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Opinion: Treating educators with dignity and respect starts with paying them a decent wage

Colorado educators are painfully underpaid. Thousands of them work second or third jobs just to make ends meet. Many struggle to keep a roof over their head and are saddled with crushing debt.

Countless others are driven out of the profession permanently. In fact, Colorado public schools are facing a crisis as increasing turnover rates cause instability for districts while other states out-compete us for talented educators. 

Jessie Danielson

That’s why I am running legislation to create the Educator Pay Raise Fund. This dedicated fund will – without raising taxes – incentivize school districts that are committed to increasing teacher pay but need support getting there.

Parents are outraged at the embarrassingly low wages our teachers earn, and our community is demanding action.

Too many teachers are facing homelessness, many need the free and reduced lunch program to help feed their own kids, even while they still pay out of pocket for school supplies for their classrooms.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

And it’s not just the teachers. It is the transportation workers, the classroom support staff, food service workers, custodians and other critical educators who interact with our kids each and every day who are also facing extremely low wages.

Treating educators with dignity and respect starts with paying them a decent wage. This is a common-sense investment in our students’ futures. Helping students achieve success and prosperity in life means a stronger Colorado and a brighter future for every Coloradan.  

When the school districts apply for this fund to raise teacher salaries or hourly worker pay, the Educator Pay Raise Fund will help those districts pay educators a living wage. The bill is written to make sure that this is dedicated money going directly to educators – not bureaucracy. 

Stronger public schools start with showing teachers and school employees the respect they deserve – by paying them a living wage. Let’s keep more educators in the profession that we need them to be in and they want to stay in. Let’s start with the Educator Pay Raise Fund. 

President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo,  is also a prime sponsor for the bill. 

Jessie Danielson represents state Senate District 20 in Jefferson County. You can reach Sen. Danielson’s office by phone at 303-866-4856 or by email at jessie.danielson.senate@state.co.us