By Dillon Thomas
DENVER (CBS4) – Hundreds of Colorado teachers gathered at the state Capitol Thursday, many wearing red, for the first of two planned “Day of Action” rallies this week.
The schools where the educators teach mostly canceled school knowing there wouldn’t be enough teachers available.
CBS4’s Dillon Thomas spoke with two teachers who come from different school districts. Paula Reed, a teacher for at-risk students in Jefferson County, advocated for greater public school funding at the state capitol. Among the same crowd was Cody Jump, a teacher at Lake County High School in the mountains.
The two come from districts with many differences. According to state records, Lake County teachers make, on average, 22 percent less than the average Colorado teacher. Jump teaches at a high school with less than 300 students.
Reed, at Columbine High School, works for a district that pays, on average, 10 percent more than the state average. Columbine is home to more than 1,500 students every year.
Both Reed and Jump said their schools are impacted by lack of funding from the state. Though their impact may be unique to each district, both said more money would help them fix their district’s problems.
“I’ve watched resources from my classroom dwindle, for kids who already have so little,” Reed said. “I started with a budget of $3,000. It (was) cut to $1,500. And, then to $1,000. This year, it is $700.”
Reed said that while working with at-risk students she tried to encourage students to attend college by taking field trips to local campuses. However, with a restricted budget, those trips were impossible.
“I couldn’t afford the bus for the field trip,” Reed said. “I cut field trips.”
In Leadville at Lake County High School, small budget changes could further impact students, according to Jump.
“When our pool is so small, (the issues) seem to magnify quite a bit,” Jump said.
Jump works in a town of less than 3,000 people. With most teachers making less than the state average, Jump said it was difficult for the district to retain quality teachers for extended periods.
“(Other districts’) turnover is at like 20 percent and it is a panic moment,” Jump said. “And, we celebrate when ours gets down to 20 percent.”
However, with a rising cost of living in the Denver metro area, Reed said her district sometimes faced a similar issue with retaining young teachers.
“I see us losing young teachers all the time,” Reed said.
Jump and Reed both spent their workdays at the state Capitol calling for lawmakers to increase funding for their respective districts. Both said their days were well spent at the capitol instead of in the classroom.
Reed, who is near retirement, said potential pay raises would likely not impact her. However, she said increasing teacher pay was critical.
“I don’t benefit from that in my bank account. I benefit from that in a society that has well educated people,” Reed said.
“It is the same thing that we were at school yesterday for. It is to take care of our kids, and to give our kids what they need,” Jump said. “Kids are always learning, what are you teaching? Our kids are paying attention to what is going on.”
Schools that will be closed all day on Friday due to teachers participating in Friday’s rally, which is expected to be much larger, include:
- Denver Public Schools
- Poudre School District
- Adams 12 Five Star Schools
- Littleton Public Schools
- Cherry Creek Schools
- St. Vrain Valley School District
- Boulder Valley Schools
- Aurora Public Schools
- Thompson School District
- School District 27J in Brighton
- Summit School District
- D-11 in Colorado Springs
- Adams 14 Schools
- Weld RE-5J
- Weld RE-8
- Weld RE-1
- Sheridan School District
- Academy District 20
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.