Teachers protest funding gap, some PERA changes at Capitol

Teachers protest funding gap, some PERA changes at Capitol

"We're all in this thing together", Poudre School District teacher Charlie McNamee said.

Teachers have been deeply critical of detrimental cuts to public education over the past decade, low classroom teacher pay, soaring class sizes and outdated textbooks.

Cohn says at this point, she's 51 years old and it's just not feasible for her to start a new career - which means she's dependent on getting the pension benefits she expected. But they want legislators to realize schools need more resources.

But retirement wasn't the only issue at hand - Deirdre Boyd, a Steamboat Springs High School teacher, said some teachers in her area work two or three jobs to get by because of the high cost of living in the rural district.

"We have a team working on action plans to help everybody learn and grow on how to respond to our students", Smith said.

But in Englewood Schools, so many employees planned to be absent that day that the district canceled school for all but its preschool.

But advocates are pushing for more because the state is now underfunding schools by about $830 million, Dallman said.

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And even though lawmakers tried to reverse some of those cuts by passing a almost $500 million tax to increase spending, it's not enough, said Robin Wiser, a high school science teacher from Berryhill.

"Educators have been energized by what's happened in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky and Arizona", she said, referring to teacher walkouts or demonstrations in those states. "We need a viable profession".

Colorado ranks 40th in spending per student, according to the AP.

Lawmakers raised taxes to permanently increase educators' salaries by an average of $6,100 a year, increase classroom spending and give support staff a raise.

Meanwhile, PERA has an unfunded liability estimated at $32 billion to $50 billion - and this is after the state legislature raised employee contributions to the plan in 2010. But, this doesn't change the situation that prompted Colorado teachers to protest in the first place.

"There are a lot of rewards", Cohn said, "they're not monetary, but you better have a rich spouse or a side job".

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