Saturday, April 7, 2018

Hold onto your seats, Colorado. Our teacher pay is 46th

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News April 23-25, 2018

On April 16, Englewood District schools were closed as teachers walked out in protest of school funding levels.Jeffco teachers will do likewise April 24 as will Arizona teachers statewide.Teachers are threatening a walkout in Pueblo as well. Teachers have been walking out in  Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kentucky and demonstrating in other states recently  in protest of their low pay. Hold on to your seats, Colorado. Our teacher pay is ranked 46th in the nation. We are ranked 50th in the nation in terms of teacher pay compared to cost of living.There is a teacher shortage in Colorado with 3000 unfilled vacancies . Low pay  is the reason. Rural areas are the most hard hit.

In the meantime, some GOP senators in the Colorado legislature want to stop these walkouts and penalize teachers for doing so. They have introduced a bill to that effect. Perhaps their time would be better spent in increasing teachers' salaries so that they are not 50th in the nation when they consider the cost of living.

From the Sky Hi News April 18, 2018 on the ballot in November," Initiative No. 93, seeks to increase school funding across the state through the implementation of a new taxing regimen for Colorado citizens and businesses. According to East Grand School District Superintendent Frank Reeves, if the ballot measure is approved, East Grand would receive an additional $2.3 million in operational revenue per year.".." From 2009 to 2013, the district eliminated 40 positions from its workforce.... "  
Does this underfunding our teachers impact our kids’ education? By one measure, ACT scores, the educational achievement of our pre- college students is in decline and we are below the national average in composite scores.  We should be above the national average, not below it. Our adults’ educational level ranking is 7th in the nation and our per capita income ranked 13th, both often factors affecting the degree of student achievement scores.  These should ring alarm bells for those smitten with reports that recent test scores have improved. The new tests used by the state to evaluate teachers and student achievement are showing improvements while masking a general decline in the  quality of education our kids are getting in Colorado.
It is difficult to measure historical differences in test scores because the standard and measures  keep changing. But trying to compare scores with past years is like comparing old apples with new oranges.  One measure that shows more consistency with fewer fundamental changes in method is ACT scores which indicates  career and college readiness. ACT scores in Colorado have declined steadily between 2009 per 2016 . The greatest declines have been in reading,  math, and English . Only science scores have improved.
What accounts for Colorado’s low pay scale for teachers?  One of the most consistent arguments against teachers’ unions has been that the teachers are experienced but mired in old techniques and incompetent teachers cannot get fired. In reaction to that came the charter school movement, a union busting one, since charter school teachers are not unionized and incompetent teachers should be easier to fire in theory. There has been a steady increase in tax payer  funded charter schools, answerable to their board of directors, with less review and accountability from the local districts than are public schools.The number of publicly funded charter schools has increased from 50 in 1993, to 226 in 2016.

Charter schools pay $15,000 per year less than public schools for their teachers and those they hire are usually with less experience.  The more skilled teachers, with higher ranked evaluations seek employment in public schools as a career advancement and for economic survival.  The average public charter school teacher earns $39,052 per year; the average public school teacher in Colorado earns $54,455 per year . Per capita income in Colorado averages  just above $53,000. The hiring of less experienced teachers in public schools has also become a practice fueled by pinched budgets

The publicly funded charter school  movement has experienced great popularity with parents who have found that the “one size fits all students” of public education does not suit their child, Some school boards like it, too, for more than economic reasons.  Low income students in charter schools have higher test scores than those in public schools. However, charter schools also serve fewer kids with disabilities, which may account for part of higher test score comparisons with public schools. The rate  of firing ineffective teachers has not changed, either. The teacher shortage  could account for this.

Full disclosure: I have a daughter who is a teacher in a Colorado public school and she has taught in her 15 year career in public, charter, and parochial schools.  I have had children and grand children as students in all of those, plus private and elite boarding schools.  All have their value, but the most valuable of all for the most people are public schools.

Teachers are walking out in Colorado, too.


CPI) of $53,504.Mar 22, 2018



  1. Thanks for your kind comments. I know the posting is short, but it is often the draft for a future newspaper column and I am held to about 550 words. For more details and information, at the end of each post are links to sources I tapped with much more information on the subject.

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