CEA Releases 2023 State of Education Report and 2024 Legislative Priorities
Denver, CO — The Colorado Education Association (CEA) today released the 2023 State of Education Report. The report highlights three challenges: the state of investment, the state of respect and the state of educator safety. The report also includes CEA’s 2024 legislative priorities. The report is based on publicly available data, news articles, cited research and surveys of CEA members.
The State of Investment
Because of tax code limitations and the use of the Budget Stabilization factor, Colorado’s per-pupil education funding lags significantly behind the national average. Furthermore, there is a significant pay gap for educators in Colorado, with a 37% disparity between their earnings and those of college graduates in other professions, marking the largest gap nationwide.
While buying down the Budget Stabilization Factor (BS Factor) is a crucial step toward adequately funding public schools, it alone is insufficient to address the cumulative impact that has resulted in a $10 billion funding shortfall for public schools since 2009. Even if the BS Factor were completely eliminated, our education funding would only return to the levels observed in 1989, underscoring the need for comprehensive measures to address the funding challenges facing Colorado’s public schools.
The State of Respect
The increasing politicization of public schools has caused an unprecedented burden on Colorado’s educators. The State of Education report showed that 56% of those surveyed felt politically divisive issues had significantly or somewhat affected their jobs. Furthermore, nearly 85% of respondents reported that politically divisive issues have significantly or somewhat affected their feelings and morale about working in the field of education. Almost a third of surveyed respondents said that they felt the need to change their curriculum based on the current political climate.
The State of Educator Safety
When educators feel safe, they are better equipped to teach effectively. However, this year’s State of Education report found that nearly a third of respondents (32%) experienced physical abuse by a student in the two years prior to taking the survey. Additionally, 70% of respondents attested to the worsening of students’ mental health needs over the past few years, and 66% of educators reported a substantial deterioration in their own mental health during the same period. This highlights the urgent need for comprehensive mental health support in our schools to ensure the safety of students, educators and staff.
“Right now, we’re at the brink of a public education crisis,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, President of CEA. “The state of investment, respect, and safety across Colorado’s schools clearly shows that we cannot continue down this path. We cannot expect our educators to remain underpaid, disrespected, and unprotected and still show up to work day after day to educate our children. We are and will continue to lose quality educators to other states if this remains the case. We have to find ways to invest sustainably and equitably in our public education system. The very future of Colorado depends on it.”
Today’s report also highlights CEA’s 2024 legislative priorities.
Investing in Public Education
Colorado’s public education system has suffered due to decades of chronic underfunding. CEA will work this legislative session to hold the Governor and legislature accountable for their promise to buy down the BS Factor to zero. This will fund our schools to the minimum amount required by the state constitution. Beyond meeting constitutional requirements, there is an inherent need to delve deeper into the intricate fabric of funding supporting our education system. It necessitates identifying and implementing sustainable, long-term solutions that will not only bridge the existing gaps but also foster an environment where schools receive adequate and equitable funding.
Respecting Educator Autonomy
Due to the politicization of our schools, our educators have felt the need to censor themselves, which robs our students of the quality education that they deserve. We need to restore educator autonomy so that our educators are empowered to provide the best education possible for our students. That’s why this session, CEA will work to pass legislation that protects educator autonomy by preventing the restriction of reading materials via book ban, which will protect students’ freedom to read. By safeguarding educator autonomy, the proposed legislation not only serves as a barrier against censorship but also as a testament to our commitment to foster a dynamic and intellectually stimulating educational environment.
Protecting Educators and Staff
Student, educator and staff safety is paramount if we want our schools to thrive for years to come. CEA will work with the legislature to find solutions to ensure the safety and well-being of students, educators and staff at Colorado public schools. These solutions must take into account not only the physical safety of our students, educators and staff but also their ongoing mental well-being.
“Our legislative priorities reflect the diverse perspective of our nearly 40,000 members,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, President of CEA. “We must invest in our public education system because our students deserve the best education possible. We must de-politicize our schools so our educators can have the autonomy to teach in the best way possible. And we must protect our educators and staff because students and educators perform at their best when they feel safe. Come January, our voices will be heard at the Capitol because we’ve proven that we’re stronger together.”
The full report can be found here.
About the Colorado Education Association
The Colorado Education Association is a membership-based organization that represents nearly 40,000 Colorado education professionals. The CEA promise to our students and communities is that the members of the Association will lead the way in guaranteeing every student access to the best public education. By working collectively with all education stakeholders, we will provide the best public education for every student and assure Colorado’s standing as an excellent state in which to learn, live, work, and raise a family.