Muftic: Hold onto your seats, Colorado: Teacher pay ranks 46th |

Muftic: Hold onto your seats, Colorado: Teacher pay ranks 46th

Felicia Muftic
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Felicia Muftic
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On April 16, Englewood District schools were closed as teachers walked out in protest of school funding levels. Jeffco teachers will do likewise April 24 as will Arizona teachers statewide. Teachers are threatening a walkout in Pueblo as well. Teachers have been walking out in Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kentucky and demonstrating in other states recently in protest of their low pay.

Hold on to your seats, Colorado.

Our teacher pay is ranked 46th in the nation. We are ranked 50th in the nation in terms of teacher pay compared to cost of living. Teachers are threatening a walkout in Pueblo and the Denver area. There is a teacher shortage in Colorado with 3000 unfilled vacancies. Low pay is the reason. Rural areas are the most hard hit.

From the Sky Hi News April 18, 2018 on the ballot in November, “Initiative No. 93, seeks to increase school funding across the state through the implementation of a new taxing regimen for Colorado citizens and businesses. According to East Grand School District Superintendent Frank Reeves, if the ballot measure is approved, East Grand would receive an additional $2.3 million in operational revenue per year.”… “From 2009 to 2013, the district eliminated 40 positions from its workforce…”

Does this underfunding our teachers impact our kids’ education? By one measure, ACT scores, the educational achievement of our pre- college students is in decline and we are below the national average in composite scores. We should be above the national average, not below it. Our adults’ educational level ranking is seventh in the nation and our per capita income ranked 13th, both often factors affecting the degree of student achievement scores. These should ring alarm bells for those smitten with reports that recent test scores have improved. The new tests used by the state to evaluate teachers and student achievement are showing improvements while masking a general decline in the quality of education our kids are getting in Colorado. ACT scores in Colorado have declined steadily between 2009 per 2016. The greatest declines have been in reading, math, and English. Only science scores have improved.

What accounts for Colorado’s low pay scale for teachers? One of the most consistent arguments against teachers’ unions has been that the teachers are experienced but mired in old techniques and incompetent teachers cannot get fired. In reaction to that came the charter school movement, a union busting one, since charter school teachers are not unionized and incompetent teachers should be easier to fire in theory. There has been a steady increase in tax payer funded charter schools, answerable to their board of directors, with less review and accountability from the local districts than are public schools. The number of publicly funded charter schools has increased from 50 in 1993, to 226 in 2016.

Charter schools pay $15,000 per year less than public schools for their teachers and those they hire are usually with less experience. While charter schools have higher state test scores than public schools, they serve fewer kids with disabilities, which may account for some of this disparity. The more skilled teachers, with higher ranked evaluations seek employment in public schools as a career advancement and for economic survival.

The rate of firing ineffective teachers has not changed, either. The teacher shortage could account for this. Filling vacancies is a challenge due to the low pay.

For data cited in this column, visit

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