Teachers swarm Capitol to push for better education funding

DENVER -- Thousands of teachers walked off the job on Thursday to march to the state Capitol as part of a movement to protest shortfalls with education funding.

A wave of teachers clad in red stormed the stairs of the Capitol to demand better funding for education.

“It’s frustrating. It’s so frustrating,” said Terra Shaffner, a teacher at Buffalo Ridge Elementary School.

The teachers chanted “No more cuts to education.”

Several said they’re passionate about teaching and did not choose the career field for the money, but say they deserve a livable wage.

“I cannot make ends meet with my paycheck,” a Margaret Rayner, a Wheat Ridge High School biology teacher.

In order to put food on the table, Rayner said she has a second job on the weekends as an Uber driver. She worries about the proposed cuts to teacher pension plans.

“It’s scary. I don’t see retiring, definitely not in 30 years, because I can’t afford it,” Rayner said.

Another teacher is calling for more money for the classroom.

“I basically fund 90 percent of what’s in my classroom, all of the books, all of the supplies, everything,” Shaffner said.

According to the National Education Association, in 2017 Colorado teacher salaries rank 31st in the nation.

“It’s a travesty. If the teachers aren’t getting paid what they need to get paid, the kids aren’t getting the education they need in this town,” a construction worker attending the rally said.

Rayner said if students are going to be put first, the system has to change.

“Every politician inside that Capitol building had teachers that got them to where they are and look what we’re doing. It’s not right,” Rayner said.

Also at the rally, people collected signatures for what they say would be a solution to the problem.

Initiative 93 would increase taxes for those who make $150,000 a year or more, generating $1.6 billion annually for schools.

Educators hope to collect the nearly 94,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot by November.

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