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Teachers march to state Capitol to demand more classroom funding

DENVER -- Several hundred Colorado teachers made their way to the state Capitol on Monday morning, demanding more funding for education and protection for their retirement plans.

Educators came from Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Thornton, Denver and Englewood -- among other districts.

So many teachers called off in the Englewood School District that it was forced to close.

One Englewood teacher, Stephanie Pickett, said she wants to help not just her but also future teachers.

"I don’t really have a lot to pay the bills at the end of the month," Pickett said. "I’m actually a first-year teacher and I’ve actually spent well over $1,000 into my classroom, so it’s a challenge."

After walking around the exterior of Capitol, teachers were led inside the Rotunda.

Rep. Jim Wilson, a Republican and former educator, wants teachers to know lawmakers are on the verge of a major spending boost.

"I find it ironic they are here on a day in which the largest spending boost in 10 years is being discussed," Wilson said.

Wilson said nearly $500 million is planned on being invested -- money that would help pay of the "negative factor," stabilize the Public Employees’ Retirement Association , help recruit more rural teachers and provide enough funding to superintendents that could allow them to increase pay.

Wilson does believe the retirement age should be raised to protect the state's pension fund. Right now, it facing major liabilities.

"I think raising the retirement age needs to be altered. If I start in education at 21 and retire at 51, there is something wrong with that picture," WIlson said.

Currently, in order to retire in Colorado with full benefits, it is a combination of current age and years of service for teachers.

"We need to ensure teachers have retirement security," House Democratic Speaker Crisanta Duran said.

However, when asked if Democrats might support increasing the retirement age to improve PERA, she said "tough decisions" still lie ahead.

The rally was organized by the Colorado Education Association.