Welcome to This Day in Today,
My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!
Here we are, JeffCo day at the Capitol in Denver, Colorado. Red for Ed is the mantra of the teachers, jail those teachers is the battle cry of Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Paul Lundeen, both from El Paso County. The two have sponsored Senate Bill 18-264. The bill prohibits school districts from paying teachers by stating, and I quote, “Public school employers are prohibited from consenting to or condoning a strike and from paying a public school teacher for any day during which the public school teacher participates in a strike.” Really? Because JeffCo teachers are using their earned vacation days for today’s trips to the Capital. Where are the defenders of the First Amendment’s rights to grievance and assembly, and the freedom of speech? If a teacher is using earned vacation time to do, well, anything, how is that a strike? How is that the business of the illustrious legislative representatives of El Paso County?
But at least Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Paul Lundeen are obvious about where they stand. Look at former state senator Mike Johnston, running for the Democratic nomination for governor. Today he says he stands with teachers, but it was as a former school principal and state representative that he pushed through the unfunded mandate of SB 10-191. And then there is the Superintendent of Jefferson County, Jason Glass. After being backed into a corner by the usage of vacation and sick requests, Jeffco canceled classes on Thursday, April 26th, but then reiterated that it is a work day for anyone using vacation and legitimate sick time. Ok, that’s probably fair. But then the superintendent post on social media about how serious the education issues are in Colorado and listed a vanilla list of bullet points:
• Colorado currently ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil funding.
• In Colorado, we fund our students at an average of $2,500 per student less than the national average – not the upper end of the scale – average.
• Only two states, Oklahoma and Arizona, spend less than Colorado on services for students with special needs.
• Despite constitutional protections designed to protect public school funding in Colorado, public schools have been underfunded by billions of dollars since 2008.
• Colorado ranked 50th of all states and the District of Columbia in how teacher pay compares to that of other college-educated workers.
• 95 percent of teacher salaries are below the standard of living in rural Colorado.
• Colorado is experiencing a significant teacher shortage. This is compounded in that close to 20% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years, citing low pay and low public regard as two leading reasons for leaving the profession.
• It is estimated that there is close to $18 billion dollars in school construction needs across the state.
Guess what? Many of those issues are issues which he, as the Superintendent and working with the School Board, controls. And guess what? That’s not what the teacher action today is about.
Thursday, April 26, is a “day of action” to talk to lawmakers about support of state pensions in the PERA program which replaces social security for CO teachers. Let me say that again, CO teachers do not receive Social Security, and now the state wants to change teachers PERA retirement benefits. “We are asking people, if they can take a personal day, to go downtown and talk to legislators,” Scott Kwasny, spokesman for the Jeffco Education Association said recently. Yes, Colorado teachers are asking lawmakers to devote some of the state budget surpluses to education, the primary issue of the day is PERA. And yet, Dr. Glass made a warm and fuzzy pro-education statement about other issues. Hostility from the rights, co-opting political maneuvering from the supposed left. How about we just fix the problem. How about we just pay our teachers, and ensure promises to their retirement at the time of enrollment are honored? Do we change the rules of a baseball game in the 5th Inning? Let’s be fair.
That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,
Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.
Thank you for listening!