Members working in top state economy want to see legislative plan to eliminate recession-era budget cuts
DENVER – The Colorado Education Association welcomes legislators back to the Capitol today with a pressing desire to collaborate with lawmakers on our state’s desperate need to raise educator pay.
It’s no secret Colorado offers teachers the least competitive pay in the country. The 38,000 members of CEA expect the legislature will create a pathway for districts to immediately and meaningfully improve educator compensation in order to recruit and retain quality educators across the state.
“Tackling low educator compensation head-on is the boldest move the Legislature can make in 2020 to give our students the schools they deserve. We will have a strong presence at the Capitol throughout the session because educators across Colorado deserve a livable wage so that they can afford to work and live in the communities they serve,” said CEA President Amie Baca-Oehlert, a high school counselor.
Baca-Oehlert said CEA will champion the creation of a dedicated fund for the explicit purpose of increasing educator pay and salaries across Colorado, and a significant buy-down of the debt owed to our schools and students in the budget stabilization factor. At the same time, CEA will call for legislators to truly prioritize public schools and students by marking new revenue for K-12 public education, ending unfunded (or underfunded) mandates, and ending new grant or pilot programs.
“Our lawmakers need to demonstrate their commitment to public education by directing meaningful resources to our schools and educators who help students thrive,” Baca-Oehlert added. “The legislature has failed to fund our schools, allowing funding cuts started during the Great Recession to continue many years after Colorado’s remarkable economic recovery. Every legislator should be motivated to change a system in which our great collective success is not reaching and benefiting our own children, and finally commit to a plan to eliminate K-12 education cuts in three years.”
The cuts in education funding from the budget stabilization factor are withholding $572 million from schools and students in the current school year. Lost K-12 funding since 2009 totals $8.1 billion, wreaking havoc on districts, depressing educator salaries, and preventing resources from reaching the classroom. The proposed state budget lawmakers will debate in this session only makes a small effort to fill the funding hole, keeping the cut well above half-a-billion dollars for the 2020-21 school year.
To identify the most critical needs of educators and form CEA’s legislative priorities, Baca-Oehlert led a statewide listening tour that captured educator voice across 13 forums last fall, culminating in CEA’s first-ever State of Education report released in November.
“Educators spoke candidly about the ever-increasing demands to do more with less resources – more testing, more unfunded mandates, more mental health challenges and larger class sizes,” Baca-Oehlert observed. “The results are sobering and tells me the time has come to decide what kind of Colorado we want to become – one that wants the very best for its students and values educators by paying them appropriately, or a Colorado that doesn’t prioritize education or the future of students.”
In addition to raising low pay and meaningfully increasing school funding, educators identified additional items for state lawmakers to address 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;
- Fix educator evaluations to accurately reflect how teachers are doing in their jobs; and
- Prioritize all working families and union values.
Baca-Oehlert concluded, “If legislators listen to the powerful voice of 38,000 CEA members over the next few months, they will arrive at an obvious answer: improving educator compensation now is the greatest achievement the legislature can make in 2020 to ensure the long-term success of our state.”
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