Some El Paso County teachers join funding fight

DENVER (KKTV) - Some El Paso County teachers are joining the fight for higher pay and more money for schools.

They tell 11 News the state of Colorado isn't prioritizing funding for education, and it is the students who are being hurt the most.

"More and more things are put on our plate with higher class sizes every day, without the funds to do it. We have classrooms with leaking roofs, we have classrooms with books from the 1990s and the 2000s. Those are 10-year-old books; we can do better for our kids,” said Phyllis Robinette, the Pikes Peak Education Association president and a teacher at Palmer Elementary School in School District 11.

Monday, some area teachers joined with hundreds of others from across Colorado to rally at the state Capitol.

The stats are dismal; despite a robust economy, both teacher salaries and funding per pupil are among the worst in the nation.

"It is time, over 10 years of just really cutting funding in our school districts, Colorado is now ranked 46th in the nation [for teacher pay] and we can really do better," Robinette said.

And in a state where teacher pay already hovers towards the bottom, El Paso County teachers make less nearly $10,000 less than the state average, according to a recent 11 Call For Action investigation. That same investigation found that some who work in education in the county are getting paid handsomely: more than 100 school district executives bring home six-figure salaries.

El Paso County also has unique challenges that some other counties don't have, having more school districts than any other county in the state.

“Our region especially is hit hard. We have so many school districts from the smallest to some of the biggest, and some of our districts from the lowest of impact to the highest of impact. The way we’re currently doing funding and education really needs to take a look at," Robinette said.

According to a report by the Denver Post, the state underfunds its schools by $822 million annually, with teachers reportedly paying for student needs out of their own pockets. The Associated Press does report that lawmakers plan to boost funding per student by 6 percent next year.

Monday's rally was organized by the Colorado Education Association, Colorado's largest teacher's union. The Denver Post reports one of the union's goals are ending corporate tax breaks “until school funding is restored or until per-pupil funding reaches the national average.”

The union is also opposing proposed changes to the pension system for teachers and other public employees.