Teacher shortage

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Cathy Kipp was at a recent back-to-school night at Kruse Elementary School in Fort Collins. She was handing out flyers and printed information about Amendment 73.

"This is game changing," said Kipp, a member of the Poudre School District Board of Education. "This would be the best increase in public school funding that we've been able to get in decades in Colorado."

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Colorado has the fourth worst teacher pay gap in the country. A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute found Colorado teachers make 35.1 percent less that other workers living in similar parts of the state with similar education.

The paper tracks teacher pay since 1979, when they made about 5.5 percent less than comparable workers nationally. By 2017 that gap had grown to 18.7 percent.

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Sarah Marsh is a preschool teacher who works with four- and five-year-olds at a school in Erie, Colorado. She loves her job.

"The moment where a kid first zips their zipper is amazing," she said. "They feel so powerful, they can do it themselves and they just have this look and it feels so cool to be there."

But what Marsh doesn't love is the pay.

Michael Forsberg

In June KUNC posed a Curious Colorado question to listeners: "Are you a teacher - or do you know one - who has to get a summer job to make ends meet? Share your plans with us."

Kery Harrelson, the IT Director for East Grand School District in Granby, Colorado, responded, saying he 'crisscrossed' the Continental Divide.

His summer break essay follows:

Over my summer break I walked about 180 miles.

I've been the IT Director for East Grand Schools for well over a decade but have worked several side and summer jobs as well. I've been a bellman, a raft guide, freelance computer tech, network engineer and graphic designer. Colorado home prices can be prohibitively high so my side jobs - especially my latest - have been essential in augmenting my income and ultimately allowing me to buy my house.

Ben Brown

In June KUNC posed a Curious Colorado question to listeners: "Are you a teacher - or do you know one - who has to get a summer job to make ends meet? Share your plans with us."

Ben Brown, a sixth grade science and design thinking teacher in Summit County, responded, saying he spent 20 years working in the private sector before becoming a teacher. He loves teaching.

His summer break essay follows:

Over my summer break, I launched a business.

The last bell of the school year rang. I watched students stream out of the school, excited about what summer will bring. Their excitement is always so infectious. I packed up my classroom, I completed my end of year checklist, high fived my colleagues and then headed out of the building myself.

If you ever hear a teacher say they don't like summer break, I think they're lying. I love summer.

Sarah Weeks

In June KUNC posed a Curious Colorado question to listeners: "Are you a teacher - or do you know one - who has to get a summer job to make ends meet? Share your plans with us."

Sarah Weeks, a K-5 media specialist and STEM teacher at Lopez Elementary School in Fort Collins, responded, saying she loves her job but can't live off her teaching salary alone.

Her summer break essay follows:

Maya Angelou said, "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style."

I'm discovering that this quote captures the essence of my philosophy of life and my career as a professional educator.

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

According to experts, one of the biggest factors is pay. In 2016, the state ranked 46 in the nation for average salary. Rural schools have an even harder time recruiting because the pay is often lower than urban areas and there's not much of a hiring pool.

"If you lose a teacher, there's nobody that you can just snag from the community to keep up," said Democratic Rep. Barbara McLachlan, a former educator.

Bente Birkeland / KUNC

Thousands of Colorado teachers converged on the state Capitol Thursday and Friday to demand more funding for public education, higher pay and a more favorable fix to the state’s pension plan for public employees.

“For too many years, Colorado has been chronically underfunding its schools,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, vice president of the Colorado Education Association. “We educators see what that means to our classrooms and our buses and our cafeterias.”

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

A group of teachers stood outside Webber Middle School in Fort Collins before the first bell rang on Monday. They were dressed in red and holding signs with phrases like ‘Education Benefits Everyone’ and ‘My 2nd Job Bought This Sign.’

The teachers were participating in a citywide walk-in to show support for public education.

“We’re not out here to say we need more money because we want to be millionaires, you know,” said Jason Nurton, who teaches reading and an outdoor living class at Webber. “We’re out here saying, ‘give us what we need to do the job.’”

MiraCosta Community College / flickr

School District 27J will become the first metro Denver area district to implement a four-day week.

Starting in August, students will be off Mondays, but Tuesday through Friday school days could be extended up to an extra hour and a half to ensure students receive the same classroom time.

Parents in need of childcare for Mondays can send their younger K-5 children to a district-run daycare. They will have to find other options for older kids.

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