NEA Error: Colorado Teachers Not 46th In Nation For Pay

Teachers in Arizona are also protesting Thursday, forcing many schools to close.

Jessica Popper, a middle school creative writing teacher in Denver Public Schools (DPS), teaches about 260 students in classes of 35.

And more than one sign referenced an outdated but commonly cited statistic claiming that Colorado ranks 46th in country for teacher pay (it's actually 31st).

As many as 840,000 students were affected by the strikes on Thursday in Arizona, and 27 school districts in neighboring Colorado closed for teachers' strikes as well.

Joe Thomas of the Arizona Education Association has said the walkout has no end date, and educators may have to consider a ballot initiative for education funding if lawmakers do not come up with their own plan. If this is what it takes, then we need to be out here for the next generation.

Since the West Virginia wildcat strike, teachers in Oklahoma went on a nine-day strike of their own, persuading legislators to up their annual pay an average of $6,000, give support staff a raise and increase funding for education by almost $500 million.

Arizona teachers haven't had a raise in 10 years.

Teachers in both states want more resources in the classroom and have received offers either for increased funding or raises. The school funding reductions in the GOP-led states are a byproduct of generous tax cuts. The average wage in Arizona is $22.85 per hour; the average annual income is $48,621, just about what the average teacher's wage is for these 180/185 days of work and vacation. But like those states, Colorado has underfunded education in recent years, and teacher pay has lagged behind the national average.

"Our goal is to ensure that students have access to highly qualified and experienced teachers, that educators are compensated fairly, and to improve the educational environment in the state of Arizona", the group said on its walkout planning website.

Teachers here are pressing ahead with the walkout despite a promise by Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, to increase their salaries 20 percent by 2020. Created to settle a lawsuit over the failure of the state to meet its constitutional obligation to increase state aid annually to keep pace with inflation, it will add $3.5 billion between now and 2025. Today, in a society of controversy, adversariness and division, many teachers have joined the Arizona Educators United, "Red for Ed". On Monday, Ducey told a local radio station that he didn't know why the walkout was moving forward after he unveiled his plan.

"I pull out of the parking lot and [see] my students digging through trash cans with their parents looking for aluminum cans so they are living day-by-day and that's what's really hard about there being so few teachers of color in the classroom", said Aguirre.

Teachers and some lawmakers say Ducey's proposal relies on excessively rosy revenue projections.

The state has not kept up with a constitutional mandate to increase school funding each year by at least the rate of inflation, the CEA says.

Teachers gathered outside Arizona schools to show solidarity in their demand for higher salaries staging "walk-ins" at approximately 1,000 schools that are part of a statewide campaign for a 20 percent raise and more than $1 billion in new education funding.

"Great Schools, Thriving Communities is moving forward full speed ahead", said Lisa Weil, executive director of Great Education Colorado, an advocacy group. "This raise is earned, and it is deserved".

Douglas has said that what the teachers are doing is illegal and that they may get something on their permanent records that says they walked off the job. "The struggle is far more than a raise for teachers", he told Mother Jones.

  • Leroy Wright