This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Malcolm Lovejoy’s high school in Campo hasn’t had a math teacher since he was a freshman.
The rural school was able to finally hire a math teacher this school year, Lovejoy said. But the 17-year-old senior feels very behind in his math skills. And adding to concerns about his education, this year the high school’s English teacher left, moving away from the remote Plains town near the Oklahoma border.
In rural Colorado towns like Campo, finding and keeping teachers who want to stay and can survive on the low pay can be difficult. Campo School District RE-6 starts beginning teachers at $27,500 a year but even those with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience make just $34,600.
Lovejoy said most Campo teachers could make more working at a local grocery or convenience store.
“There’s not really many reasons for teachers to live in this area,” Lovejoy said. “And if our school really can’t pay them anything, then what’s their reason to be there?”
In an attempt to change how much teachers get paid in Campo and rural areas across the state, Lovejoy and two other rural high school students, along with a University of Colorado Colorado Springs professor and graduate student, crafted legislation they hope will set a new bar for salaries.
The proposal would raise the minimum salary for Colorado rural teachers to $40,000 a year, with the state supplementing local funds for those salaries. The group hopes the extra money would encourage rural teachers to stay in the state’s smallest communities.
Altogether, the bill could benefit 6,000 teachers and cost the state an estimated $35 million a year to supplement salaries.
The legislation doesn’t have sponsors yet, but the group is hoping to secure backing from members of both parties. State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, an Arvada Democrat who leads the Senate Education Committee, said she hasn’t seen the draft legislation, but she expects the proposal to face an uphill battle.