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Teacher Beth Enderle's classroom at Morgridge Academy on the grounds of National Jewish Health in Denver, Colo., on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. Morgridge Academy is a K-8 school for students who have health issues and who require medical assistance.(Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

A potential crisis is looming for Colorado's schools as nearly 40% of the state's educators are considering leaving the profession following the 2020-2021 academic year, according to a new report by the Colorado Education Association.

Among the top reasons educators are considering leaving the profession include unrealistic workloads, potentially unsafe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic and low wages, CEA officials said in a Thursday release, citing a December survey to which more than 5,000 members responded.

The results of the survey are not surprising, said Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of CEA and a high school counselor. 

"The member survey reinforced what we've known for far too long: Colorado needs to make the finical commitment to ensure all of our students and educators have the resources they need," Baca-Oehlert said in a media release. "When educators don't feel support, they leave. When educators leave, students suffer. It's as simple as that." 

Older educators reported they were much more likely to consider leaving the education field, as 45% of educators from 50- to 59-years-old reported they were considering leaving, and 53% of educators 60- to 69-years-old.

In comparison, only 36% of educators from 30- to 39-years-old stated they were considering leaving the field. 

Other findings include that non-metro school district educators are 4% more likely to consider leaving the field compared to metro school districts.

"Educators are not okay right now and cannot continue at this exhausting rate," said Emily Bochenek, a high school special education teacher in Estes Park, in the release. "To continuously face underfunding on top of the disparities and stressors intensified by (the) pandemic without any resolve is entirely unacceptable."

School funding was cut $577 million in the state's 2020-2021 budget as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a recent survey by Harstad Strategic Research, a Boulder-based research firm, found that 75% of Coloradans are in favor of restoring the funds.

"The majority of Colorado voters agree that giving educators and students the resources they need should be our legislature's priority," Baca-Oehlert said. "The COVID-19 pandemic certainly didn't create the funding issues we're seeing today, but it has shone a light on the system of 'haves and have nots' that currently exists. It is crucial that we give the schools, students and educators the resources they deserve so that we can provide safe, equitable schools for every student in Colorado."

Earlier this month the Joint Budget Committee approved legislation that will hold K-12 school funding constant, instead of making downward adjustments to the budget due to a decline in enrollment. This school year Colorado public schools lost more than 30,000 students when compared to last school year, the first drop in enrollment since 1988.

The committee is expected to restore the cuts to schools within the coming weeks with supplemental funding. 

"If we believe in the future of our students and this career, if we truly value those who are bearing every burden of life right now, then legislative action needs to begin alleging with words and promises," Bochenek said.

"Our wellness is on the line. Compassionate educators and dedicated districts will not continue to fall victim to a broken system that undermines their dedication and devalues their humanity. We are not martyrs and deserve better."

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