Thousands of teachers in Colorado and Arizona rallied for a second day on Friday, April 27, to demand higher pay and school funding as a revolt by US public school teachers spread westward.
Waving placards such as “Teachers Just Want To Have Fund$,” educators and their supporters descended on the state capital in Denver to demand an increase in school budgets.
The Rocky Mountain state is $2,700 below the national average in per-pupil funding even though Colorado is one of the fastest-growing state economies in the United States, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Protesters are demanding the state begin to repay $6.6 billion in funding withheld since 2009 as the state recovered from the recession, address a shortfall of 3,000 teachers and adequately staff schools with counselors, social workers and special educators.
Encouraged by similar protests in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, organizers in Colorado said the protests would send a message to political leaders about their dissatisfaction.
The Colorado action forced the state’s two largest school districts, in Denver and neighboring Jefferson County, to cancel classes for hundreds of thousands of students.
Democratic lawmakers who control Colorado’s lower house back the teachers but Republicans, with a Senate majority, have balked at spending more on education, saying funding needs to go to infrastructure like roads.
In Arizona, thousands rallied in Phoenix for an immediate 20-percent increase to teacher salaries, which are among the lowest in the country, and restoring education funding to 2008 levels.