It’s been a tumultuous — and, in many ways, groundbreaking — year for teachers across the nation. At the end of February, a nine-day walkout among West Virginia teachers resulted in a 5 percent salary raise. In early April, a similar nine-day demonstration from Oklahoma teachers yielded more than $400 million in school funding.
Similar fights are underway in Kentucky and Arizona, where teachers are walking out of classrooms to demand higher pay, better pensions, and more resources for their students. On Monday, the latest state to join the mix was Colorado. Here’s what you need to know about the teachers’ walkout there.
As many as 500 teachers planned to descend on the state Capitol in Denver on Monday — 150 of them from Englewood, a school district that had to close Monday as a result. The president of the Colorado Education Association told local news that they’ve deemed it a “Day of Action.”
What’s the main focus of this walkout?
Given the historically low salaries for educators in Colorado, the primary concern is better pay. Based on the National Education Association’s data, teachers there took in the second-lowest salary of any state in 2015, making an average of $44,421. In 2016, they jumped a few spots to 46th overall, to $46,155, but experts say that with inflation, their salaries have dropped 7.7 percent in a decade.
The teacher walkout wave is hitting Colorado, where educator pay is ranked 46/50. Some rural CO teachers are making under $30k. https://t.co/c9bvcpIF0Z
— Scott Heins (@scottheins) April 14, 2018
Are salaries actually that low?
Yes. Part of the problem in Colorado seems to be a huge disparity in pay. According to the Denver Post, the highest-paid teachers are located in Boulder Valley, where the earn as much as $63,000. But it’s the more remote regions of the state where teachers are particularly struggling, bringing in an average of $22,700. The low salaries have forced educators to get second and third jobs waitressing, nannying, and working in retail.
What else do the teachers want?
Much like teachers in other states, Colorado teachers are concerned about the lack of resources for their students. According to the Colorado Education Association, the state’s schools are underfunded by as much as $828 million. Experts have ranked the state 42nd in the amount of money it allots for each student, at $2,500 under the average.
How likely are state lawmakers to listen to these demands?
Unclear. Educators in the state have been sounding the alarm about the low salaries and lack of school funding for years, but have made little progress in procuring more resources. The Republican president of the state’s Senate, Kevin Grantham, is particularly opposed to acquiescing to their demands — citing other needs. “Roads need more money, and we have an opportunity to do that,” Grantham reportedly said recently. “Quit making excuses.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
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• Oklahoma teachers go on strike and rally at the state Capitol