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More Colorado teacher walk-outs force school districts to shut down

UPDATE:

Weld Re5J in Johnstown/Milliken has now canceled all classes for Friday because of the walkouts. Any staff not participating must report to work.

DENVER — Despite lawmakers approving an additional $150 million for K-12 education this year, thousands of teachers across the state plan to march to the capitol on Thursday and Friday to demand more.

The mass walkouts were first reported by Complete Colorado nearly two weeks ago when a Poudre School District teacher in Fort Collins contacted the news organization with concerns about the extensive plan by the Colorado Education Association (CEA).

At that time, the only walkout known about was by Englewood Schools.

CEA representatives from across the state put together the well-organized effort to put pressure on the state legislature to address two key pieces of legislation.

The paid walkouts are a demand for more money and to bring attention to Senate Bill 18-200 “Modifications to PERA Public Employees’ Retirement Association to eliminate unfunded liability,” House Bill 18-1232 “New School Funding Distribution Formula”, and Initiative 93 or the “Funding for Public School” initiative that is likely to go to voters in November.

SB 18-200 passed the Senate and is expected to be heard on the House floor for second reading on Tuesday. HB 18-1232, dubbed the Superintendent’s bill for the collective efforts of nearly all of Colorado’s superintendents to revamp the funding formula, is stalled in the House Education Committee.

Initiative 93 would raise income taxes by .37 percent to 3.62 percent based on net income levels and exempt that collection from Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) regulations. It would add $1.9 billion in new revenue to education funding. It is specifically tied to the successful passage of HB 18-1232.

As of Monday, Complete Colorado was aware of at least nine districts that were canceling classes on Thursday or Friday because of the walkouts.

Thursday:

Douglas County Public Schools

Jeffco Public Schools

Friday:

Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Cherry Creek Schools

Denver Public Schools

Poudre School District

School District 27J (Adams County)

St. Vrain Valley Schools

Thompson School District

In most all cases, charter schools are operating as normal. Check with specific schools for more information. Complete Colorado is not aware of any charter schools that will be closed.

Douglas County parent Brad Wann said the current design of the state’s Public Employee Retirement Account (PERA) needs overhauling before any funding changes are considered.

“Perhaps if close to 30 percent of the payroll portion of the budget wasn’t locked into a defined benefit pension plan … there would be more budget available for raises,” he said. “This is not a problem with the Colorado Legislature, it is an issue of retirement costs expanding to neutralize a budget that would otherwise be available for raises.”

Some school districts canceled classes in anticipation of high participation. Two days after Complete Colorado contacted the St. Vrain School District about the proposed walkout, officials there posted on their website their intention to be proactive.

“It has been brought to our attention that the Colorado Education Association (CEA) is organizing a statewide teacher rally scheduled for Friday, April 27, designed to further address important matters related to public education in Colorado,” the website reads. “While this is a statewide initiative organized by CEA, it will have an impact on schools in St. Vrain.  In anticipation of high levels of teacher participation at the rally in Denver, we have changed Friday, April 27 to be a non-student contact day, as we will not be able to ensure adequate supervision and instruction. While it is always a difficult decision to cancel school for students, safety and quality learning experiences must be our highest priority. Therefore, this change is necessary.”

Many of the districts’ superintendents have been supportive of the efforts, but have made clear teachers will have to use leave time to attend, and those not attending will still need to report to work.

“I also think it is worth recognizing that our teachers are taking personal time to advocate for what they believe will provide for a brighter future for all of our students,” said Cherry Creek Superintendent Harry Bull.

Jeffco Superintendent, Jason Glass, encouraged parents to participate in “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day,” which falls on Thursday. He also advocated for more funding.

“As you are likely aware, K-12 public education funding and the long-term stabilization of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) system are problematic in Colorado. Public education staff, parents, and other supporters have become increasingly vocal in their advocacy for increased funding for our K-12 public schools and the stabilization of PERA,” Glass wrote.

Others remained neutral, but PSD Superintendent Sandra Smyser wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as her peers in an email to Poudre parents.

“As a district that has been leading conversations in Colorado regarding the need for more K-12 education funding, we understand and respect our teachers’ passion for bringing awareness to this issue,” Smyser said. “However, we regret this action is taking place during the school day and impacting students.”

Wann added that asking the legislature to do something that is the responsibility of the local school board is moot.

“Color me confused because the legislature does not have the power to provide raises,” Wann said. “The Colorado Legislature determines the amount of money the state puts into the education budget. That money is then distributed to local school districts where local boards make the determination concerning teachers’ pay. Local boards, like the one here in Douglas County that was bought and paid for by the union, decide what a teacher earns. Now whether you like that or disagree with it is immaterial, as the fact is the Colorado Legislature does not provide pay raises for teachers.”

 

 

 

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