Low pay, staff shortages, gun violence: Colorado educators urge lawmakers to pay schools what they’re owed

The state’s largest teachers union released a state of education report that shines a light on challenges facing teachers, many of which are rooted in the need for more school funding

Erica Breunlin
The Colorado Sun
Summit Middle School is pictured on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022.
Tripp Fay/Summit Daily News archive

Mary Rose Donahue keeps a box of scissors in her classroom, not for arts and crafts projects with her students but for the same reason she also stores a baseball bat and a first-aid kit complete with a tourniquet: If a gunman storms the room, each student gets a pair of scissors as a last defense.

“Every teacher’s worst nightmare is a student walking in with a gun,” said Donahue, a language arts teacher at Boulder High School and a senior fellow with the nonprofit Teach Plus Colorado. “But my fear is, what happens if a student I know and love walks in with a gun?”

It’s a perennial worry shared by many educators across Colorado and by the state’s largest teachers union, which is urging lawmakers to prioritize steps to make schools safer and also invest more money into Colorado’s underfunded public education system. 

The Colorado Education Association on Tuesday released its annual Colorado State of Education Report, which paints a grim picture of the realities teachers face — from fears of gun violence in classrooms to trouble making ends meet to increasing demands in light of staff shortages. Many of the challenges are rooted in schools’ urgent need for more funding, the union says. As Colorado has continued to pull funding from public schools through the budget stabilization factor — a budget tool adopted during the Great Recession that allows the General Assembly to give less money to schools than what they are owed — the state’s education system has reached what the union calls “a crisis.”

“As much as we want it to change year after year, we still just have many statistics that we shouldn’t be proud of as Coloradans,” CEA President Amie Baca-Oehlert said.

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