Thousands of Colorado teachers spent two days rallying at the state Capitol for higher salaries and more money for schools. They highlighted long-standing funding problems and potential changes to the state’s public employee pension program currently being debated by the legislature.
Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland spoke with Brian Eason of The Associated Press and Ed Sealover with the Denver Business Journal about the rallies.
On Why Teachers are Rallying in Colorado When Record Amounts of Money is Being Budgeted for Schools:
Eason: Part of it is just the national movement right now. This all started in West Virginia, then it moved to Oklahoma, now it’s here as well as Arizona. So, I think you can’t ignore the national climate, but you also can’t ignore what’s happening in Colorado. This year we had more money in the budget than we’ve had in a long time. That has allowed lawmakers to boost education funding … but there’s still a lot of outstanding issues that teachers want to be addressed. We’re debating massive changes to the state pension right now that ultimately no matter what you do about it, it’s going to come out of teacher’s pockets.
On How More Money for Schools Could Take 495 Million from Transportation This Session:
Sealover: If teachers were to say OK, we want that money coming to schools instead of transportation, then you gear up with a fight with others in the state, particularly the business community who say our roads are so poor that they are becoming a detriment to attracting jobs. And don’t forget those jobs are needed since the state’s funding formula requires businesses to pay about four and a half times what homes pay in the property taxes that fund schools.
On Whether There is a Way Not to Pit Transportation Against Education:
Eason: I don’t see a way to avoid that fight. The transportation bonds that Republicans want to see would earmark hundreds of millions of dollars a year, for 20 years to pay off some transportation bonds. If I’m a teacher and I’m looking at that, and I’m looking at well, what happens in the next recession? Well what happened in the last recession? Last recession, we cut a bunch of education funding.
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