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Teachers set to walk out, more districts cancel class

BRIGHTON, Colo. -- More Colorado teachers and school staff members are planning to walk out of class Thursday and Friday, while more districts are canceling school.

One of those is School District 27J, which educates about 18,000 students in the Brighton area, northeast of Denver.

"I always say in 27J, we do more with less. We’re kind of tired doing more with less. And I think that the state seems to have that current feeling as well," 27J Superintendent Chris Fiedler said.

While some Colorado superintendents are quiet and have lukewarm feelings about the walkouts, Fiedler strongly supports his teachers and staff members.

School District 27J is the poorest of all the Denver-metro area districts. Some starting teachers make only about $35,000 a year.

"I think people have had enough, right, and I’m glad others are stepping up," Fiedler said. "We’ve certainly beat this drum around 27J for a long time."

"We’re teaching with resources that are really out of date," said Kathey Roybal, who taught at 27J for 23 years.

She left the classroom last year is now president of the Brighton Education Association.

"I taught from an English textbook last year that was published in 1997," Roybal said. "Our history textbooks -- it’s been noted that Bill Clinton is still the president."

The reason Colorado schools are so poorly funded is a complex question.

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights prevents legislators from raising taxes to fund schools. Voters must approve any tax increase. They might in November with Initiative 93.

Then there's the negative factor or the budget stabilization factor.

Legislators enacted it during the recession in 2009 to reduce classroom spending.

Since then, it has cost Colorado classrooms about $6 billion. The economy is strong, but the factor is still in effect.

There's also the issue of the marijuana tax, which many Coloradans believe helps schools.

"If I see one more question about the marijuana tax, my head is going to explode," Fiedler said.

The first $40 million in marijuana tax money goes to a statewide fund to build and renovate schools.

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