A good education is one of the keys to success in the 21st Century economy.

But Colorado kids aren’t getting a fair shot at the education they deserve because far too many of our schools are dealing with a crippling teacher shortage. Schools are taking unscheduled days off, moving to virtual learning, and in some cases, asking teachers to cover for coworkers’ absences – all because there aren’t enough qualified teachers to go around.

Colorado state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada

Colorado students have faced teacher shortages for years, and the problem has only gotten worse during the pandemic. I’ve heard from parents, teachers, and administrators from across the state who say that lately, instead of being a bright light for Colorado’s students, too many of our teachers are entirely burnt out.

This is unacceptable. Our most important job as leaders in the General Assembly is delivering a brighter future for our kids, and that starts by making sure that teachers have the support they need.

I come from a long line of educators and chose to continue my family’s legacy by becoming a teacher myself. I was inspired to get in the classroom to have the kind of impact on students that I saw possible throughout my life – to serve as a positive role model for our kids, to nurture and guide them in the right direction, and to set them up for success.

Teachers play a huge role in our kids’ lives, and while I’ve seen firsthand the impact teachers have on their students, I also know the struggles that come with the job. That’s why, as Chair of the Senate Education Committee, I am working every day to improve conditions in the classroom to allow students, families and teachers to thrive.

As we continue to recover from the pandemic, our schools are at a turning point. We can either continue shortchanging our kids and our teachers, or we can get creative and find ways to bring new teachers into the profession and revitalize the workforce so that every student gets the attention and education they deserve.

That’s exactly why Colorado Democrats passed Senate Bill 21-185, my bill to support Colorado teachers through new recruitment and retention strategies. This bipartisan legislation is attracting more teachers to Colorado classrooms, and helping make sure those teachers look more like the students they teach.

This new teacher recruitment and retention program will help create jobs and develop more, better-trained Colorado teachers. It will help cover tuition for folks looking for a new career as our economy bounces back from the pandemic. And with this program, qualified Coloradans – such as veterans and new college graduates – will receive the resources and support they need as they transition into their new educator roles.  

Additionally, local leaders will be able to draw upon their own experiences and connect with their communities to recruit and hire folks who better resemble the changing needs and faces of their communities. Right now in Colorado, 9% of teachers are people of color, while 46% of students are Black, indidgenous, or from communities of color.

My legislation is helping address that imbalance, leading to better outcomes for students and for communities.

Student success goes hand-in-hand with teacher success. There is still work to be done to get our schools and our students back on track following the pandemic, and this is a step in the right direction. Colorado Democrats are committed to ensuring that our teachers are able to flourish in the workforce and the classroom and so every student across our state can thrive. 

Rachel Zenzinger, of Arvada, represents the 19th Senate District in the Colorado General Assembly. She chairs the Senate Education Committee and is a fifth-generation teacher.

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