Colorado’s largest teachers union says most of its members are prepared to participate in walk-outs if the state does not significantly increase education funding and teacher pay.
In its first Colorado State of Education report, the Colorado Education Association laid out a number of legislative priorities for 2020 based on a member survey and a 13-stop listening tour around the state. Topping the list: Improving teacher pay.
Teacher pay in Colorado ranks among the least competitive in the nation when compared with other professions that require a college degree, and turnover rates have risen since the Great Recession, when lawmakers started holding back money the state constitution promises to schools to pay for other budget priorities.
This withholding, known as the budget stabilization factor or the negative factor, exceeds $8 billion over the last decade. In his proposed 2020-21 budget, Gov. Jared Polis recommended a budget stabilization factor of more than $500 million, even as he urged greater investments in transportation.
Other priorities identified by union educators include reducing class size and workload, changing the teacher evaluation system to one that is less reliant on test scores, and hiring more mental health professionals in schools.
The Colorado Education Association also asked members “how far” they were willing to go to achieve these goals, from talking to colleagues or wearing a button to going on strike. According to the union, half of respondents said they were willing to go on strike and 83% said they were willing to participate in a walkout.
These results don’t come from a statistically valid poll, but from a survey of some of the most engaged of the union’s 38,000 members. Nonetheless, union President Amie Baca-Oehlert said the results reflect pent-up frustration from educators around the state and a genuine appetite for what she called “bold action.”