Colorado teachers rallied at the state Capitol in Denver Monday to demand changes in school funding and to lobby for higher teacher pay and a stronger retirement fund.
The Denver Post reports that the teachers made so much noise that some state representatives and senators left their chambers to watch the rally. A few gave impromptu speeches in support of the teachers, who took a day off work to attend the Colorado Education Association’s annual Lobby Day.
The teachers say lagging salaries and potential cuts to the retirement system will make it impossible for younger educators to remain in the profession for an entire career.
“When I was in school, you knew you weren’t going to get rich,” says Bob Mantooh, a physical education teacher at Kaiser Elementary School in Denver. “You knew you would get a decent salary, and when you were ready to retire you would be OK. For these young teachers, there’s no future. You won’t get people entering into this profession. They don’t want to go into poverty teaching.”
The Colorado demonstration is the latest instance of teachers gathering at state capitols to seek greater support for education. Similar rallies have taken place in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky.
The Englewood (Colo.) district canceled classes Monday after more than 150 teachers in that district announced plans to walk out of classes. Teachers also came from Denver Public Schools and the Boulder Valley School District.
The teachers lined out the door Monday afternoon to attend a House Finance Committee hearing on Senate Bill 200, which would cut public employee retirement benefits to shore up the state retirement plan.
Callie Gonyea, who is in her second year of teaching at Ellis Elementary School in Denver, says she wants to be a teacher for her entire career. But she needs a solid retirement plan.
Among other priorities for teachers at the capitol is a call for legislators to commit to a freeze on corporate tax breaks “until school funding is restored or until per-pupil funding reaches the national average.” The teachers union says the average Colorado teacher is paying about $650 per out of their own pockets on students’ needs.