What's happening Thursday and Friday at the State Capitol in Denver?
A "Day of Action," during which up to 10,000 public school teachers from around the state, including up to 1,000 from Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region, are marching, rallying, speaking with legislators and calling for increasing public education funding for schools, better pay and fair pension reform. Teachers in other states have held similar actions in recent weeks.
Note: The Gazette will have updates throughout Friday from the Colorado Capitol in Denver.
Which Pikes Peak region school districts have canceled classes as a result?
Academy School District 20, Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, Colorado Springs School District 11, Falcon School District 49, Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, Lewis-Palmer School District 38 and Manitou Springs School District 14 are among the many statewide that will not have classes on Friday. Widefield School District 3 already had planned to have no classes on Friday. In most districts, Friday is a professional day for staff, meaning teachers who do not show up for work must use a personal leave day to be absent, for whatever reason.
What will educators be doing?
Organized by the Colorado Education Association, a professional group, event participants on Thursday and Friday morning will march to the Capitol's West Steps, lobby and bring grading work to show how much educators do outside of the school day. They plan to march and rally again from 1 to 3 p.m.
What do they hope to accomplish?
"Our schools are underfunded, understaffed, unprotected, and now our legislators are messing with PERA (the Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association)," said Leslie Miller, a Monroe Elementary School teacher in District 11. "Our local community stepped up with more funding for our schools with a mill levy override last November, now it's the state's turn."
"This is a response to the frustration of education being chronically underfunded by the state and education not being seen as a priority by the state Legislature," said Kevin Vick, president of the Colorado Springs Education Association, D-11's union for certified staff and the only collective bargaining teachers' group in the Pikes Peak region.
"This isn't just about teachers - it's about funding our schools," said Joe Schott, a Latin teacher at Doherty High School for 17 years. "People of Colorado Springs showed they're behind our teachers with the mill levy override, but as a state, we haven't hit the most basic funding levels, so the kids aren't being served as they should be."
Why do they say this is necessary?
Colorado has fallen behind in per-pupil funding, currently $2,162 behind the national average, according to statistics, largely due to lawmakers diverting education dollars to other areas of the state budget, such as transportation and health care. Colorado spends $4,000 less per student than Nebraska and $8,000 less than Wyoming.
Also, Colorado ranks 31st in the nation for teacher pay, according to the National Education Association's 2017 statistics, which say Colorado teachers' annual salary averaged just under $52,000.
For more information, see this video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=67MNM8gIOK4.