By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – As thousands of teachers storm the state Capitol to protest a lack of funding, some lawmakers are questioning the timing.
This month, they approved the biggest increase in education funding in a decade. The state will spend about $6 billion on K-12 education next school year, which is $600 million more than last year. The additional funding comes after eight consecutive years of increases in education funding. Colorado now spends an average of $13,000 per student — state and local funds combined — or $273,000 for the average 21 student classroom.
“We’re working hard to fund education now its time to find out why that money is not going to teachers and that’s back on our local school boards and their superintendents,” said Republican state Sen. Owen Hill. He’s Chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Democratic state Rep. Brittany Pettersen is chair of the House Education Committee. They are the two most influential state lawmakers on education policy and funding. But while they have control over how much money schools get, they have no say over how its spent. School boards decide the budget, including teacher pay. Colorado ranks 31st in the country for teacher pay with the average salary about $52,000.
“I agree they should be paid more. That really comes down to local districts and the salaries that they set,” said Pettersen.
The Colorado Department of Education says since 2010, the number of students in Colorado has grown by 7 percent, while the number of teachers has grown by 10 percent and the number of school administrators has grown by 22 percent.