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State of Education

Now is the time to invest in Colorado’s Future

2023 Colorado

State of Education

Report

This report was compiled by the Colorado Education Association, the labor union and voice of 39,000 public educators in Colorado. We are teachers, counselors, social workers, nurses, bus drivers, food service workers, paraprofessionals, mechanics, security guards, custodians, maintenance workers, office professionals, and everyone who makes up the diverse and vital fabric of our public school system.

The State Of

EDUCATION

Our Reality & Our Vision

Decades of neglect have left our education system—our students, and our educators—in dire straits. The solutions are within our reach, and we can’t wait any longer. Are Colorado’s leaders up to the task?

Since 2010, Colorado’s public education system has been systematically underfunded. Colorado’s unique tax code, in tandem with choices made by our state’s leadership, has resulted in a school system that is operating at a more than decade-long deficit of $10 billion dollars.

Though last year’s state budget had a $2 billion surplus, none of that funding could be spent on Colorado’s education system, due to TABOR restrictions. As a direct result of this financial neglect, Colorado’s education system is in a state of crisis.

In this report we’ll illustrate the ways in which Colorado’s systemic disinvestment affects every part of our educators’ and students’ lives. This critical analysis centers the sentiments and experiences of our 39,000 member educators across Colorado. None of the problems addressed here are new: educator pay is still too low, their workload is overwhelming, and educators still feel unsafe and disrespected in their schools. But these long-standing systemic issues have been compounded and exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19 on all of our communities.

Despite all of these challenges and barriers, our educators are dedicated and passionate—they show up each day to provide every student with the learning experience they deserve.

In our concluding section, “The Solutions”, we delve into our vision for a new paradigm for Colorado. Built on the principles of investment, respect, and safety, this vision requires legislative and organizing actions to become a reality. Our State of Education report should be thought of as a map, with descriptive contours of our current environment, and a path to follow towards the education system we all deserve.

No matter our color, genders, background or zip code, every Coloradan wants our students and our educators to have well-funded schools that uphold the principles of respect and safety. Each and every one of us has an integral role to play in re-imagining and rebuilding the schools our students, educators and communities deserve.

We must demand that our schools have the resources to meet every child’s needs with well-trained and supported educators, for a sustainable, equitable, and thriving education system. When we unite together as educators, as parents, as lawmakers, and as community members, we can and we will make these needed changes a reality.

-Amie Baca-Oehlert

President of the Colorado Education Association

The State of INVESTMENT

Colorado has balanced the state budget on the backs of our education system.

This lack of investment in our public education system has deleterious downstream effects and is the direct and indirect source of the vast majority of its current woes, from the educator shortage to declining student outcomes.

The State of EDUCATOR RESPECT

Respecting our educators as professional experts in our field means more than just paying a living wage. It means centering our voices and expertise in legislation that affects our work. Too often laws and standards are enacted without any input from seasoned educators as to how these “innovations” might hinder or harm our students.

The State of EDUCATORS' SAFETY

Our schools—their successes and their challenges—are often a reflection of the issues our communities are wrestling with. This is especially obvious with our schools’ ongoing struggle to ensure safety of all those who work and learn within them each day.

THE SOLUTIONS

Our public education system is at a crisis point with persistent lack of funding, educator burnout, and shortages. But there is no reason to resign ourselves to this status quo, particularly when the cost is our students’ futures. We owe it to them, and our dedicated education professionals, to get this right.

The solutions below are educator-designed and educator-driven. These policy solutions are rooted in our commitment as educators from across the state and across every identity, to ensuring safe and welcoming schools where each and every student can thrive, have the freedom to be themselves, and become successful citizens in our diverse and interconnected world. CEA is committed to dismantling inequitable and racist structures and systems of oppression, to ensure that we don’t leave our most vulnerable students behind.

2023 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

The problems and barriers outlined in this report are large, systemic issues that will take extensive time and effort to solve. However, there are actions elected officials can take right now to make progress towards securing the future our educators and our students deserve.

CEA’s legislative agenda is one that puts students first and addresses the challenges we, as educators are facing. We invite legislators to work with and listen to us when considering education-related legislation that supports student-centered learning, ensures professional excellence and makes economic investments in public education.

Our public education system is at a crisis point with persistent lack of funding, educator burnout, and shortages. But there is no reason to resign ourselves to this status quo, particularly when the cost is our students’ futures. We owe it to them, and our dedicated education professionals, to get this right.

The solutions below are educator-designed and educator-driven. These policy solutions are rooted in our commitment as educators from across the state and across every identity, to ensuring safe and welcoming schools where each and every student can thrive, have the freedom to be themselves, and become successful citizens in our diverse and interconnected world. CEA is committed to dismantling inequitable and racist structures and systems of oppression, to ensure that we don’t leave our most vulnerable students behind.