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How can Colorado solve shortages when some teachers make close to minimum wage?

Posted at 6:30 PM, Mar 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-08 00:51:44-05

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DENVER — The just-resolved, nearly two-week teachers strike in West Virginia hits closer to home in Colorado than you may know. 

West Virginia teachers celebrated a 5 percent raise that ended their nine-day walkout. But before the strike, teachers there were only making, on average, $533 less per year than teachers in Colorado.

Colorado has a teacher crisis. Right now there are 3,000 teaching positions statewide that need to be filled. The reasons for the shortage are simple: Teaching is a hard job that doesn't pay what it should so fewer people are becoming teachers are too many are leaving the profession.

The situation across the state is bad, but it is dire in the rural school districts, which account for 74 percent of all the state's school districts — 180,000 students. 

In Colorado's five lowest paying districts, teachers on average make $26,761 per year. A school district in Pueblo County pays as low as $23,000 per year. That's less than $12 per hour. The minimum wage in Seattle is $15 per hour.

In this 360 report, we examine the teacher crisis in Colorado and look at solutions recommended by a special state task force formed to fix the problem.