East Grand teachers want to march for better pay
Teachers at East Grand School District looking to march on the state capitol to demand better salaries have asked the school board to support them.
On Tuesday, Erin-Rose Schneider, a math teacher at Middle Park High School, approached the board of education after staff at East Grand were sent a survey to see if they would attend a march on March 19 at the state capitol to demand education funding. Thirty staff members — mostly teachers and some paraprofessionals — said they would.
“We recently came to you to ask for an increase to the base salary,” Schneider said to the board. “We heard from you that we needed to go to our state legislators, that you can’t do anything until there are changes at the state level… In response to you asking us to go to our legislators, we have. Their response was, ‘Go back to your local school board.’”
The march, organized by the Colorado Education Association, specifically demands securing livable wages for educators, passing a statewide ballot initiative in 2020 to raise education revenue and eliminating the budget stabilization factor by 2022. The budget stabilization factor is a state budget tool that has proportionally reduced school district funding since the recession.
Schneider asked the board to support the staff’s march by either cancelling school that day or supporting them in some other way.
“Join us on the steps of the capitol,” Schneider asked the board. “Tell Colorado’s elected officials that enough is enough. Encourage other community members to join us as well.”
While the board was supportive of the intentions behind the march, there were questions about how the school day would be affected.
“We totally support it, but there’s a lot of moving pieces,” said Angel Higginbotham, school board vice president.
Closing school for the day raised concerns about timing with state testing and the low number of hours remaining for the high school and middle school take off. Keeping school open with that number of teachers gone would be a strain on the already limited number of substitutes.
Higginbotham recommended looking at which staff would be missing from each school and see if a “reshuffling” might be possible to keep the district open for the day.
A big part of Schneider’s case for better pay rested on the approaching retirements of well-qualified teachers and the need to continue attracting high caliber educators, something that she believes will not be possible at the current pay rate the district offers.
The average salary for teachers in East Grand last year was $49,564. According to a 2017 state analysis, the cost of living for teachers in East Grand was $58,037, making it the eighth most expensive Colorado district to live in.
“I myself with 12 years experience, a master’s degree and 40 additional credits would not be able to afford housing if I were to move into the district right now,” Schneider said. “My current home has doubled in price in the last five years.”
While the average salary for teachers is almost $50,000 for the district, the base pay for a beginning teacher with no higher education credits is $37,174. To get base pay up to $40,000 requires a 7.7% raise across the teacher salary schedule, East Grand’s superintendent said.
To increase the base pay to $50,000 a year, which would be more ideal for teacher retention, would require a 26% raise across the schedule. Such a raise is difficult if not impossible for the district with current state funding, which is part of the reason the board encouraged teachers to go to the state level.
“You say your hands are tied, so I see this is something we need to work together on,” Schneider said.
The board members said they were interested in getting together with teachers to see if the march would be possible. Nothing is yet official, but both parties said they hope to work together to find a solution.
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Grand County voters will be deciding on a number of issues this November from tax increases to school board memberships. Ballots were mailed out last week and Election Day is Nov. 2.