The largest teachers union in the state — representing 39,000 public educators and school staff — says it is seeing a large number of educators who are considering leaving the profession because of low pay, staffing shortages, work load and safety issues — all problems exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That is a major red flag when we have, you know, nearly two-thirds of our educators saying that they are considering leaving the profession,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association.
Their latest survey found 67% of educators reported feeling worried about a mass shooting at their school.
“That is an increase that we're seeing, and certainly something that we need to pay attention to when our educators are saying they feel worried. We can certainly, you know, translate that to how our students must be feeling,” Baca-Oehlert said.
Low pay is the second most cited reason as to why teachers are quitting. The large workload is the primary reason, and CEA places the blame on understaffing.
“We have one of the strongest economies in the country, yet we have facts and statistics like that we have one of the lowest starting salaries for educators in the country,” Baca-Oehlert said.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, Colorado teachers earn on average about $60,000 annually. That's about 40 percent, or $21,000, less than other college-educated professionals in the state.
“Many of our educators still report having to work two to three jobs just to make ends meet,” Baca-Oehlert said.
Educators are facing a new challenge from a loud but small group of parents who are ramping up politically motivated attacks. About 21 percent of educators want to leave the profession because they are tired of having their judgement questioned and having to defend education practices.
The Colorado Education Association wants lawmakers to get to work to solve these issues by providing more mental health support to students, banning automatic assault rifles, changing licensing requirements so teachers from out-of-state can work in Colorado and fix affordable housing.
The union also want educations to be fully funded in Colorado, something it says hasn’t been done since 2010 and has left schools without $10 billion in funding.
“I think when voters understand that we have an entire generation of students who have kindergarten through 12th grade, who have only attended school in an underfunded public education system, they've never experienced a fully funded system, that's something that I think motivates people to say we must do better,” Baca-Oehlert said.
You can read the CEA's full report and the list of solutions here.