There is only one job that is better than being an educator — being the new president of the Colorado Education Association, representing 35,000 educators in Colorado.
As the new CEA president, this is an exciting time to be taking the helm with Amendment 73, pro-public education candidates at every level and an aggressive legislative agenda we are setting for 2019. There are a lot of issues out there facing educators, but our top priority is ensuring educators are respected and valued for their contributions to providing a world-class education for every Colorado student.
Last spring about 17,000 educators gathered at our State Capitol over numerous days to call for increased funding. They joined with educators in other states around the country, such as Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
In Colorado, we asked a fairly simple question: If Colorado has one of the top economies in the United States, then why does it have one of the lowest-funded education systems.
The Colorado legislature gives millions every year to corporations for tax breaks yet doesn’t properly invest in education. We have a $7.5 billion gap in what the state should be spending on education as mandated by our state constitution.
Read also: “CON | Amendment 73 would kill jobs, feed bureaucracy — without helping our kids.”
We live in a prosperous and well-off state. We shouldn’t have school districts that can’t afford to stay open five days a week or students who have to use out-of-date textbooks. There is no reason why teachers should have to spend an average of $656 per year of their own money on school supplies for their students to make up the gap for classrooms needs. And teachers who have advanced degrees should not have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet for their own families.
We are eager to build on the momentum of the Days of Action at the Colorado State Capitol last spring to help drive positive change in Colorado’s education system. That starts with the upcoming election.
We stood on the steps of the Capitol to call for increased wages to pay educators as professionals, better health care and retirement benefits, and funding for community-based schools. But an even more pressing priority is advocating for the Great Schools, Thriving Communities initiative, now listed on the November ballot as Amendment 73.
Amendment 73 would raise $1.6 billion for K-12 education by increasing state income taxes at a graduated rate for corporations and the 8 percent of Colorado residents who earn more than $150,000 of taxable income per year. This means 92 percent of Coloradans will see no impact at all to their personal taxes.
Somehow, today middle- and low-income households pay MORE in state and local taxes than the highest-income households. Amendment 73 will restore balance to the tax code by making the wealthy pay their fair share.
Amendment 73 will give schools the funding they desperately need to recruit and retain qualified teachers, strengthen math, science, vocational, literacy and mental health programs and provide a safe learning environment for all students.
Colorado invests $2,800 less per pupil than the national average, trailing even Mississippi and Alabama. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of our school districts have teacher shortages because Colorado has the least competitive teacher wages in the country. This is not fair to our students living in the strongest state economy in the nation. That’s why a “yes” vote on Amendment 73 is so critical.
In poll after poll, Coloradans rank education as their top priority. This fall we can finally do something about it. Let’s keep the momentum going – let’s stand for the education system all students deserve by voting Yes on 73 and electing pro public education candidates.