in Montrose, for the report.
The frustration of educators is boiling over as they cope to teach in classrooms that the state underfunds by $572 million in this school year alone, and by more than $8 billion since the Great Recession in 2008. As a result, every Colorado student goes to school with $2,700 less support than the national school funding average, while the average starting teacher salary ranks 47th in the nation.
“Our 2020 legislative priority is to improve educator compensation across the state. We are asking the legislature to create a pathway for districts to immediately and meaningfully increase educator compensation in order to recruit and retain quality educators across the state of Colorado. Our commitment is to work with our elected officials to do that,” stated Baca-Oehlert.
Educators have public opinion on their side. Three quarters of Americans support raising educator pay, their highest level of support in a decade. A recent poll found that 76% of Coloradans think teacher pay falls short, up from 51% in 2011.
Educators who participated in the focus groups and other member polling say the time is now to stand up for the schools our students deserve. The report finds 50% of members are ready to go on strike if the state legislature does not take action to improve funding for better pay, with 83% of educators willing to either strike or leave school during an organized walkout.
“I work four jobs in addition to teaching,” said D.J. Pollert, a middle school teacher in Summit County and one of five CEA members who shared a personal story about making ends meet on an educator’s salary. “When I’m working those jobs I miss sleep, I miss time with my wife and two young daughters. Even though my wife and I work extra jobs, our financial situation is still not sustainable.”
In addition to raising low pay, educators also identified these issues for the state lawmakers to improve the state of education in Colorado: lessen educator workloads and reduce large class sizes; add mental health supports for educators and students; minimize the influence of private corporations in public schools; and fix educator evaluations to accurately reflect how teachers are doing in their jobs.
CEA presented the legislators who attended with apple-shaped stress balls, saying ‘Raise the Pay – CEA,’ to identify them as legislators who stand with, and are willing to work with, public school educators.
“This is the countdown. Our students don’t have any more time to waste,” Baca-Oehlert concluded. “Students deserve educators who can afford to live and work in their communities. They deserve educators who can afford to stay in the profession. Our students deserve so much and we are ready to work with legislators to create that reality for our students.
# # #