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CEA Media Release: Colorado Education Association Releases Annual State of Education Report and 2022 Legislative Priorities

Posted on: December 14, 2021
Posted By: CEA Communications
Posted in: Press
Tagged: COVID-19, Education Funding, Educator Pay, Educator Shortage, Legislative Session

December 14, 2021

Colorado Education Association Releases Annual State of Education Report
State’s Largest Union Also Releases 2022 Legislative Priorities

DENVER – Today the Colorado Education Association (CEA), with local leaders from around the state, released its annual State of Education report highlighting multiple challenges facing our state’s public education system in 2021 and beyond. The report, CEA’s first since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is based on publicly available data, news articles, cited research and surveys of CEA members from December 2020 and October 2021.

The report highlights three main problem areas that is fueling a crisis for Colorado public education:

Inadequate Funding
Colorado still ranks at/near the bottom when it comes to starting educator pay, wage competitiveness and per pupil funding. A near $10 billion shortfall via the Budget Stabilization Factor over the last 10 years is a huge hole in public education funding in Colorado.

Educator Burnout
Exponentially increasing workloads and bitter political vitriol over health, safety and history curriculum are causing intense educator burnout. An October 2021 survey of CEA members showed that more than half said that this school year is significantly or somewhat worse than last year.

Educator Shortage
The lack of funding, inadequate conditions and burnout has led to a critical educator shortage. As educators from across the state flee the profession, Colorado is struggling mightily to replace them. An October 2021 review of Colorado school districts’ websites shows that there are more than 3,300 open positions in our public schools – 1,125 licensed and 2,251 support professionals. Additionally, more than two-thirds – 67% – of CEA’s surveyed members in October indicated that they were considering leaving the profession in the near future. Alarmingly, this is a 27% increase from the 40% of members who said the same thing just last December. These educators most often point to their overwhelming workload and low pay as the reasons to leave and they are considering career changes and early retirement.

“The way we fund our public schools and value educators is unsustainable,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, high school counselor and president of the Colorado Education Association. “We are at a crossroads; what kind of state do we want to be? One where chronic underfunding short-changes our children and drives high quality educators to surrounding states, or even worse, out of the profession altogether? Or one that is proud of delivering an exceptional education to prepare all students in every zip code to follow their dreams and be successful?”

Today’s report also highlights CEA’s 2022 Legislative priorities:

Collective Bargaining
Collective bargaining provides a way for educators to have a genuine voice in advocating for their students and profession. The bargaining process is an opportunity for educators and school administrators to work together to identify and solve the problems and challenges facing our students, the schools they learn in and the educators who serve them. Educators’ working conditions ARE our students’ learning conditions. Colorado local public employees, no matter their service industry, should have the right to join a union and collectively bargain so they have a seat at the table and a voice in their workplaces.

Many students aren’t getting the education they deserve because teachers and support staff don’t have what they need – they’re overwhelmed with excessive class sizes, outdated textbooks, unfunded mandates and paychecks that often don’t even pay the bills. Certain politicians and wealthy special interests have balanced the state budget on the backs of Colorado students for years, creating a $1 billion deficit in public education funding over the past 10 years. We need legislators to commit to buying down the budget stabilization factor to give Colorado students and educators the resources they need.

Tens of thousands of educators have spent their careers serving students in our public pre-K through 12 education system. The Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) helps provide every educator the dignity of retirement security.. We need a commitment from the Colorado legislature on legislation that will honor the promises made by the state to educators that will ensure the viability and sustainability of PERA for generations to come.

Accountability Bridge
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted education in many ways. A pause in the Accountability frameworks for the 2020-2021 school year was a welcome recognition of the pressures the pandemic placed on students, families and school systems. There was very little debate among stakeholders and legislators about the pause, given the collective understanding of the limited assessment data that would be available to uphold the integrity of the process. Now we must have a thoughtful transition as we move from the limited and inconsistent data of the past two years back to fully implementing the current law. Without a transition, simply turning the accountability system back on is fraught with issues that will impact the integrity of the accountability system and could cause unnecessary harm to students, schools and districts.

“The last 21 months have been crushing for our educators and students and there seems to be no end in sight,” said Baca-Oehlert. “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.”

For the full report and for CEA’s 2022 Legislative priorities, please go to the CEA State of Education website.

CEA has set up a number of dates for the media to interview CEA President Amie Baca-Oehlert about the 2022 Legislative Session. Please contact Frank Valdez, CEA’s Director of Communications for any questions.

About the Colorado Education Association
The Colorado Education Association is the voice of 39,000 educators, working together in a strong union to ensure all students get the exceptional public schools they deserve, in every neighborhood across the state. As Colorado’s largest labor union, CEA works collectively with all education stakeholders to ensure Colorado’s standing as an excellent state in which to learn, live, work, and raise a family.

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