Colorado teachers will strike Monday against unfair wages and to protect their retirement benefits, reforms being debated in a state House committee.
Hundreds of Coloradan educators, school administrators and bus drivers, among others, are expected to take over the Capitol building steps on Monday to demand that legislators ensure educators: better wages, an annual commitment to invest $US150 million in state funds to public schools, and that teachers be allowed to retire at 58 rather than 65 in order to protect funds within the Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association (PERA).
"We are calling Monday, April 16th a day of action," said Kerrie Dallman, President of the Colorado Education Association. Galvanized by successful wage hike protests in Arizona and West Virginia, union members expect around 400 teachers to lobby lawmakers for change. "We have teachers working second jobs," Dollman said.
The Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, ranked Colorado 50th, ahead only of Arizona, in how teacher pay compares to that of other college-educated workers. According to the National Education Association, Colorado teachers average $US46,000 per year, and rural-based Colorado teachers can make as little as $US30,000. In comparison, Wyoming teachers earn $US58,000 and have a lower cost of living.
In order to compensate for low wages, some schools districts, such as Pueblo City, voted to switch to a four day school week to appease current and entice new teachers.
Colorado voters could see a midterm election referendum next November that requests major tax increases for education. If implemented the measure would raise about $US1.6 billion by increasing the state corporate tax rate and income taxes for people who earn more than $150,000 a year. The reform would also change residential property taxes in order to better fund public schools.
Voters have twice shut down such proposals in the recent past. “I hope their voices are heard,” says Colorado parent, Julie Hoag.