Colorado public education system in a ‘state of crisis’ according to state teachers union
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A new report from the statewide teachers union says Colorado’s public education system is in a "state of crisis."
According to the Colorado Education Association’s (CEA) 2023 Colorado State of Education Report, the state’s public education system is currently operating at a decade-long deficit of more than $10 billion.
The CEA represents around 39,000 public educators throughout the state of Colorado.
“None of the problems addressed here are new: educator pay is still too low, their workload is overwhelming, and educators still feel unsafe and disrespected in their schools. But these long-standing systemic issues have been compounded and exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19 on all of our communities,” said CEA President Amie Baca-Oehlert in the 2023 report.
Colorado ranks 49th in the United States for teacher pay according to numbers from the National Education Association.
On top of the low pay, the report states schools across the state are “dangerously and unsustainably understaffed.”
The CEA also claims that politics are infringing upon classrooms, creating a hostile work environment for teachers.
“They are affecting the mental health of teachers and staff and making us feel unsafe in our profession,” one educator was quoted saying in the new report.
The CEA report calls on elected leaders to fully fund Colorado’s education system, and provide “stable and sufficient revenue for districts to meet state standards and educate all students including English learners, students living in poverty, and special needs students.”
“We are there, we are at that crisis level, and we have to do something,” Fort Collins State Rep. Cathy Kipp told 13 Investigates.
Thursday, the state legislature’s Education Committee unanimously approved a bill designed to expand an existing stipend program for teachers going through student teaching and expand the loan forgiveness program for Colorado teachers. Rep. Kipp is one of the bill’s sponsors.
Additionally, State Rep. Kipp supports a bill to ask Colorado voters for permission to take Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) refunds and divert the funds toward public education.
TABOR limits the amount of revenue the State of Colorado can retain and spend and caps government growth, mandating that tax revenue collected in excess of the cap be refunded to taxpayers. In 2022, Colorado taxpayers received refunds ranging from $750 to $1,500.
Rep. Kipp says the bill asking voters to use TABOR refunds was intended to be introduced the first week of the 2023 general assembly. However, due to ongoing policy conversations, the bill has yet to be introduced.
“The only answer we are going to have is to go to the voters and ask them for permission to do something,” Rep. Kipp said. “What that something is, that's the question right now.”