Colorado teachers stage rally at statehouse to lobby for higher pay

PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: 
All classes in Englewood were canceled Monday after more than 150 teachers in that district announced plans to walk out of classes

Chanting “You left me no choice, I have to use my teacher voice!” hundreds of Colorado teachers converged on the state Capitol on Monday to demand changes in school funding and to lobby for higher teacher pay and a stronger retirement fund.

The teachers, who gathered just before noon in the Capitol rotunda, made so much noise that some state representatives and senators left their chambers to watch the rally. A few gave impromptu speeches in support of the teachers, who took a day off work to attend the annual Colorado Education Association’s Lobby Day.

The teachers say lagging salaries and potential cuts to the retirement system will make it impossible for younger educators to remain in the profession for an entire career.

“When I was in school, you knew you weren’t going to get rich,” said Bob Mantooth, a physical education teacher at Kaiser Elementary School in Denver. “You knew you would get a decent salary, and when you were ready to retire you would be OK. For these young teachers, there’s no future. You won’t get people entering into this profession. They don’t want to go into poverty teaching.”

Colorado teachers have joined their peers in Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Arizona in staging protests and walk-outs to bring attention to their cause. In Englewood, Monday classes were canceled after more than 150 teachers in that district announced plans to join the rally, and teachers also came from Denver Public Schools and the Boulder Valley School District. The education association reported that about 400 teachers participated.

Teachers who couldn’t make the rally showed their support by carrying signs and walking in large groups into their schools on Monday morning. In the St. Vrain Valley School District, teachers from at least nine schools staged a “walk-in,” the Longmont Times-Call reported.

Scott Silva, an Englewood High School English teacher, said he and his colleagues had support from the administration because the district is struggling to keep up financially. He recently used a social media fundraising site to buy new books for his literature classes.

Colorado is too wealthy of a state to have underfunded schools, he said. He rattled off statistics from the National Education Association that show Colorado was near the bottom in per-pupil-funding, spending about $2,700 less per student than the national average.

Colorado teachers also are paid less than the national average; the average salary of $46,155 in 2016 ranks 46th among states and Washington D.C., according to the National Education Association.

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