DENVER (KDVR) — Some of Colorado’s most accredited teachers took a pay cut during the pandemic period.

The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards offers certification for public school teachers. Teachers pay out of their own pocket to get the certification.

Many states incentivize teachers to get the certification with extra money, while others offer nothing. Colorado has given certified teachers a $1,600 annual stipend since the late 2000s.

The Colorado Department of Education froze the stipend in 2020, saying the legislature failed to fund it in the COVID era – just one of many cuts to the education system. Teachers said they didn’t know. They simply didn’t get the pay one day.

Kim Ursett, a veteran Denver Public Schools teacher with board certification, said the stipend freeze feels like a slap in the face in an already difficult time.

“By not providing the stipends, not funding for it, it actually is hurtful,” Ursett said. “And it’s not raising up the teaching professional like we would like to see, especially with how difficult school has been in the last two years with COVID.”

Advocates like Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association, said teachers had enough problems during COVID and general finances were tough to manage. Colorado teachers rank almost dead last in the nation in terms of educator pay.

“Many of our educators, sadly, report having to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet,” she said. “One of the pandemic fallouts was many of those jobs went away just because of various factors. So I think things like having these stipends, those help our educators supplement their income.”

Board-certified teachers said they are confused about why their stipend got cut when the state itself got a massive injection of education funds during COVID. The state and its school districts got a collective $1.8 billion in funding from various federal COVID relief bills.

Colorado has just under 1,200 national board-certified teachers and nearly 500 candidates. If each received a stipend, the state’s bill would run between $1.9 million and $2.7 million a year.

All told, Colorado got $1.8 billion dedicated to education. The yearly stipend would be a drop in the bucket – but the education department says it just doesn’t work that way.

The department said its hands are tied. COVID relief funding – even if designated for education – has to fill certain criteria.

“First of all, these stipends are state funded. Esser funds are federal funds. The legislature would have to change that funding stream. But that wouldn’t even be possible in this case because CARES Act funds come with specific requirements for their use as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. It isn’t like the state received a load of cash that can be moved around for whatever reason,” CDE said.