By Makenzie O’Keefe
DENVER (CBS4) – Hundreds of teachers across Colorado walked out of class on Monday, and gathered at the state Capitol in a call for action.
They’re demanding lawmakers protect their public pension, increase salaries and put more money into education.
Some teachers told CBS4 they are tired of having to take time away from the classroom to rally and fix the numerous issues within public education.
“I work two jobs. Most of the time I am teaching and coaching,” explained James Lewis, a 4th grade teacher at Ellis Elementary in Denver. “In the summer I’m working a second job as well.”
In 2016, Colorado’s average teacher salary was $46,155. That puts the state at 46th in the nation, according to the National Education Association.
In Lewis’ 17 years of teaching, he’s seen the industry change. He said because funding is so low, he feels his students don’t have the resources they need to succeed.
“I pay for a lot of things out of pocket for kids in my class,” Lewis said. “And I’m already stretched for cash. I’m working two jobs, and I’ve got two kids of my own.”
The Colorado Education Association said on average, a teacher takes $656 out of pocket a year, to pay for resources for his or her students.
Dorman Land, who teaches at Century Middle School in Thornton said that includes school supplies, rewards and even food.
“I had a little boy come up to me just the other day and he said ‘Sir, where’s the free breakfast?’, and we didn’t have free breakfast,” Land said. “Thank goodness for my administration that has oatmeal in their desk so they can provide breakfast for that poor boy.”
Teachers say a lot of educators end up trading in their classroom, for another job. Right now Colorado has over 3,000 open teaching positions.
“I don’t understand how many of these teachers can keep on going day after day with hungry students, students that don’t have resources and buildings that aren’t air conditioned or cooled properly,” Land said. “I’m worried about our future educators. We need a viable profession.”
Hundreds of teachers not only marched on Monday, but also asked state lawmakers to make a change.
“I don’t want to have to think about those things when I’m thinking about 23 little kids in my classroom,” Lewis said. “I should be focused on what my job is and that’s educating our future.”
There will be second teacher Call for Action Day on Friday.