Colorado’s largest teacher’s union says burnout, low pay is putting public education at risk

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DENVER (KDVR) — The Colorado Education Association represents 39,000 educators in Colorado, and is looking ahead to the next legislative session to address priorities for teachers and students across the state.

The CEA held a news conference Tuesday to present its “State of Education in Colorado” report and discuss 2022 legislative priorities.

“The last 21 months have been crushing for our educators and students and there seems to be no end in sight,” said CEA president Amie Baca-Oehlert in a press release. “Our 39,000 members are ready to stand up and fight for the schools our students and educators deserve. Our voices will be the loudest at the Capitol come January as our students, educators and communities deserve nothing less.”

Baca-Oehlert said the CEA conducted a survey of its members back in 2020, which found 40% of respondents were considering resigning or retiring at the end of the school year. That same survey found 67% of respondents were considering leaving the industry at the end of the 2021 school year.

“Because we’re educators, we do give,” said CEA Secretary-Treasurer Amber Wilson. “We give and we give until we can’t give anymore and then we realize we’ve given so much that we’re broke … that we’re broken.”

Wilson is an English teacher at Denver’s Thomas Jefferson High School, and says burnout is a frequent topic of discussion among her colleagues, especially younger educators.

“There’s not a light at the tunnel for any of them at all. Even just getting through the school year, they’re like I don’t know if I can do that,” she says. “Nothing has been taken off the plates of educators, so we came back [from remote learning], and if anything, things got added on, and that’s what’s creating this sense of burnout and lack of sustainability.”

According to the CEA’s State of Education Report, inadequate funding, educator burnout and educator shortage are major contributing factors to what it describes as putting the “public education system at risk.”

Colorado ranked near the bottom of the country in 2019 in per-pupil spending, at more than $2,000 below the national average, according to the 2019 Annual Survey of School Finances.

The National Education Association found that Colorado ranked 48th in the country for starting teacher pay in 2021.

Baca-Oehlert said pay and lack of resources for students are becoming demoralizing for Colorado teachers, and if the state doesn’t do something drastic to change money coming in, the problem will only grow.

“Anecdotally, we have seen more people leave in the middle of the school year than we have in previous years,” Baca-Oehlert said.

You can watch the news conference on FOX31 NOW in the player below.

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