Many argue that teachers across Colorado are already underpaid, but those leading rural districts are in an even tougher situation.
Estimates show that rural teachers earn $10-15,000 less than teachers in large metro districts, and rural district leaders say attracting and retaining certified teachers is a tough task.
A bill that passed the Senate Education Committee today by a 6-3 vote, would give incentives to teachers who student-teach and commit to working in qualifying rural schools.
“If we can help with teacher recruitment and specify or clarify some of those issues that they need dealt with on how we retain teachers by incentivizing education, then I think we do that as well," said Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who co-sponsored the bill.
The bill as written right now, would give a small stipend to college students who student-teach in rural districts. It would also pay teachers who commit to teaching in rural districts for at least three years $6,000.
The sticking point for many in this effort is the cost to the state. The bill started with a fiscal note of $1 million to the state, but that was reduced by half through amendments and in an effort to get the bill out of the first committee.
Others who testified believe the effort will only train teachers in rural districts on the state’s dime, then have them move on to metro districts anyway.
“If these programs are successful, in increasing the supply of quality teachers, this would act as an increase in the motivation for teachers to leave. This is because the increase in quality can be understood in the increase in the value of the work that teachers are performing," said one opponent of the bill.
The bill now moves on to the Appropriations Committee.